What is the SoO agreement with tribal insurgent groups that the Manipur govt withdrew from?
Context- The BJP-led Manipur government on March 10 decided to withdraw from the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with two hill-based tribal militant groups, alleging they were “influencing agitation among forest encroachers”.
The state government claimed that a protest rally organised recently, defying Section 144, was influenced by the two groups, Kuki National Army (KNA) and Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA).
Subsequently, a team of top bureaucrats, including Manipur Chief Secretary Rajesh Kumar, on Sunday (March 12) left Imphal for the national capital to meet the Union Home Secretary to discuss issues pertaining to the withdrawal of the SoO.
What are the roots of the Kuki insurgency?
- While the Naga movement is the country’s longest-running insurgency, underground Kuki groups, too, have fought the Indian government for an ‘independent Kuki homeland’, spread across Manipur.
- The Kuki insurgency gained momentum after ethnic clashes with the Nagas of Manipur in the early 1990s, with the Kuki arming themselves against Naga aggression.
- While the two tribes have shared a hostile relationship since colonial times, things came to a head in the 1990s when the Naga-Kuki clashes took place. Land that the Kukis claim to be their “homeland” in the Manipur hills overlaps with the imagined Naga homeland of Greater Nagaland or Nagalim.
- As many as 115 Kuki men, women and children were believed to have been killed by the NSCN-IM in Tengnoupal in 1993 — a day still marked by the Kuki as ‘black day’.
What is the Suspension of Operations pact?
- There are nearly 30 Kuki insurgent groups in Manipur, of which 25 are under tripartite Suspension of Operations (SoO) with the Government of India and the state. As many as 17 are under the umbrella group Kuki National Organisation (KNO), and eight are under the United People’s Front (UPF).
- The SoO pact was signed on August 22, 2008, with the primary objective of initiating political dialogue. Talks are ongoing under AB Mathur, former special secretary of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), as the interlocutor.
- The Kuki outfits who were initially demanding a separate Kuki state have come down to a ‘Kukiland territorial council’, which would have financial and administrative powers independent of the Manipur Assembly and government.
What are the terms of the SoO pact?
- While the period of the Suspension of Operation agreement is one year, it is extendable according to the progress of its implementation.
- To oversee the effective implementation of the SoO pact, a committee called the Joint Monitoring Group (JMG), with representatives from all the signatories, has been formed.
- The important terms under the pact are that security forces, including state and central forces, are not to launch any operations, nor can the underground groups.
- The signatories of UPF and KNO shall abide by the Constitution of India, the laws of the land and the territorial integrity of Manipur. They are prohibited from committing all kinds of atrocities, extortion, among others.
- The militant cadres are to be confined in designated camps identified by the Government. Arms are deposited in a safe room under a double-locking system. The groups are given arms only to guard their camps and protect their leaders.
- As a rehabilitation package, the UG cadres living in the designated camps are given a monthly stipend of Rs 5000. Financial assistance is also being provided to maintain the designated camps
Way Forward – Union Home minister Amit Shah, ahead of the 2022 elections, promised to “solve” the Kuki issue if the BJP was voted to power. The Kuki groups even officially announced their support for the BJP. The revocation of this SoO agreement by the Biren government has now raised questions about this arrangement.
Source- Indian Express
NEWS- What is the SoO agreement with tribal insurgent groups that the Manipur govt withdrew from?
Syllabus- GS-2; Schedule Tribes