Naga Council to join February 3 tripartite talks in Delhi

Imphal, Jan 31 (IANS) The United Naga Council (UNC), which had imposed an indefinite economic blockade of Manipur on November 1 to protest against the creation of new districts, will take part in the proposed tripartite talks in Delhi on February 3.

A. Noutuneswori, the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Imphal East, has allowed them to join the proposed talks to be held in the national capital. The CJM also directed the government to facilitate their travel and participation in the talks.

Indications are that the meeting may last about a week as many issues are to be covered during the tripartite talks, involving the Manipur and central governments and the UNC.

UNC President Gaidon Kamei and Publicity Secretary S. Stephen have been praying to the court for quite some time to release them on bail, enabling them to participate in the talks. But the court had turned it down since the UNC and the Manipur government do not see eye to eye on many basic issues triggering the blockade.

The UNC has been demanding unconditional release of the two leaders, who have been in police custody since November 25. But the state government refused. The UNC has also been saying that the talks should be held at its Senapati district headquarters.

But Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said: “The UNC should first call off the blockade and give an assurance never to repeat it. Besides, the venue cannot be selected by the UNC, which is merely a local club and others will emulate it. The talks should be held either in Imphal or Delhi.”

Ibobi Singh maintains that seven new districts were created for administrative convenience and there is no question of a rollback.

The central government has been facing severe flak from some quarters for allegedly not trying sincerely to end the blockade. On the other hand, the central leaders say that the Manipur government has been lacking in its efforts.

In view of the fact that even several Naga organisations are now demanding lifting of the blockade as it is severely affecting the common people, the UNC has chosen to soften its stand.

The Manipur High Court has also taken a serious view of the blockade and has been giving directives to the government to ensure free and unfettered supply of consumer items and fuel.

Although the Centre had assured all assistance, it has sent only 29 companies of paramilitary forces as against Manipur’s demand for 60 companies, the state government alleges. There have been ambushes of supply convoys along NH 37, claiming some lives and injuring others.

There are indications that the blockade would end following the talks.