Chidambaram vocal on extortion but mum on Siroy 'drama'
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, February 03 2009: Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who arrived here in the morning amid tight security on whirl wind visit left maintaining a stoic silence on the stand off between the Assam Rifles and the NSCN (IM) though strong instructions were been given to the Chief Minister to deal with the problem of extortion in the State with an iron fist.

When the Union Home Minister, who was accompanied by Joint Secretary for North East of the Union Home Ministry Navin Verma, arrived at Tulihal airport in an Indigo flight from New Delhi at around 9.30 am today, he was received by Ministers of the SPF Government, Congress president Gaikhangam, two MPs, the Chief Secretary, the DGP and other Congress workers.

Rajya Sabha MP Rishang Keishing greeting Union Home Minister P Chidambaram at the Tulihal airport

From the airport, the Union Home Minister directly left for the Chief Minister's bungalow where a joint meeting was held along with the Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh and his Council of Ministers at the Cabinet Room.

He also attended the meeting of the Unified Command (Combined Headquarters) chaired by the Chief Minister.

During his short visit which lasted only for 3 hours, the Union Home Minister also met Governor Gurbachan Jagat at the Raj Bhavan.

Interacting with media-persons at Tulihal Airport before leaving Imphal for Dimapur later during the day, the Union Home Minister maintained that extortion activities of the UGs is the biggest problem of the State and said this should be curbed.

He said extortion is being served on the public, schools, colleges, hospitals, etc and the fund for development like construction of roads is falling into the hands of the extortionists.

While informing that he had given strong instructions to the Chief Minister and other officials concerned to come down heavily on extortions, the Union Home Minister noted that firm stand and action of the State Government is required in tackling the problem.

Only then can there a good system in the State, he added.

Stating that he has been thoroughly briefed on the works being taken up by the Government and that the existing conditions in the hills, foothills and plain of the State have been reviewed, the Union Home Minister informed that the State Government has placed various proposals to the Centre for assistance and assured that he would work for its implementation after he reaches Delhi.

When asked what the proposals of the State Government were about, the Union Home Minister replied that it was about increasing the number of IRB battalions and deployment of more Central Paramilitary forces in the State.

Maintaining that the Centre and the State Govt have definite policies on containing militancy, Chidambaram asserted that violence would not bring any good and the Centre and the State Government would not remain quiet in the face of violence.

Commending the job of the police and the security forces, the Union Home Minister said that the number of UGs being arrested and killed by the police and other security forces should ring out a strong message to the militants.

Chidambaram went on to say that the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act has been amended to recognise funding militants as a crime that warrants action in accordance to the law.

When pressed for a comment on the stand off between the Assam Rifles and the NSCN (IM) at Siroy in Ukhrul district which was defused recently, the Union Home Minister simply brushed aside the query saying that it is a matter that should not be discussed with the media.

According to information received by the press, apart from discussing the issue related to the recent Siroy episode, the special meeting of the United Command (Combined Headquarters) attended by the Union Home Minister himself discussed in detail the future course of action to be taken up in this regard.

The meeting chaired by Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh and attended by Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), 3 Corps Commander, DGP, GOC of 57 Mountain Division, IGAR (South) and officials of BSF and CRPF among others also discussed the progress of the ongoing Suspension of Operation (SoO) signed between the Kuki underground outfits and the Government as well as the process being made to start peace talks with KCP (MC) Lallumba group, conveyed a reliable source.

In the meeting, the Union Home Minister instructed all the participating officials to take up necessary measures to step up counter insurgency operations soon after the pending Lok Sabha election, the source added.

Following a petition by the State Government, the Chidambaram also assured that India would get in touch with Myanmar to crack down on the camps of UGs from Manipur there.

After meeting the Governor, the Union Minister left Imphal for Dimapur by a helicopter of the Indian Air Force in the afternoon.

At Dimapur, the Home Minister had a meeting with the Government of Nagaland which was attended by the Chairman of the CFMC Lt Gen Mandatta, said a source and added that during the meeting the Siroy episode was discussed.

While the Union Home Minister was at Imphal, stringent security measures were put in place.

Even pedestrians were not allowed to walk past near the Chief Minister's bungalow where the Union Minister attended a meeting.

There was also heavy traffic snarls on many roads particularly in front of the Raj Bhavan and traffic cops had a tough time regulating the traffic flow.