The (Outlook expose December 12, '05) of Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh allegedly donating Rs 1.5 crore to two secessionist outfits—the Revolutionary People's Fund (RPF) and the Kanglei Yawoi Kannna Lup (KYKL)—has led to demands for his resignation. The central and state BJP leadership and the Opposition in Manipur have also asked for a high-level inquiry to be instituted to probe Ibobi's largesse to the two groups. Army headquarters had forwarded the receipts issued by the RPF and KYKL in Ibobi's name as "evidence" to the Union home ministry which, in turn, informed the PMO.
Senior BJP leader and party spokesman M.A. Naqvi told Outlook, "This is an extremely serious issue and reflects the perils of the soft and friendly attitude adopted by the Congress towards terrorist groups. I am sure this attitude emboldened the chief minister to give money to the two terrorist outfits." The BJP raised the issue in Parliament too, while in the state itself former Manipur CM R.K. Dorendro was vocal in his diatribes. "There are many issues involved here...we have demanded a high-level inquiry." In fact, all the opposition parties are united in demanding Ibobi's head. L. Ibomcha, MLA and leader of the opposition Federal Party of Manipur, leader of the opposition O. Joy, who belongs to the Manipur Peoples' Party (MPP), they've all demanded Ibobi's removal. The BJP's Mukhtar Naqvi takes the situation a level further when he says "the central government must clarify its position on the charges".
All this comes in the background of an attempt by the Centre to shield the Manipur CM. Intelligence agency sources told Outlook, "There is this feeling that the issue will die out after a few demands for Ibobi's resignation. The CM's people have also sent the message to the Opposition that should he be put in the dock, he will expose others." Congress sources say that soon after the expose, Ibobi Singh was summoned to Delhi. He apparently held meetings with senior Congress leadership as well as home ministry officials before heading back to Manipur. His defence is that all politicians in the state patronised underground groups.
Allegations of a nexus between politicians and terrorist outfits have been rife in Manipur for a long time now. The irony in Dorendo's demand for Ibobi's removal has not been lost in Manipur's political circles. The former CM was accused in 1993 by Lt General V.K. Nayyar (retd) of passing on funds to underground outfits. The only difference is, in Ibobi's case there is clinching evidence in the form of receipts issued by two separatist groups banned by the Union government. As of now, army HQ and the security agencies have left it to the Union home ministry to decide the next course of action. In fact, the two receipts were presented as "evidence" to home minister Shivraj Patil by chief of army staff, General J.J. Singh.
What has given Ibobi a temporary breather is the impending talks with the NSCN(I-M) which is slated to come up this month. The eight-year-old ceasefire between the Centre and the NSCN(I-M) was renewed for only six months after the last round of talks failed to make any major headway. The talks outcome will have a crucial fallout on Manipur where the Thangkul Nagas dominate the hill districts of the state and serve as a large support base for the separatist outfit.
In fact, the group's general secretary, Th. Muivah, is a Thangkul Naga and is the main voice behind the demand for Greater Nagaland, including the hill districts of Manipur. However, Ibobi Singh, who represents the Meiteis from the Manipur valley, has traditionally opposed any such deal with the NSCN(I-M). Security officials feel that his alleged support to KYKL and RPF—both Meitei groups—could be prompted by these developments. The fact that the army has managed to wean away several Manipur-based Kuki outfits by signing suspension of operations agreements has added to the state government's unhappiness.
According to sources, the Intelligence Bureau has repeatedly pointed out that this agreement with the Kuki groups would only complicate the issue and give them importance far beyond their present status. Amidst this chaos and confusion, Ibobi Singh's alleged misdemeanors has added fuel to a smouldering blaze.
Jaideep Mazumdar and Saikat Datta
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