Centre unlikely to back State Govt move to pull out of Kuki truce pact
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh met Union Home Minister Amit Shah

New Delhi: The Centre is unlikely to support the Manipur government’s decision to withdraw from a truce agreement with three Kuki-Zomi insurgent groups. The Centre’s reluctance on the matter has been communicated to the state government although the former agrees with the latter’s concern over the recent activities of some Kuki groups, The Indian Express has learnt.
On March 10, the Manipur Cabinet took a decision to immediately withdraw from the Suspension of Operation agreement with the Kuki National Army (KNA), Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) and Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA). The decision followed a series of protest rallies in Manipur’s Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal districts, and subsequent clashes with police in Kangpokpi district over the state government’s eviction drive.
The state has shared its concern with the Centre that these outfits were supporting the influx of Myanmarese immigrants from across the border, encouraging poppy cultivation and drug trade, and are behind the protests against eviction drives in Kuki villages that exist on “encroached forest land”.
The state government believes the insurgents threw their weight behind the protests organised by the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum.
Sources said the Ministry of Home Affairs is closely watching the developments in the state. “The concerns raised by the Manipur government are serious and they need to be dealt with. But whether withdrawal from the Suspension of Operation pact is the only way is something that needs to be thought through,” a government source said.
Last week, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi and, according to sources, urged him to clarify the provisions of the agreement and ensure the regulations are strictly followed on the ground. A delegation led by Manipur Chief Secretary Dr Rajesh Kumar also met Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and the Centre’s peace talks interlocutor A K Mishra.
As reported by The Indian Express on March 20, the issue is said to be far more complex than land encroachment and the evictions were more about the influx of immigrants from Myanmar.
“Illegal immigration from Myanmar has jumped over the past year-and-a-half. There has always been infiltration of illegal immigrants in smaller numbers and since they all belong to the Kuki-Zomi group of tribes, it is difficult for the administration to tell the difference between Indian residents and illegal immigrants. There have been dozens of villages that have simply come up in the state overnight. We believe that if this influx continues, there is a real possibility of the demography of Manipur being changed entirely,” said a source in the state government.
Several student outfits that agree with the government’s position, including the Manipur Students’ Federation (MSF), organised protests on Saturday at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and in Manipur to demand the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state.
To bolster its claim, the government claims that many of the leaders and the cadre of the insurgent groups are either from Myanmar or of Myanmarese descent – among them ZRA president Phanznianpau Guite.
The state government has also accused the insurgent groups of being involved in drug trade by supporting cultivation of poppy in areas they dominate.
“Most of the poppy plantation is taking place in the Kuki-dominated areas and is being supported by many of these groups. This is giving a push to the cross-border drug trade. The forests are being cleared in favour of poppy cultivation and the villagers pay ‘taxes’ to the groups through this trade. There is just too much illegal activity taking place in these areas that need to be curtailed. We are waiting for the Centre to give us the go-ahead to withdraw. The Centre also needs to clarify and re-establish the Suspension of Operation ground rules,’’ said a state government official.
An official of the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), the umbrella group of armed Kuki organisations, dismissed the allegations as baseless. “The Manipur government has made its decision based on three allegations — that the groups support poppy cultivation and drug trade, that the Kukis are encroaching on forest land, and that many of the leaders of these groups are Burmese. These are baseless allegations. (Courtesy: The Indian Express)