Imphal, Jan 18 — Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has asked the central government to amend Article 3 of the constitution to ensure that the boundaries of Manipur state are not altered in attempts made to resolve the six-decade Naga insurgency problem.
Article 3 deals with the formation of a new state by separation of territory from any state, or by uniting two or more states or parts of states.
Ibobi, who led an all-party delegation from Manipur, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde Thursday evening, asking them to amend Article 3 of the constitution by adding a proviso for a “long-term commitment” to ensure the state boundaries of Manipur are not disturbed.
“Both the prime minister and the home minister have reiterated that the centre would not compromise Manipur’s territorial integrity or even that of neighbouring states while working out a peace package with the NSCN-IM (National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah),” Deputy Chief Minister G. Gaikhangam told IANS.
Ibobi’s demand for a long-term commitment comes in the wake of reports hinting that the central government has arrived at a settlement with the NSCN-IM to sort out the six-decade Naga insurgency issue.
The reports indicated that the central government might grant special status under the sixth schedule of the constitution to tribal Naga people in the four hill districts of Manipur – Chandel, Senapati, Ukhrul and Tamenglong – without disturbing the state’s territorial integrity.
Gaikhangam, who also holds the home portfolio in Ibobi’s cabinet, said the plea for amending Article 3 was to ensure that the state’s boundaries are not disturbed, especially as there is apprehension over the implications of talks with the NSCN.
The proviso that Manipur wanted would ensure that Article 3 would not be applicable to the northeastern states, including Manipur, and that their territorial boundaries would never be altered without the consent of concerned state legislatures.
Gaikhangam said the all-party delegation also requested the central government to remove all NSCN-IM camps from Manipur, since the outfit’s ceasefire agreement is limited “to Nagaland only”.
The NSCN-IM has been fighting for an independent Nagaland for over six decades. It later demanded a Greater Nagaland by slicing off parts of three neighbouring states to unite 1.2 million Nagas. The demand is opposed by Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
New Delhi and the NSCN-IM entered into a ceasefire in August 1997. The two have held more than 50 rounds of peace talks to end one of South Asia’s longest-running insurgencies that have killed 25,000 people since 1947.
The prime minister and the home minister also assured the all-party delegation that the central government would take appropriate action for the arrest of NSCN-IM member R.T. Livingstone Anal, accused of molesting a film actress at a public function in Manipur Dec 18.
The molestation had led to a widespread protests in the state and curfew had to be imposed in three districts.