Tough days ahead for Biren government

         NO doubt, chief minister N Biren and his ministerial colleagues were accorded hearty welcome throughout their journey, starting from the fringe villages till the Ukhrul district headquarters on Tuesday. The villagers according cheerful reception to the ministers and MLAs of the BJP led coalition government all along the route has been a marked change when compared with the days of the then Congress rule during which Ukhrul was a forbidden place to venture into. For the then chief minister Okram Ibobi, setting foot in Ukhrul was technically infeasible as the Tangkhul people were apparently offended after the Congress government barred the entry of NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah to his native Somdal village in the district in 2010. On the other hand, some of the factors that could have brought such significant shift in the attitude of the district denizens, Tangkhul civil societies in particular, could be the presence of Naga People’s Front as one of the alliance partners, end of Congress regime as well as high expectation of the people that the new government will usher in development in the hill districts. On account of the assumption that the earlier state governments were not concerned with the wellbeing of the people residing in the hill areas, it is obvious that change in governance will kindle the hope for a new era of development. Such views contradict the frequent contentions by many Congress leaders that in the 15 years of party’s rule 70 per cent of the development funds were utilised in undertaking different infrastructure development projects in the hills.

         Notwithstanding the huge turn-out and grand reception function hosted by Tangkhul organisations at the town’s playground, Biren’s maiden visit to Ukhrul district as the chief minister is likely to give him some sleepless nights as the memorandum submitted by the Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) contains demand to roll-back decision of the previous government for creating seven new districts, urging the new government to recognise and honour the legitimate rights of the Nagas to integrate all contiguous Naga areas, extend support in expediting the ongoing peace process for settling the Naga political issue and rescind the recent state cabinet’s decision to set up and deploy India Reserve Battalion personnel to protect the two national highways in Manipur sector. The points mentioned in the TNL representation not only figured prominently during the campaigning for the recently conducted state assembly elections but also dented the prospect of the then ruling Congress party as was evident from the oldest political organisation in the country not able to organise any significant election-related events in Naga-dominated hill areas. It is obvious that the TNL memorandum will haunt the new government too as most of the demands entail redrawing the map of Manipur, if at all the Centre, which has been holding talks with the NSCN-IM, cedes to the demand for integration of Naga areas. In view of national and state BJP leaders assuring/pledging during the election campaign that Manipur’s territorial integrity will never be compromised coupled with the fact that people of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam are strongly opposed to parting with their land for the sake of integrating Naga areas, any decision detrimental to the interest of these states might trigger upheaval in the north east region, especially Manipur.

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