Ibobi plea to revise Article 3

New Delhi, Jan. 17: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh today asked the Centre to amend Article 3 of the Constitution to ensure that any alteration of state boundaries in the Northeast without the consent of states is impossible.

Ibobi Singh, deputy chief minister Gaikhangam and 13 other legislators called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in what appeared to be a pre-emptive step to stall any move by the Centre that could alter Manipur's territory while solving the Naga problem. The Centre is currently negotiating a settlement with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah), which wants unification of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas, including those of Manipur, with Nagaland.

Manipur CPI legislator M. Nara Singh said after the meeting that Shinde had assured them that there was no threat to the territorial integrity of Manipur.

Ibobi Singh, however, said the assurances given to them by the Prime Minister and the home minister should be "translated into a clear long-term commitment" before any solution to the Naga issue is achieved. "(This can be done) by way of amending the Constitution and adding a proviso to Article 3, clarifying that its provisions will not be applicable to the northeastern states, including Manipur, and that their territorial boundaries will never be altered without the consent of the state legislature concerned," stated a memorandum submitted to the Centre by Manipur's all-party delegation. Apart from Gaikhangam, who is a Zeliangrong Naga, other Naga MLAs chose not to be a part of the delegation.

If Ibobi Singh's demand is accepted, it could not only limit the scope of demands by the Naga rebels but also that of other groups, particularly in Assam, who want separate states, especially in the light of possible creation of Telangana. Yesterday, the National Democratic Front of Boroland (Progressive) had iterated that if Telangana is created, "Bodoland" should be formed too.

Article 3 has provisions for formation of new states and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing states. It allows Parliament to introduce a law to form a new state by separation of territory from a state or by uniting two or more states or parts of states or by uniting any territory to a part of any state. Apparently, the NSCN (I-M) seeks to exploit this provision to carve out "Nagalim", which the Centre has refused to grant in view of the sensitivities in Manipur.

The memorandum insists on the amendment, despite assurances by the Prime Minister, saying "There is a lot of apprehension in the minds of the people of Manipur regarding the intention of the talks with the NSCN and its long-term implications on the territorial integrity of Manipur in both letter and spirit".

Ibobi Singh also requested the Centre to remove all NSCN (I-M) camps from Manipur since the outfit's ceasefire agreement is limited "to only Nagaland". In a veiled warning, the memorandum reminded the Centre of the "massive general uprising" in Imphal on June 18, 2001 following news of the attempt to enforce the ceasefire agreement between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M) in Manipur.

Manipur valley burned as Imphal demanded that the NSCN (I-M)'s ceasefire with the government should be limited to Nagaland. The Naga outfit's general secretary, Thuingaleng Muivah, belongs to Ukhrul district of Manipur. The group also has support in the other Naga-majority hill districts of the state. The chief minister also asked the Centre to "take appropriate action" to hand over R.T. Livingstone, a self-styled lieutenant colonel of the outfit, to Manipur police. Livingstone had allegedly molested a Manipuri actress in Chandel on December 18.

The memorandum from Manipur comes ahead of the Congress Chintan Baithak at Jaipur, where the Telangana issue is likely to be discussed, from tomorrow. Andhra Pradesh chief secretary Minnie Mathew and director-general of police Dinesh Reddy also met Shinde this afternoon to apprise him of the ground situation before a final decision is reached.

Shinde had said after a meeting of political parties on December 28 that a decision on Telangana would be announced within a month.

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