Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh on Monday escaped unhurt when suspected NSCN (Isak-Muivah) militants opened gunfire as he was getting out of his helicopter at the Ukhrul helipad, CID officials said. A jawan of the Manipur Rifles was injured in the firing which took place when the chief minister stepped out of the helicopter and was being greeted by government officials, the officials said.
Ibobi Singh was in Ukhrul to inaugurate a government hospital in Hundung and to launch other developmental projects. The chief minister's helicopter immediately took off and left for Chingai but could not land at the remote village due to protests, officials told PTI. Ibobi then cancelled his programme and flew back to the state capital where he called an emergency cabinet meeting, the source said. The incident has however started a war of words between Ibobi and Nagaland bodies.
According to The Sangai Express, The United Naga Council (UNC) and Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) have cried foul and have said that the chief minister stage-managed the entire episode. TNL president Weapon Zimik was quoted as saying by the Newmai News Network that with the huge number of security personnel deployed for the chief minister and his convoy it was not possible for any militant group to ambush. A 24-hour bandh was imposed by TNL protesting against Ibobi's visit to Ukhrul.
The Telegraph also reported saying that the residents of Naga-dominated Ukhrul were opposed to the chief minister's visit.
Calling Ibobi an "anti-tribal" minister, Zimik said his group backed the tribal people of the region and they will protest entry of all anti-tribal people in the hill districts. Seconding Zimik's stand, UNC president Gaidon Kamei said that Ibobi's intention behind visiting the area was to "disrupt the peace" of the region. According to both the leaders, Ibobi was well-aware of how the people of the region feel about him and tribals were boycotting all legislators who are anti-tribal.
Ibobi Singh, in an interview with IANS recently, had said that the law and order situation in Manipur had improved drastically but the chief minister also warned that no part of the state can ever be a part of Greater Nagaland.
With assembly elections not far away, the Congress leader said people in the state no longer lived in fear of the various militant groups, big and small. "In the past, shops and kiosks pulled down shutters by nightfall and people stayed at home. Today people can be seen (on the streets) till late in the night and shopkeepers do brisk business," Ibobi told IANS in the interview. Militants used to sneak into Manipur from neighbouring Myanmar to commit crime and escape, he said.
"We have beefed up security at the border towns with the result that militants cannot make their presence felt now," the chief minister said in an interview. More than 30 insurgent outfits used to operate in the urban areas of Manipur. Police claim a significant fall in insurgency-related violence. But stray bomb attacks continue. "The people who are fed up with the senseless violence of the insurgents provide vital information about them (to the authorities)," said the chief minister.
According to Ibobi, the insurgents cannot find easy shelter even in the hills as almost all the tribal underground outfits have come overground after signing the Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact. He however admitted that there were complaints against the activities of some of these groups. Ibobi said: "We are in touch with the central security forces to enforce the ground rules. "We have been drawing the attention of the Centre to the presence of the signatories to ceasefire in Manipur who should be confined to Nagaland only."
The NSCN-K has abrogated the ceasefire pact and resumed attacks against security forces. Ibobi disclosed that several cadres of the two Nagaland-based outfits had fanned out to other states in the northeast although they should be, legally, confined to Nagaland. Despite threats to veto the state government order, Ibobi had on August 12, 2004, lifted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, from seven assembly segments in Manipur. "In the long run it has helped improve the law and order in the state," the Congress leader said. "There is no immediate plan to lift the Afspa from other segments since we fear that in view of objections from the Defence Ministry, the government move may be vetoed," he added.
Ibobi complained that the state government had got no cooperation from the Centre on Afspa, which gives sweeping powers to security forces. And despite numerous allegations of rights abuses, security personnel were not prosecuted as prior approval of the Centre was a must and no such approval was given, he said. The chief minister also told IANS that he had conveyed to the Centre that there cannot be a redrawing of the map of Manipur which has had a written history of more than 2,000 years.
Votaries of Greater Nagaland have demanded parts of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to be added to a proposed Naga homeland. Ibobi also said that the provisions of the Sixth schedule of the Constitution, which permits autonomy for hill areas, shall not be extended to Manipur. "Some officials in Delhi who do not know the ground realities had asked me why it cannot be done since it was extended to the Bodo areas of Assam.
"The Bodo Territorial Council is a mere dot in Assam's map. In case of Manipur, which is smaller than any district of Assam, 90 per cent of the territory falls in the hill districts. The non-tribal valley areas constitute just 10 per cent of the territory. "The government is ready to give sufficient funds for development and administrative and financial assistances. The only condition is that the state government shall monitor the mode of spending and implementation."
With inputs from IANS
Updated Date: Oct 25, 2016 21:48 PM