The decision of a party from Nagaland to contest elections has charged up the political atmosphere in Manipur because the organisation is being viewed as a threat to the poll-bound state’s territorial integrity.
Sparks have been flying ever since the Naga People’s Front (NPF) opened its office in Manipur in May 2011.
Manipur-based political parties, social organisations and militant outfits see in the NPF’s “expansion” a design to promote the “Greater Nagalim” dream of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah).
Greater Nagalim, comprising large swathes of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur, besides Nagaland, envisages a unified homeland for the Nagas.
The Nagas are scattered across five hill districts of Manipur while the principal community, the Meiteis, dominate four plain districts straddling the Imphal valley. But the hills have only 20 assembly seats against the 40 in the valley.
“If all tribal people unite, they can be a tremendous force in these 20 seats and assert their rights against domination,” said NPF president Shürhozelie Liezietsü, adding the Nagas in Manipur were losing out despite the share of their land area vis-à-vis the Meiteis being 9:1.
However, the party is concentrating on 14 hill constituencies, for which 56 candidates have sought the ticket.
The Nagas and non-Nagas haven’t had the best of relations in ethnically touchy Manipur in recent years.
Adding fuel to the fire has been the push for an “alternative administrative arrangement” for the Nagas and associated economic blockades.