Naga peace talks: Security upped in Manipur, protests continue

Soldiers stand guard on a street in Kohima, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Nagaland. Various Naga groups are currently holding talks with the Indian government with hopes of finding an honorable solution to their demand for self-determination. Photo: PTI

Amid growing concerns over the outcome of Naga peace talks, security has been heightened in Manipur, which has a sizeable Naga population, with additional companies of paramilitary forces being deployed in the state to meet any eventuality.

Civil societies across Manipur have been holding protests, seeking assurances from the Centre that the solution to the vexed political issue would not be affecting Manipur’s territorial integrity.

Normal life was paralysed in several parts of the state last week due to a cease-work stir called in support of the demand.

The Centre had on Thursday (October 31) said it was yet to conclude talks with Naga insurgent groups and would consult all stakeholders including the states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh before finalisation of any settlement.

All security establishments in the state have been put on high alert and a large number of paramilitary personnel deployed at important areas to check any unwanted activities, a top government official said.

“Fifteen new companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed in the state to meet eventualities. Some that have reached are currently stationed at three colleges in Imphal. Over the past few days, Army troops have also arrived here in AN-32 aircraft,” he told PTI.

Authorities claimed that the security build-up would help guard the highways of the landlocked state and deal with any unwarranted blockades or bandh.

A member of the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), an apex body of seven organisations which has been spearheading the protests in the state, said despite the Centre’s assurance it was difficult to “calm down” as what brewed in the negotiations was not clear.

“People have been kept in the dark about the points discussed during negotiations. We have asked the state and the Centre to disclose by November 4 the details of the  framework agreement signed by the NSCN-IM and the government,” COCOMI Coordinator Sunil Karam said.

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM), a major insurgent group in the Northeast, had been pushing for unification of Naga-inhabited areas and a separate flag and constitution, a demand that has been rejected outright by the Centre.

“It is difficult to calm down at this juncture. The committee will intensify its protests if relevant details of the agreement are not disclosed by November 4,” Karam added.

Meanwhile, students bodies here have condemned the use of educational institutes to station troops, with NGO Committee on Human Rights submitting a memorandum to chief
minister N Biren Singh, requesting him to have the college buildings vacated.

Another association, the Democratic Students Alliance of Manipur (DESAM), has threatened to take the matter to the High Court.

“It is questionable why the state government has stationed large number of troops at DM College, Modern College and Maharaj Buddha Chandra College. Educational institutes should not be used for such purposes.”