Tensions between Manipur and Nagas ratchet up

Imphal, March 4 (IANS) A legislator on Friday urged the Manipur assembly to take steps for proscribing the United Naga Council (UNC) which earlier “banned” him in all Naga-inhabited areas of the state.

Nationalist Congress Party legislator Laisom Ibomcha had earlier filed an FIR against Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang for calling, on the Manipuri territory, for “Naga unification”, which was taken to imply disintegration of the state.

Manipur is home to a significant Naga population.

The FIR invoking Sections 124A (sedition) and 153A (communalism) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) had also named the Naga Students’ Federation as an accused.

Ibomcha’s demand on Friday, the last day of the budget session of the Manipur assembly, calling for ban on the UNC in the state was supported by all opposition members.

He said the UNC with its headquarters in Manipur had no authority to ban him and that he would continue to go to the Naga-inhabited areas.

The rising tensions between Manipur and the Nagas have a lot to do with events of February 14 — the day Nagas in Manipur celebrated their seed sowing festival.

That’s the day when some Manipur police personnel allegedly roughed up some Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) members.

That’s also when Zeliang visited Manipur and made his controversial speech calling for Naga unification across state boundaries — inviting widespread protests in the host state for driving a wedge between different communities.

While the Manipur government first suspended the police personnel who roughed up NSF members, it later revoked the suspension under pressure from ruling Congress MLAs.

The NSF, in turn, imposed a ban on the vehicles owned by the non-tribal Manipuris in the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur.

After the revocation of suspension of the police personnel, the NSF is likely to take up a much stronger agitation than mere banning of vehicles.

Ibomcha has said he had no intention to withdraw his FIR against Zeliang and the NSF unless the accused tender a public apology.

Reacting to the FIR, the office of the Nagaland chief minister said that a “mass Naga leader like Zeliang” has a right to speak to the Nagas.

It also contended that Zeliang was speaking about the cultural and emotional integration of Nagas. It said that the the police complaint should instead be directed against the Manipur government for passing the three anti-migrant Bills against the wishes of the tribals in Manipur.

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