UNLF signed peace deal with Centre

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What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in news?
  • What is Insurgency in Manipur?
  • What are the Reasons for insurgency in Manipur?
  • News Summary: UNLF signed peace deal with Centre
  • Key highlights of the peace deal
  • What is the UNLF?
  • Current status

Why in news?

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced the signing of a peace agreement with the Meitei separatist group United National Liberation Front (UNLF) in Manipur.
  • The Home Minister also expressed the hope that this would encourage other valley-based insurgent groups (VBIGs) to participate in a peace process.

What is Insurgency in Manipur?

  • About
    • There is an ongoing armed conflict between India and a number of separatist rebel groups in Manipur.
      • This insurgency in Manipur is part of the wider Insurgency in Northeast India which combines elements of a national liberation war as well as an ethnic conflict.
  • Historical background of Manipur
    • Following the brief Anglo-Manipur War of 1891, the Kingdom of Manipur was conquered by Britain.
      • After this war, Manipur kingdom became a British protectorate.
    • Manipur became a part of India in October 1949 and became a separate state in 1972.
  • Rise of insurgency
    • Manipur's incorporation into the Indian state led to the formation of a number of insurgent organisations.
      • These groups demanded the creation of an independent state within the borders of Manipur, and dismissed the merger with India as involuntary.
    • The insurgency problem in Manipur came into existence in the late 1960s and 1970s.
      • There was no problem of insurgency when Manipur merged into India.
    • The first separatist faction, United National Liberation Front (UNLF), was founded in November 1964.
      • Now, the region is infested with many insurgent groups.

What are the Reasons for insurgency in Manipur?

  • Merger with India
    • Meiteis are the majority community of Manipur. Their influence declined after Indian Independence.
    • This led to resentment in a section of Meities about the merger of the State with the Indian Union, which led to the Meitei insurgency from the 1960s.
  • Ethnic conflict
    • Manipur has a diverse ethnic population with Meitis controlling the Valley, Nagas on the surrounding hills and Kukis interspersed in between.
    • This leads to clashes between these communities.
      • Kukis and Nagas of Manipur have overlapping and conflicting territorial interests over almost all the hill districts of Manipur.
      • Similarly, there are competing interests between the Nagas and Meitis.
      • The demand for Nagalim or Greater Nagaland includes the Naga inhabited areas of Manipur. On the other hand, the Meitis want to preserve what has been a single geographic entity for centuries.
  • Lack of socio-economic development
    • Owing to its topographical structure, the state has had problems of economic development and socio-economic transformation for a long period.
    • Over the years, endless corruption, mismanagement of funds and the failure to devolve power to common people have led to the rise of dissatisfaction.

News Summary: UNLF signed peace deal with Centre

  • The Union govt said that the UNLF, a Meitei insurgent outfit, has signed a Peace Agreement with the Government of India and the Government of Manipur.
  • This is the first known instance of a valley-based insurgent group (VBIG) from Manipur entering into a peace pact with the Centre.
    • So far, the VBIGs have never entered into an agreement with the Centre or participated in any peace talks.

Key highlights of the peace deal

  • Although the deal has not been made public, analysts say the agreement at the moment is largely on suspension of operations (SoO).
    • i.e., Both the UNLF and the security forces will not undertake operations against each other.
  • In due course, areas would be identified to build camps for UNLF within the valley where their cadres would stay along with their arms and ammunition under the supervision of the Manipur government and the armed forces.
  • Talks for a final peace accord between the government and UNLF will continue after the SoO arrangements are put in place.

What is the UNLF?

  • About
    • The UNLF was formed on November 24, 1964, and is the oldest valley-based insurgent group.
    • It was formed with the demand of secession from India under the leadership of Arembam Samarendra Singh, who was the general secretary of the group.
    • It was a proscribed group, banned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
  • Armed wing of UNLF
    • The UNLF is believed to have received its initial training from the NSCN (IM), the largest Naga insurgent group.
    • Its armed wing, the Manipur People’s Army, was formed in 1990.
    • There are now two factions of the UNLF and jointly, government estimates place the number of cadres at 400-500.
  • Area of operation
    • Its area of operation includes all the valley areas of Manipur, as well as some villages in the Kuki-Zomi hill districts.
    • It has largely been functioning from camps and training bases in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region, Chin state, and Rakhine state with the patronage of the Myanmar military.
    • However, it is now on the backfoot there, with mounting attacks against the military junta by various Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) and People’s Defence Forces (PDFs).
  • Factions of UNLF
    • Now, there are two factions, one under the chairmanship of Khundongbam Pambei and the other under the chairmanship of NC Koireng.
    • Pambei has been open to talks, and the process to begin ceasefire negotiations goes back to 2020.
    • However, the faction under the chairmanship of NC Koireng has stayed away from talks.

Current status

  • One faction opposed to the talks
    • The UNLF faction under Koireng continues to be opposed to talks.
  • Manipur government withdrew from the Suspension of Operations (SoO) in March 2023
    • A tripartite Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement between the Centre, Manipur state and the Kuki-Zomi insurgent groups had been reached in 2008.
    • The primary objective of this pact was to initiate political dialogue.
    • However, in March 2023, the Manipur government pulled out of the agreement with the Zomi Revolutionary Army and the Kuki National Army.
      • It said that they were influencing agitation among forest encroachers.

Q1) What is suspension of operations (SoO) agreement?

Suspension of operations (SoO) agreement is a ceasefire agreement signed with the primary objective of initiating political dialogue insurgent groups.

Q2) Who are Meiteis?

The Meiteis, also known as Meetei or Manipuri, are the largest ethnic group in the North Indian state of Manipur. They live mainly in the Imphal Valley region, but also in other Indian states such as Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.


Source: History of UNLF, Meitei insurgent group that signed peace deal with Centre | IDSA | Indian Express | Hindustan Times