Guwahati: The Centre did some tough talking in poll-bound Manipur on Friday, warning the Ibobi Singh-led Congress government that it cannot wash its hands off the “humanitarian crisis” caused by the marathon 53-day economic blockade by the United Naga Council (UNC). It also rushed Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju to Imphal, Manipur capital, to review the situation in the northeastern state.
After meeting chief minister O. Ibobi Singh, other top ministers and top security officials, Mr Rijiju said at a press conference in Imphal: “The state government has not been able to end the blockade. It must end as soon as possible as law and order is the responsibility of the state. Nobody will be allowed to take political advantage out of a humanitarian crisis where people are suffering.”
In New Delhi, home ministry sources said that if there was no other alternative, the imposition of President’s Rule in the state could not be ruled out.
Since November 1, the UNC blocked off two National Highways (No. 2 and No. 37) that connect the Imphal Valley with other states. The Naga outfit is opposing a state government decision to create seven new districts. Mr Rijiju said it was completely unacceptable to have such blockades with thousands suffering, saying the Central and Manipur governments would work together to end it.
Mr Rijiju dismissed suggestions that the Centre was late in taking action, saying it had been asking the state government to clear the blockade since the beginning and offering assistance. “From today onwards, the state government can’t escape from its responsibility. Nobody will be allowed to add to the sufferings of the people. The Central government is also not shying away from its responsibility,” he said.
Home ministry sources said Union home minister Rajnath Singh had taken serious exception to remarks by the Manipur chief minister in which he accused Mr Singh of seeking the release of United Naga Council leaders. The sources said the home minister had never asked or advised the CM to release the UNC leaders.
The sources said besides asking Mr Rijiju to convey a very strong message to the state government to end the deadlock at the earliest, the Centre was also prepared to step in if the chief minister continued to dilly-dally with law and order issues. The sources did not rule out the possibility of the Centre exercising its power to impose President’s Rule in the state if need be.
The sources said the day the problem had started, there were 60 companies of paramilitary forces placed at the disposal of the state government, and an additional 14 companies were rushed to the state, but these were not deployed judiciously to check the outbreak of violence.
The sources said the creation of new districts has been a 40-year-long demand in the Manipur hills, but that the CM had chosen to revive this controversial issue knowing fully well the Naga people would not take it lying down. “The decision was aimed at provoking the Naga community,” the home ministry sources added.
They said it was the MHA’s view the entire situation was precipitated by the chief minister, who wanted to polarise a particular community, and set the people of the Valley against those living in the hills in the run-up to next year’s Assembly elections.
Meanwhile, three government offices, including the office of newly-created Kamjong district, were set on fire by some miscreants late on Thursday night. The newly-appointed deputy commissioner of the district, Armstrong Pame, told reporters that some unidentified miscreants entered the campus and set it on fire.” The newly-formed district was running temporarily from the office of the subdivisional officer as the new DC’s office was yet to be inaugurated.
The creation of Kamjong district, that was carved out from Ukhrul district, has been strongly objected to by various Manipur-based Naga civil bodies, including the Tangkhul Naga Long and United Naga Council, among others.