Manipur unrest : Had Centre acted on time, things would not have escalated, says Ibobi Singh
Source: The Sangai Express / Courtesy India Today
Imphal, December 22 2016:
In the face of severe unrest in Manipur, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has blamed the Narendra Modi led BJP Government at the Centre for not acting on time to defuse tensions on the ground.
In an exclusive interview with India Today at Imphal, the three time CM said that had the Central Government acted promptly things would not have escalated so far.
Blaming the Naga insurgent group NSCN (IM) for the unrest, Singh acknowledged for the very first time on record that the United Naga Council which had imposed the economic blockade on Imphal since November 1 was acting as the mouthpiece of the rebel group with whom the Centre was engaged in a peace dialogue.
"Some groups are not happy with our decision to form seven new districts.
You know who those people are; it is UNC which is the mouthpiece of the NSCN (IM); they oppose it; and thus they started the indefinite blockade," Singh told India Today.
Slamming the Centre for failing to rein-in the Naga insurgent group with which it signed a peace accord last year Singh said, "Immediately after UNC announced the indefinite blockade I rushed to Delhi and met Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The peace talk is between the Government of India and NSCN (IM).
The State Government is not involved in it.
The ground rule is that the NSCN (IM) should confine (their activities) in Nagaland alone and that too in the designated camps.
"I pressurized the Home Minister but I was surprised with his response.
Rather, the UNC and NSCN (IM) began saying that the State Government should give commitment that it won't take decision regarding creation of new districts.
But with all due regards, any authority including the Government of India cannot dictate the State Government because it's purely under the purview of the State," Singh added.
Singh denied reports that the Centre had sent 4000 additional forces to the State.
"That is a wrong report.
Even today we had a combined meeting with the Assam Rifles, CRPF and BSF.
Where is that 4000 personnel ?" he asked adding that the State had received less than 10 companies of additional forces.
When questioned about the motive behind the timing of his Government's decision to form the seven new districts in the tribal areas, Singh said no matter when such a decision was taken, State Government would never be able to complete any project if such "unprecedented" incidents became the norm.
With the economic blockade continuing for over 50 days, capital Imphal was heading for severe fuel crisis.
Singh said the State Government was making attempts to open the NH-37 connecting Imphal with Assam though Jiribam.
"We held a high level security meet today in order to open the NH-37 route so that we can resume supply to Imphal valley.
There are more than 200 loaded tankers which are stuck in the blockade," he said once again reminding that the National Highway comes under the Central Government.
Singh said his Government has begun a crackdown on the UNC stating that its president and publicity secretary had already been arrested for imposing the blockade.
On a day when various civil society groups held a peace meeting in Imphal, the Chief Minister reiterated his appeal for maintaining peace and calm in the State.
"Manipur is just like mini India and there are lots of tribes here – the Nagas and Kukis in the hills and Meiteis in the valley.
I appeal to everyone to maintain peace.
We are all brothers in our State," he said.