Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh has said that solution to the Naga issue should not disturb peace in his state, while maintaining that an early resolution of peace talks between the Centre and NSCN (IM) is desirable in the interest of the entire North-East region.
Asserting that any agreement on the Naga issue which hurts the interest of Manipur is unacceptable, Singh told PTI that there will not be any compromise on the matter. Large areas of the state are inhabited by Nagas.
“We want early resolution to any issue that affects the people. The same applies to the ongoing talks between Centre and NSCN (IM),” he said.
He was responding to a query on the state government’s position on the framework agreement signed between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, Issac-Muivah group (NSCN-IM) in August 2015 to bring an end to India’s longest running insurgency, which has so far failed to yield a final outcome.
Among others, NSCN (IM) has sought integration of Naga inhabited areas of the North-East and autonomy of the proposed region. The demand mostly affects Manipur as the state has vast areas inhabited by Nagas.
“As far as NSCN (IM) is concerned, Manipur government is not a party to the talks with the Centre… However, what we have asked the Centre is that whenever there is a discussion that involves interests of the state, then our views and consent should be taken. There cannot be any compromise on the interest of Manipur,” Singh said.
He further said: “We have made it amply clear to the Centre that we don’t have any problem with whatever solution that is arrived at, as long as it is confined to the territorial limits of Nagaland.”
Singh said even other states like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh which can also be affected were also in favour of resolving the Naga issue within Nagaland itself.
“I have been in touch with my counterparts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. We want a solution to the Naga issue at the earliest within Nagaland without disturbing others as it is in the interest of the people of the North-East,” he added.
Asked about the possibility of Centre agreeing to demand of integration of Naga inhabited areas, he said: “I don’t think the government of India would want a solution that is going to create greater chaos and a bigger problem in the region.”
In case such a scenario were to arise, Singh said, “then the Manipur Assembly will take up the issue and take a resolution against any infringement on the territorial integrity of the state”.
When asked about lifting of the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) entirely from the state, Singh said his government has been working to improve law and order situation so that it could be removed in the long run.
“However, the current situation doesn’t warrant lifting of the act entirely from the state. We are working to improve the situation. So, as and when it improves, we will work towards it (removing the act),” he said.
At present except for seven Assembly constituencies in Imphal valley, the act is in force in the rest of Manipur.
Human rights activists have been campaigning for removal of the act from the state as it gives armed forces extraordinary powers that includes immunity from legal action, and the licence to shoot and arrest people without obtaining warrants.