Kohima/Imphal, Oct. 15: The spate of protests over the release of the 13 NSCN (Isak-Muivah) functionaries who were arrested in Manipur last week has provoked an outburst from the militant group, targeted at the organisation that spearheaded a similar uprising two years ago.
As the United Council, Manipur (UCM), geared up for five days of sustained, statewide protests from tomorrow, the NSCN (I-M) said it would not tolerate any attempt to derail the Naga peace process.
“The UCM is advised to come to sanity and avoid irreparable damage to the Meitei community should this organisation pursue the warpath in its own parochial line,” the militant group said.
The NSCN (I-M) statement reflected the Naga community’s resentment over the protests in the neighbouring state following the unconditional release of the outfit’s kilo kilonser (home minister) A.K. Lungalang and his aides after a day’s detention.
Police commandos took Lungalang and his entourage into custody near Tulibari village, 9 km from Kangpokpi police station, on October 6. The team was on its way to Tamenglong in two vehicles to attend a “political awareness camp” there.
All 13 members of the NSCN (I-M) team and the weapons seized from them were handed over to the chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group, Lt Gen. (retd) R.V. Kulkarni, at Mao gate on the Nagaland-Manipur border the next evening.
Tension gripped Manipur the moment chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh announced that Delhi had asked his government to release the militant leaders. He said deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani had assured him that no NSCN (I-M) member would henceforth move about in Manipur with weapons.
The UCM began an agitation immediately, reminding Delhi about the violent protests that had rocked the Manipur valley when it announced the extension of its ceasefire with the NSCN (I-M) to the Naga-inhabited areas of the state. Activists of the All Manipur Students Union burned effigies of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Advani, Ibobi Singh and Delhi’s interlocutor in the peace talks, K. Padmanabhaiah.
As in the past, Ibobi Singh tried to douse the flames by saying that his government was committed to the task of protecting Manipur’s territorial integrity.
NGOs based in Nagaland were the first to raise their voices against the show of indignation over the NSCN (I-M) team’s release. In a joint statement, they said Manipur could be “economically strangled if the Nagas wanted so”.
The NSCN (I-M), too, said the protests in Manipur were unwarranted.
“The Indian authorities have realised the futility of seeking a military solution, while the Nagas are prepared to exhaust all means and ways and leave no stone unturned to end bloodshed. This sincerity of both parties does not threaten the Meiteis’ land in any way,” the militant group said.
Accusing the UCM of trying to derail the peace process, it said: “That the time may come soon when it will not be a season of carnival as the Meiteis, headed by the UCM, are currently working against the Indo-Naga peace process.”
The Naga Students Federation (NSF), however, made a case for restraint. It said the Naga community should not be provoked into doing anything wrong by the protests in Manipur.
“If it is a mere show of strength, then the Nagas are prepared. We suffered enough during the protests two years ago,” NSF president Achumbemo Kikon said in Kohima.
In Lungalang’s absence, the political awareness camp in Manipur last week was presided over by the NSCN (I-M)’s self-styled chief administrative officer of the Zeliangrong region, M.K. Winning. Four resolutions were adopted at the meeting, ostensibly organised to mobilise support for the militant group’s ongoing peace talks with Delhi.
Sources said the meeting decided to bolster the campaign for unity among all Naga factions, prevent attacks on Naga villagers by militant groups, include a representative of the Zeliangrong community in the talks team and oppose the Tipaimukh dam project.