The tallest leader of the valley insurgency in Manipur, United National Liberation Front (UNLF) chairperson R K Meghen, was allegedly picked up by the NIA on Sunday evening, a day after he was released from Guwahati Central Jail after serving a 10-year sentence.
Meghen, popular in the Imphal valley as Sanayaima, or ‘precious son’, was expected to arrive in Imphal on Monday morning. Several events to welcome him had been planned by supporters at the Tiddim Ground and Kangla Fort in Manipur’s capital.
Sources said Meghen’s son R K Chinglen, and his lawyer M Gunedhor, too were “whisked away” to a government guesthouse in Guwahati. They were likely to be moved to a safehouse somewhere in Assam outside Guwahati, the sources said.
Following an order issued on October 25, Meghen was supposed to have been released on Sunday — the IGP Special Branch Headquarters of the Assam Police in Kahilipara, Guwahati, had written to the Manipur DGP informing him of Meghen’s release on November 10. However, Meghen was unexpectedly released a day earlier, on Saturday.
According to sources, officials of the Union Home Ministry had requested Meghen to not travel to Manipur, where the “situation is volatile”, with the Naga peace talks yet to be concluded.
Talks between the Indian government and the NSCN-IM have triggered concern and tensions in Manipur, which has five Naga districts. Various civil society organisations, organised under an umbrella body called COCOMI, have taken out protest marches against the Naga peace process since the talks began on October 24.
While the Indian government has repeatedly assured the Manipur government and its civil society that the state will not be bifurcated, the NSCN-IM’s demand for a pan Naga autonomous body — implying that Naga areas of Manipur can circumvent the state government’s jurisdiction — has led to apprehension and panic in the state.
“Under the circumstances we can understand why the Indian government is doing this. Sanayaima has the power to unite the entire valley as well as all the Meitei groups against the disintegration of Manipur. That’s how much people revere him. We were waiting for his return to plan our next step, but with his return uncertain, we will be meeting tomorrow to plan our next move,” a COCOMI member told The Indian Express.