The hoopla that surrounds the peace talks between New Delhi and the two top leaders of the Naga underground has—not completely unwittingly—served to black out renewed protests in Manipur. Many Manipuri leaders are apprehensive that New Delhi might concede the old Naga demand of including large areas of Manipur in the proposed greater Naga homeland—part of a long-standing claim that all Naga-inhabited areas in the Northeast (also including contiguous areas of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh), besides some land in Myanmar, should unite as one geo-political entity.
The Centre has not helped matters by its ambiguous silence on this sensitive issue. Consequently, Manipuris, cutting across the political divide, came out on the streets of Imphal and other towns last week and raised slogans such as, “If Manipur is torn apart, we won’t remain in the Indian Union”. The fear of a relapse into the violence of mid-2001, when the Manipur secretariat was set on fire by mobs on the same issue, has prompted the authorities to impose a compulsory night curfew in Imphal.