TODAY -

Suspension Of Operation With Chikimz Outfits In Manipur
- Part II -

Aheibam Koireng Singh *



With the signing of the tripartite agreement, SoO came into force initially for a period of one year with the provision that it could be extendable on the basis of mutual agreement and understanding. The KNO spokesman, Dr. Seilen Haokip took SoO as a pre-requisite to political dialogue's commencement. [Kuki solution should be within Indian Constitution, NorthEast Sun, October 15, 2008.] While voicing on behalf of the KNO he stated that the tripartite agreement was a structural necessity. He exemplify by stating that the Joint Monitoring Group comprising representatives from GOI, KNO and the Government of Manipur will be dealing with issues related to the field or the ground rules.

JMG are going to be responsible for monitoring the activities of KNO's cadres and the security forces. JMG is an administrative body, which will take decisions pertaining to the camps and ground issues; it is not going to be responsible for making political decisions. However this was not KNO's preferred model. Instead KNO would want GoI to engage in dialogue with them and referred to the Manipur state government any relevant issue as and when necessary.

A Joint Monitoring Group headed by Principal Secretary (Home), Mr. DS Poonia with a representative each from the UPF and the KNO had also been formed. Issuing of identity cards to all the cadres of the two groups by the government, payment of Rs. 2000 to each cadre monthly for maintenance as well as identifying and building the designated camps.

The cadres will not be allowed to move out of the designated camps with arms and all the designated camps will be located at a good distance from the national highways as well as international boundaries, and strict adherence to the rules so laid down are some significant points of the ground rules. As per the agreement, the enforcement of the ground rules would be the responsibility of the state government with the help and assistance of the central police organizations, Assam Rifles and Army deployed in the state of Manipur. [SoO signed enforced, IFP, 23 Aug 2008.]

When the SoO agreement was due to expire on 23 August 2009, the Peoples' Consultative Committee for Peace (PCCP) while calling upon the parties involved to respect the terms of the SoO appealed to the authorities concerned to have it extended for another term. PCCP calls for ['SoO extension for another term', IFP, Aug 3, 2009.] SoO was extended for a year with effect from 22 August 2009 with the condition that SoO will continue to be defined by the earlier "Ground Rules".

The agreed "Ground Rules" demands all the parties to stick to the conditions that admit them into the SoO group. Exercising any sort of military might, particularly by the armed groups, is bound to be seen as violation of the contract that they have mutually entered into. On the part of the armed groups, it appears that none would immediately choose to stand in the way of the peace process in their quest to walk the talk towards securing "political solution". In this connection the KNO spokesman stated that the main purpose of SoO was to engage in political dialogue to find a political settlement for the Kukis within the constitution of India.

"Extension of SoO signals a positive stand on the part of all the parties concerned", he further said. He also averred that inclusion of 'territorial integrity' in the ground rules could not prevent the KNO from raising their political demand when the talks started. Calvin H, member of the UPF also asserted that "despite the stand of the Government of Manipur" for territorial integrity, "there is no binding clause in the constitution that says the boundary of the state cannot be changed". ['KNO, UPF and the SoO: Long Walk to Talk', www. Kanglaonline.com, assessed on 29 June 2010.]

UPF's convener of the Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) TL Jacob Thadou stated that the armed groups are adhering to the agreed conditions of the "Ground Rules" in good spirit. He said that the armed groups have been pragmatically engaged in a learning process that requires them to make peace, build confidence and resolve differences. Further he said, the preparations, thus far, have been held in a positive atmosphere with certain progress, though without definitive agreements for the political talks.

Commander of 59 Mountain Brigade, Brigadier Anil Chauhan stated on 27 November 2009 that the tripartite Suspension of Operation (SoO) pact signed between the Central Government, the State Government and Kuki militant groups were still in transitory phase and no political dialogue has been initiated as yet. [ He stated it while speaking at the inaugural function of the administrative block of a designated camp built for KNF at Saparmeina. 'SoO in transitory phase', TSE, 27 November 2009.]

The CHIKIMZ ethnic armed outfits despite being in SoO with the State and the Union government continued to engage in extortion, fratricidal turf wars and internecine factional clashes, kidnapping for ransom, intimidating the civilians, interference in developmental programmes, and influencing the outcome of the Autonomous District Council (ADC) election 2010 results through sheer coercion. An amount of Rs. 21,48,095 was released for the purpose of payment of compensations to the land owners affected by the land acquisition for the construction of the ICP at Moreh. From the compensation amount, KNA/KNO maintaining cease fire trust under SoO imposed diktat that they will cut 57 percent of the compensation amount received by the land owners. Out of the compensation amounts KNA/KNO had collected Rs 17, 76,000. [Hueiyen Lanpao(HL), Popular English Daily, Imphal,1 May 2010.]

In this connection the Integrated Check Post - Joint Action Committee (ICP-JAC) had earlier on 04 April 2010 demanded the Chandel district administration that distribution/payment of compensation should be delayed until the KNA was permanently driven out from 'Moreh' and Chandel District. The KLA on 17 November 2009 while declaring its decision to no longer go along with the KNO/KNA alleged the later of repeatedly violating the ceasefire ground rules in the name of KLA in the form of levying taxes, extortion, kidnapping, etc. to blacklist the KLA.[ IFP, Wednesday, 18 November 2009.]

On April 2010, there were reports of villagers of Bungbal Khullen, Seichang and Suongthel areas in Senapati District fleeing their respective villages following continued clashes between suspected rival Kuki militants under SoO. A particular outfit under SoO had on 27 May 2010 spelled out that contractors who have violated the outfit's instruction of seeking prior permission would not be entertained for undertaking works under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.

The same outfit abducted the chief of Kom village, Thayong in the Senapati District and imposed a fine of Rs. 100000 for not attending a meeting of village chiefs of the area and eventually released on payment of Rs. 80,000. KLA despite in a SoO agreement locked up the Imphal-Guwahati passenger bus from outside at a place near Dimapur and set it on fire with 32 passengers still inside on October 2008 because of the bus owner's failure to pay their "tax" demand. It resulted in the death of two passengers. [Inter-state bus services suspended over burning down of state bus in Assam; Two charred to death inside locked bus, IFP, 25 October 2008.]

On 2 June 2008, the United Committee Manipur in a memorandum submitted to Manipur Governor Dr. Shivendra Singh Sidhu blamed the Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement signed with the Kuki militant outfits for the rising crime and unchecked violence in some parts of the State. It stated that due to the improper implementation of the truce details there were unrestricted and open extortions being carried out along with abductions for ransom which had become routine further adding that the Imphal-Moreh Sumo service was suspended due to monetary demands imposed by the KNA on the transporters.

Cadres of the CHIKIMZ armed outfit under SoO was found in the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs.4.54 Crores of public fund in between 03-14 October 2010 from the Churachandpur branch of United Bank of India. ['SoO group found to be behind UBI bank fraud case: 57 Mt Div', IFP, Tuesday, 03 November 2009.] KNA allegedly intimidated the voters belonging to Kom community in Sagang and Tuibuong areas in Churachandpur District and at Moreh area in Chandel District and disrobe them of their right to vote in the Autonomous District Council (ADC) held in May 2010.

It would be pertinent to recall the incidents occurred in Moreh in the early part of June 2007 that KNA after pumping bullet to six mason workers left their bodies considering all to be lifeless corpse as obvious revenge for killing five Kukis by the UNLF whom they alleged as KNA cadres. One of them was later found alive to tell the stories of the cruel incident. By that time KNA was already in SoO with the Indian army. During those days of heightening tension and anxious moments, Meiteis in Moreh fled to Myanmar as they did not feel secure with the Indian army and security personnels deployed there.

When the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Moreh along with Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) met their Myanmarese counterpart to take back those who took refuge at Myanmar following the eruption of imbroglio, the Myanmarese officials, while contending that the situation continued to be volatile and still not calmed down refused to oblige with the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Moreh and SDPO at the first instant.

Some among those that fled to Myanmar expressed that they fled to Myanmar side of the border sensing the futility and consequent risk of their lives because of the perceived inaction of the Indian Armed Forces (IAF) as the KNA by that time was already in SoO with the IAF without any definite ground rules. Just in the aftermath of that violence, the proscribed United National Liberation Front issued a hand out alleging the KNA of driving a wedge of ethnic hatred to create hostility among the co-existing communities in connivance with the security personnel, further adding that the passivity of the Assam Rifles (AR) by remaining as mere spectators even when five Meitei civilians were killed clearly illustrates their nexus.

The upshot of recalling this episodic event is that those CHIKIMZ outfits under SoO shall not be engaged either as guides or in any other form in counter-insurgency operations. Why? Such engagement would escalate hostilities among armed outfits cutting across community lines. As past experience of the Moreh June 2007 episodic event stands vivid that rivalries between the armed outfits often have a trickledown effect among the people whom they claimed to represent.

The state and the central government shall ensure that those CHIKIMZ outfits under SoO did not inconvenience the civilians. The KNO as well as the UPF took SoO as a significant step in the right direction and a prerequisite to the commencement of political dialogue. Though different warring groups and factions have come under SoO, there is little evidence that their hostilities have ceased.

JMGs should motivate the armed groups under SoO to initiate confidence building measures among the warring factions and groups to sort out their differences without resorting to violence. Notwithstanding the lapses in enforcing the SoO ground rules, Autonomous District Council elections in the year 2010 was held and conducted with relative ease in the areas where the CHIKIMZ outfits under SoO are operating in comparison with the areas where the NSCN-Muivah led Nagas reigned supreme.

While engaging in SoO Grassroots democracy should be strengthened and the strong presence of state administration should be made felt which otherwise have for so long remained as ungovernable grey areas because of difficult geographical terrains and thriving CHIKIMZ insurgency. Though CHIKIMZ armed outfits under SoO have objectives ranging from 'Kuki state', 'Kukiland', 'Zomi autonomous council', but with the signing of SoO under the constitution of India, it was agreed not to break the territorial integrity of Manipur. ['Committee to raise Kuki territorial council', Hueiyen Lanpao, Popular English Daily , Imphal, February 26 2011.]

With it the demand for separate state within or outside India has been foreclosed. On 26 February 2011, a body called Kuki (Khulmi) Development Council Demand Committee has been set up with the sole objective of demanding a territorial council of the Kukis like the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) for Bodos in Assam. It also aimed at neutralizing the differences of the demands of CHIKIMZ based UG groups. [Ibid.]

The said demand was also endorsed by the UKLF. The UKLF Secretary who is also the Convenor of UPF even went on to say that that Kuki Development Council is the only pragmatic way to usher in prosperity and development in Kuki areas at par with developments in the valley districts of Manipur. ['UKLF celebrates anniversary, slams Delhi', TSE, Imphal, 30 May 2011.]

On the other hand KNO is still to tone down from its demand for a separate Kuki state as KNO reminded the AICC President Sonia Gandhi of the need for a Kuki State in her visit to the state on 18 October 2010. It includes the present Sadar Hills region, Churachandpur and Chandel districts, and the Kuki villages in Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong districts of Manipur. ['Separate Kuki State demand put to Sonia', TSE, 14 November 2010.]

It is hoped that holistic solutions which will not be in collision with the interest of the other communities that could potentially rigger another form of conflict would come into sight in the very near future. To add a caution, if any form of autonomy is to be granted, it should not be community exclusive as the guiding spirit should be that of peaceful co-existence and not of extending sovereignty to one particular ethnic group.

Since SoO is the first ever peace initiative involving the state government, it should pave way for substantive dialogue towards durable solution of the hydra-headed CHIKIMZ insurgencies. Successful resolution of the CHIKIMZ insurgent problems through SoO would invite the willingness of other armed outfits which are still eluding the offer for peace talks.

Concluded.....


* Aheibam Koireng Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be reached at akoireng(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on November 22, 2016.


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