Morung Express News
Dimapur | April 28
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Ukhrul have appealed for ‘peace, tranquility and love’ amidst a standoff between the NSCN (IM) and Assam Rifles in the area.
Since the evening of April 26, Sihai Village in Ukhrul district (Manipur), about 60 km away from Ukhrul Town, has been tense. A camp of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM), about 5-6 km away from the Village, was surrounded by the Assam Rifles (AR) on Friday evening.
“Since this is not a designated camp, as mandated by the ceasefire ground rules between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India, the Assam Rifles has been asked by their higher ups to vacate the same,” said Veronica P Zingkhai, President of the Tangkhul Shanao Long (TSL-Tangkhul Women’s League), while speaking to The Morung Express.
She was part of a team of CSOs that visited the spot on April 27, Saturday, in an attempt to mediate between the two sides, that is, the NSCN (IM) and the AR. As an unknown number of cadres remained in the camp, the CSOs, including the TSL, Tangkhul Naga Long and Northern Tangkhul leaders, met with the Commanding Officer (CO) of the AR who was stationed with a similarly unknown number of troopers on top of a hill overlooking the camp. Another crop of AR personnel surrounded the camp.
“Our main concern is civilian safety. If armed conflict breaks out between the two parties, the civilians of the village will be victimized. It is important that they reach a mutual understanding,” said Zingkhai of what the CSOs explained to the CO. The Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the AR was also present. She referred to the “fear psychosis” that the Sihai village people are currently undergoing.
The CO understood the CSOs’ and civilian position but also made it clear that ceasefire ground rules do not allow for NSCN (IM) cadres to be put up in undesignated camps. Meanwhile, the local CSOs urged Naga apex organizations like the United Naga Council, Naga Women’s Union and All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur, to mediate with “higher ups” in the NSCN (IM).
On Saturday evening, the AR troops withdrew from the camp area and halted for the night at Sihai and neighbouring villages.On Sunday morning, however, the AR personnel returned to their position around the camp. Moreover, an Indian army helicopter was reported to be hovering over the camp taking pictures. With no resolution to the situation, the standoff continued till the filing of this report.
‘We want peace’
“We want peace, tranquility and love in the area to be maintained,” appealed Veronica Zingkhai.
The Ukhrul CSOs have urged neighbouring village men and women as well as the Tangkhul Katamnao Long (students’ union), village headmen’s organization, Tangkhul youth organization and Northern Tangkhul organizations to support Sihai village in this time of vulnerability.
“We want the peace process to go on and materialize into a logical conclusion,” said Hopeson Shimray, President of the Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) while speaking to The Morung Express. “People are apprehensive of going back to days prior to the 1997 ceasefire. Nagas have suffered enough. We want peace and harmony to be maintained between the NSCN (IM), Assam Rifles and civilians,” he stated.
“This is the most conducive time for a solution to the Indo-Naga issue, especially for an all-inclusive one,” the TNL President maintained, hoping that ‘provocation’ from either side does not affect the ceasefire or peace process in any way due to which, “ultimately civilians will suffer.”
He reiterated, “We want a conclusive decision (to the Indo-Naga issue); we should be allowed to live peacefully and start working to build our future.”
Meanwhile, the Ukhrul district administration remained tight-lipped on the situation brewing in Sihai. The Deputy Commissioner of the district, when contacted by The Morung Express on Sunday evening, refused to comment on the incident citing lack of ground inputs. The DC said that there was no “clear cut” information and until he gets credible inputs he cannot comment on the standoff, which has been brewing since Friday, April 26.
The Superintendent of Police of the district also could not provide much information.
Also Read: NSCN (IM) – Assam Rifles standoff continues; onus of maintaining peace falls on civilians
The Assam Rifles IGAR South could not be reached for information on the situation. The NSCN (IM) remained silent. When contacted on Saturday evening, April 27, its Ministry of Information & Publicity Secretary declined to speak about the incident, while stating that it would be issuing a press release soon.