Imphal, April 30, 2019:
The Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Ukhrul district of Manipur have appealed for ‘peace, tranquillity and love’ in the region after tensions were raised between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim- Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) and Assam Rifles.
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The Sihai village in Ukhrul district of Manipur which is about 60 km away from Ukhrul Town has been undergoing tensed circumstances since Friday when a camp of NSCN-IM, about 5-6 km away from the village, was surrounded by the Assam Rifles on Friday evening.
Veronica P Zingkhai, President of the Tangkhul Shanao Long (TSL-Tangkhul Women’s League) mentioned to a local media group that “Since this is not a designated camp, as mandated by the ceasefire ground rules between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India, the Assam Rifles has been asked by their higher-ups to vacate the same.”
Being a part of a team of CSOs, Veronica visited the spot on Saturday, in an attempt to mediate between the two sides, that is, the NSCN (IM) and the AR. As an unknown number of cadres remained in the camp, the CSOs, including the TSL, Tangkhul Naga Long and Northern Tangkhul leaders, met with the Commanding Officer (CO) of the AR who was stationed with a similarly unknown number of troopers on top of a hill overlooking the camp. Another crop of AR personnel surrounded the camp.
Zingkhai informed that the main concern of the team is the safety of the civilian and if armed conflict breaks out between the two parties, the civilians of the village will be victimized. So he requested the AR commanding officer to reach a mutual understanding.
The Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the AR was also present. The CO made it clear that ceasefire ground rules do not allow for NSCN (IM) cadres to be put up in undesignated camps.
Meanwhile, the local CSOs urged Naga bodies like the United Naga Council, Naga Women’s Union and All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur, to mediate with “higher ups” in the NSCN (IM).
On Saturday evening, the AR troops withdrew from the camp area and halted for the night at Sihai and neighboring villages.
On Sunday morning, the AR personnel returned to their position around the camp. Moreover, an Indian army helicopter was reported to be hovering over the camp taking pictures.
With no resolution to the situation, the standoff has continued till the filing of this report.
The Ukhrul CSOs have urged neighboring village men and women as well as the Tangkhul Katamnao Long (students’ union), village headmen’s organization, Tangkhul youth organization and Northern Tangkhul organizations to support Sihai village in this time of vulnerability.
“We want the peace process to go on and materialize into a logical conclusion,” said Hopeson Shimray, President of the Tangkhul Naga Long.
“People are apprehensive of going back to days prior to the 1997 ceasefire. Nagas have suffered enough. We want peace and harmony to be maintained between the NSCN (IM), Assam Rifles and civilians,” he stated.
“This is the most conducive time for a solution to the Indo-Naga issue, especially for an all-inclusive one,” the TNL President maintained, hoping that ‘provocation’ from either side does not affect the ceasefire or peace process in any way due to which, “ultimately civilians will suffer.”
He reiterated, “We want a conclusive decision (to the Indo-Naga issue); we should be allowed to live peacefully and start working to build our future.”
Meanwhile, the Ukhrul district administration remained tight-lipped on the situation brewing in Sihai.
The Superintendent of Police of the district also could not provide much information.
The Assam Rifles IGAR South could not be reached for information on the situation.
The NSCN (IM) remained silent. When contacted on Saturday evening, April 27, its Ministry of Information & Publicity Secretary declined to speak about the incident, while stating that it would be issuing a press release soon.