After three deaths and the Union Home Ministry’s advice, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah decided on Thursday to defer the trip to his birthplace, Somdal village in Manipur.
The war between Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and Muivah was manifested in a showdown between security forces and the locals, leaving three dead and 76 injured in Mao, a Naga-dominated Manipur town near Nagaland.
Muivah kept quiet when asked whether he would visit Somdal at all.
Earlier, he said he had deferred his visit by a day because “Naga people and NGOs have requested me to”.
“My visit was agreed upon and approved by the MHA, and the itinerary was worked out in consultation with the authorities,” he said.
Muivah said when Ibobi Singh opposed the visit, MHA emissary R.S. Pandey asked Muivah to postpone the visit first by 10 days and later by a week.
“When we try to be more reasonable, they try to take advantage. Ibobi went to Delhi today,” Muivah said.
Singh has been arguing that the Centre’s ceasefire pact with the NSCN (I-M) does not apply to Manipur, where Muivah is still considered a fugitive.
Manipur NGOs, too, opposed the visit in view of the NSCN (I-M)’s Greater Nagalim agenda, which envisaged a unified homeland, covering four hill districts of Manipur.
On Thursday morning, about 2,000 Nagas assembled at Mao to greet Muivah, who was expected to reach around 10.00 am from Viswema village in Nagaland, where he stayed the night.
Muivah stayed put at Viswema while the Mao mob fought a three-hour battle with security men. As they pushed them back, a mob at the other end of the town damaged half a dozen police vehicles, set a bus on fire and pelted stones at the forces.
Manipur Inspector General (Law and Order) L. Zathang denied using anything more than tear gas shells. “We were fired upon from up the hills around. We used a lot of restraint while dealing with miscreants.”
Earlier, three Manipur Police constables, carrying AK-47 rifles, were kidnapped by the mob. Zathang said, “They were fresh recruits and were taken away by either miscreants or underground elements.”
As the security forces began searching for the missing policemen, NSCN (I-M) spokesman Jacob Shaiza alleged, “The Manipur Police and commandos are beating up innocent people ... in search of their colleagues.”
Seven of the nine Naga MLAs in Manipur, meanwhile, quit, protesting the Mao incident.