UNC miffed with hill set-up snub

Senapati, Feb. 12: After five rounds of talks, both the Union home ministry and the Manipur government today said they were not willing to discuss the alternate arrangement for Nagas living in Manipur, raising the hackles of the United Naga Council.

The talks were held today at the office complex of Senapati deputy commissioner P.K. Jha. Home ministry and state government officials told a delegation of the UNC, Committee for Alternative Arrangement and All Naga Students' Association that the territorial integrity of Manipur was "not negotiable."

"The proceedings were good. We told the Naga delegation that there is no need for alternative arrangement. However, we will hold more talks," said S. Jayaraman, special secretary (internal security) of the Union home ministry.

Manipur chief secretary D.S. Poonia said: "We iterated that the territorial integrity of Manipur was not negotiable."

During the meeting, home ministry and Manipur government officials did not talk about the alternative arrangement and offered development instead to address the grievances of the hill people.

The official team also presented hard copies of the proposed development plans, like devolution of administrative and financial powers to the six Autonomous District Councils and other programmes and projects in the hills with assistance from the NEC and the Centre.

The atmosphere in Senapati town remained calm, belying the anger simmering among the Naga delegation.

Barring a group of supporters standing at the gate of the venue holding a banner "expedite alternative arrangement," the town remained calm and peaceful.

But the Naga delegation was not happy, "They offered development and the core issue of the alternative arrangement has not been discussed. We are not satisfied with the progress of talks. When the talks resume next time, we want it to be a political dialogue and not development one," said Committee for Alternative Arrangement chairman K.S. Paul Leo.

The Naga delegation represented its demand for creation of an "institutional authority with legislative, administrative and financial powers, which will administer the Nagas in Manipur directly un-der the government of India."

The UNC and other Naga bodies raised the demand for an alternative administrative arrangement in July 2010 after the Ibobi Singh government prevented NSCN (I-M) leader Th. Muivah from entering Manipur.

"We still hope the Centre will be sincere on the issue. If no political talks are held on the demand, we may pull out of the talks and seek the people's mandate on the next course of action," said Gaidon Kamei, general secretary of the UNC.

Joint secretary of the home ministry Samsbhu Singh attended the meeting.

After the meeting, the home ministry team inspected development programmes in Senapati district.