'Not an inch of Manipur's land will be compromised'

Indo Asian News Service

Imphal, Jan 16 (IANS) The Manipur government Wednesday exuded confidence that the central government will not take any decision against the territorial integrity of the state while resolving the six-decade-old Naga insurgency issue.

"I'm confident that New Delhi will not take any decision against the interest of Manipur's integrity and sentiment of the people," Deputy Chief Minister G. Gaikhangam told journalists before leaving for New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"Manipur government has decided that it will not allow an inch of land to be compromised while settling the vexed Naga issue," he said.

Gaikhangam, who is part of an all-party delegation from Manipur led by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, is scheduled to meet Manmohan Singh Jan 18 to discuss the central government's peace talks with National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM).

The delegation, comprising of members of Manipur's parties barring Naga People's Front, would also meet Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

Okram Ibobi Singh been camping in New Delhi since Jan 11 following reports hinting that the central government had arrived at a settlement with the NSCN-IM.

There are reports that the central government might grant a special status under the sixth schedule of the constitution to tribal Naga people in the four hills districts of Manipur - Chandel, Senapati, Ukhrul and Tamenglong - without disturbing the state's territorial integrity.

The NSCN-IM has been fighting for an independent Nagaland for over six decades. It later demanded a Greater Nagaland by slicing off parts of three neighbouring states to unite 1.2 million Nagas. The demand is opposed by Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

New Delhi and the NSCN-IM entered into a ceasefire in August 1997. The two have held more than 50 rounds of peace talks to end one of South Asia's longest-running insurgencies that has killed 25,000 people since 1947.

"We are confident that the centre would not take any decision which will hurt the sentiment of the people and the centre should not take a decision which would hurt the sentiment of the people of neighbouring states," Gaikhangam said.

Gaikhangam said the delegation would also seek the government's intervention for the arrest of NSCN-IM member R.T. Livingstone Anal, accused of molesting a film actress at a public function in Manipur Dec 18.

The molestation has led to a widespread protests in the state and curfew had to be imposed in three districts.