Special Central Team Reaches Manipur, End Suspension Of Operations With Kuki Insurgents, Say MLAs

Special Central Team Reaches Manipur; Scrap Ceasefire With Insurgents, Say MLAs

A special three-member Home Ministry team landed in Imphal today

Imphal/Guwahati/New Delhi:

Thirty-five MLAs from different parties including the ruling BJP in Manipur have asked the Centre to end a ceasefire deal signed with 25 Kuki insurgent groups, on a day a special three-member team of the Home Ministry landed in the state capital Imphal.

The team headed by the adviser on northeast affairs to the Home Ministry AK Mishra met with the leader of a valley-based village defence volunteer group at the Imphal home of Rajya Sabha MP Eningthou Leishemba Sanajaoba, people with direct knowledge of the matter said. The meeting will continue tomorrow, they said, without giving details what they discussed.

The other two members of the Home Ministry team are Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) Delhi joint director Mandeep Singh Tuli, and SIB joint director Imphal Rajesh Kumble.

The MLAs in their resolution gave four suggestions on how the Manipur ethnic crisis may be solved quickly – end the Suspension of Operations (SoO) signed with 25 Kuki insurgent groups, complete disarmament of all groups, stop alleged attacks by Myanmar insurgents on security forces, and order the Assam Rifles to neutralise insurgents who target civilians.

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“In many of the sensitive areas, Assam Rifles are not responsive and remain mute spectators when unarmed civilians (particularly farmers) are indiscriminately fired upon frequently. The claim that their deployment is providing security to the communities residing in these areas has been questioned,” the MLAs including from the National People’s Party, Naga People’s Front, and Janata Dal (United) said in the strongly-worded resolution.

“These forces and their leadership (chain of command) need to give strict instructions and be held accountable… by returning suppressive fire when they observe that unarmed civilians are being fired upon, which… has been non-existent which is why the public’s faith and trust in the forces presently deployed at places such as Moreh, Bishnupur, Imphal West, Kakching, etc has been shattered,” said the MLAs of the ethnic violence-hit state which has 60 members in the assembly.

NDTV contacted the Assam Rifles today to ask about the matter, and a response is awaited from the force whose operational control is with the army and administrative control is with the Home Ministry.

The MLAs in the resolution said the security forces will be able to launch a full-scale operation against the Kuki insurgents once the tripartite ceasefire deal signed between the Centre, the state and the 25 Kuki insurgent groups, known as the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement, is permanently scrapped.

“The SoO agreement with other militant groups who also indulge in anti-state state activities should not be extended beyond its expiry date of February 29, 2024,” the MLAs said in the resolution.

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Under the SoO agreement, the insurgents are housed in designated camps. There have been allegations that full attendance at many of the SoO camps has not been observed ever since violence broke out in May last year between the hill-majority Kuki tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis over disagreements on land, resources, political representation, and affirmative action policies.

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on January 8 said the spectrum of violence has shifted from clashes between two communities to a battle between the security forces and insurgents.

Manipur Security Adviser Kuldiep Singh last week told reporters there was a possibility of insurgents from Myanmar attacking security forces in the border town Moreh, but there was no evidence yet. His comments came after two police commandos were killed in action in Moreh. The Security Adviser had, however, confirmed the involvement of “Kuki militants” in the attack on state forces.

Kuki-Zo tribes allege police biased

Today’s meeting between the Home Ministry team and the AT is likely to be seen with caution by the Kuki-Zo tribes, who have been alleging that armed Meitei groups have embedded themselves with the state forces to launch attacks in the Moreh and other areas.

Though the Manipur Police has refuted the allegation as baseless, the government has been finding it nearly impossible to win their trust since the ethnic division runs deep, emotionally and physically, with both communities not going to the other’s areas separated by what is known as temporary “buffer zones” between the hills and the valley.

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The Manipur government maintains it is trying to uproot insurgents from Moreh, a strategic town owing to its location that is ideal for trade and large-scale development in future, while the Kuki tribes in Moreh have alleged the government wants to occupy the area before a political dialogue has even started on how to end the Manipur violence. The tribes have alleged the state forces of harassing them and burning down buildings in the border town.

The Kuki-Zo tribes have also renewed their demand for a separate administration carved out of Manipur, calling the May 3 violence the last straw. They have alleged decades of neglect of the hill areas by a government that they see as dominated by Meiteis. They have been asking the Centre to remove state forces from all hill areas.

The Kuki-Zo group Committee of Tribal Unity (CoTU) has said the deployment of state police commandos in Moreh was devoid of sound logic and rationality as tension and suspicion are bound to surface if suspected “Meitei insurgents” are allowed to roam freely in areas dominated by the Kuki-Zo.

Over 180 have died in the ethnic violence and thousands have been internally displaced.

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