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Insurgency in Manipur

Insurgency in Manipur

The Central Government has declared its willingness to engage in talks with insurgency groups in Manipur with the aim of establishing lasting peace in the region. The insurgency issue in Manipur traces its roots back to 1964 when the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) was formed, and it continues to be one of the prominent militant groups in the area.

Reasons for Rise of Insurgency in Manipur

Historical Grievances and Statehood Delay:

  • People in Manipur attribute the rise of separatist insurgency to discontent over the perceived “forced” merger with India in 1949 and the subsequent delay in obtaining full statehood until 1972.
  • Despite being merged in 1949, Manipur didn’t attain the status of a state until 1972.

Militant Outfits and Independence Demands:

  • Over time, various militant groups emerged, such as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL).
  • These groups from the valley region have been advocating for an independent Manipur.

Naga Movement’s Impact:

  • The demand for “Greater Nagaland” by the NSCN-IM, originating from neighboring Nagaland, spilled over into Manipur’s hill districts.
  • The control exerted by NSCN-IM in these areas is perceived as a threat to Manipur’s territorial integrity by the valley.

Valley-Hills Dynamics:

  • While the hills constitute the majority of Manipur’s geographical area, they are less populated, with the majority of the population concentrated in the valley.
  • The Imphal valley is predominantly inhabited by the Meitei community, whereas the surrounding hill districts are home to Nagas and Kukis.

Naga-Kuki Conflict and Insurgent Groups:

  • In the early 1990s, ethnic clashes between Nagas and Kukis led to the formation of Kuki insurgent groups.
  • These groups, such as Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF), People’s United Liberation Front (PULF), and others, emerged due to the prolonged insurgency.

Steps taken by the Government:

AFSPA and Manipur: In 1980, the government declared the whole of Manipur as a “disturbed area” and put in place the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to control the insurgency. Unfortunately, AFSPA is still in effect today.

Operation All Clear: The army and Assam Rifles carried out “Operation All Clear” in the hills, wiping out many militant hideouts. However, some militants moved to the valley to avoid the crackdown.

Ceasefire with NSCN-IM: In 1997, the NSCN-IM agreed to a ceasefire with the Indian government, and ongoing peace talks have been taking place since then.

Kuki Ceasefire: The Kuki outfits, organized under KNO and UPF, signed a trilateral Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with the Governments of India and Manipur on August 22, 2008. This helped ease tensions in the region.

Rehabilitation Efforts: The state government has initiated rehabilitation programs for smaller militant groups under SoO agreements. This aims to integrate them back into society.

Challenges with Valley-Based Groups: Unfortunately, major militant outfits in the valley, such as UNLF, PLA, KYKL, have not yet engaged in negotiations, posing a continued challenge to the peace process.

Challenges in Restoring Peace in Manipur

Challenges of Peaceful Settlements: The government’s attempt to peacefully resolve issues with militant groups is backfiring. The problem arises because the demands of these groups often clash, making it impossible to reach a conventional agreement that satisfies everyone.

Proxy Troubles: In the ongoing peace talks, some insurgent groups tend to continue their armed rebellion under a different name or by forming new factions. This makes it difficult to achieve genuine peace as the violence persists.

Politician-Insurgent Connection: The problematic connection between politicians, insurgents, and criminals is making the situation worse. Some outfits are essentially criminal gangs involved in extortion, kidnapping, and contract killings. Additionally, troublemakers exploit the unrest to extort funds, pretending to be insurgents. Political parties further complicate security issues for their own gains, using controversies to win votes.

Border State Challenges: Manipur, being a border state with a porous international border in a challenging jungle environment, faces ongoing issues. Arms flow in, and insurgent groups rely on external countries for training and logistical support, adding to the complexity of the situation.

Way Forward

  • Good Governance: Good governance needs to be instituted in the state through a transparent government, fair judiciary system, respect for the rule of law, and the provision of the minimum basic amenities like hospitals, schools, police stations, etc.
  • There is a need for political sincerity coupled with proper distribution of funds for the development of the state, both in the valley and the hills.
  • This should be followed by economic development through government, semi-government and private entrepreneurship participation.
  • Border Management: Before initiating any kind of counter-insurgency policy/operations, the Indo-Myanmar international border needs proper management.
  • Engaging With People: The connectivity and intermingling amongst the diverse communities of Manipur with mainland India should be made more effective to encourage national integration.

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