New Delhi: A Manipur-based organisation working for the majority Meitei community of the state has written to the Union government urging the abrogation of the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement signed with Kuki rebel groups by the Centre and the state government.
In letters to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, among others, the People’s Alliance For Peace and Progress, Manipur (PAPPM) has alleged illegal poppy cultivation in protected state forests by “Kukis who are of Burmese origin”.
These Kukis, the group has claimed, want to expand their dominance by attacking the villages of indigenous Meiteis.
The SoO is a ceasefire agreement signed in 2008 with the aim to initiate dialogue with Kuki rebel groups seeking greater self-determination within Manipur under the Sixth Schedule.
Under it, the cadres of 25 Kuki groups under the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and the United People’s Front (UPF) are housed in 13 designated camps, with the government periodically extending the SoO with the two umbrella organisations.
The PAPPM — founded three years ago as an “apolitical organisation working for the promotion of peace and progress in Manipur” — has also filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court, alleging an “imminent threat posed by the presence of narco-terrorism and external aggression of illegal migrants with Kuki militants to the national security”.
The letters of the PAPPM come as violence between the tribal Kukis and non-tribal Meiteis of Manipur continues, spurred by ethnic tensions.
The immediate trigger for the violence, which began on 3 May, is believed to be the Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status — a demand that was given the green light by the Manipur High Court before the order was stayed by the Supreme Court.
The Meiteis claim to have been edged out of government jobs by the lack of ST status, and also allege that an influx of Myanmarese nationals who share close ethnic ties with local Kukis is leading to demographic changes in the state.
Meanwhile, the Kukis claim to be at the receiving end of discrimination by the majority Meitei community, to which Chief Minister N. Biren Singh also belongs and is known to hold more political power in the state.
They allege the recent drive against poppy cultivation and allegedly illegal settlements in protected forests specifically targets the Kukis.
The tensions culminated in unprecedented violence in the state on 3 May as the tribals came together for a Tribal Solidarity March. The violence has left both sides battered.
The PAPPM has claimed that Kukis of Burmese origin have entered Manipur, and cleared protected and reserved forests to settle there. It has alleged that they have planted opium poppy and ruined the environment of the region.
In their petition to the SC, the group says the “present SoO pact has created a conducive environment to strengthen the militant outfits and they are responsible for bringing in the Kuki migrants providing them language and combat training in their camps and also using the illegal migrants as a labour force for poppy cultivation, arms running and drug trafficking”.
‘No help from police’
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals — primarily Kuki and Nagas — constitute 40 per cent and reside in the Hill districts.
Earlier Wednesday, a group of Meiteis claiming to be victims of violence addressed the media in the national capital.
Among other things, they alleged that they receive no help from police personnel as “top positions in the civil and police administration have been cornered by the Kukis because of ST reservation”.
They said they had met senior RSS leaders including Krishna Gopal, and put forth their demands, including suspension of the SoO.
In March, the Biren Singh government decided to end the SoO with two Kuki groups — the Kuki National Army (KNA) and the Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) — arguing that their leadership hails from outside the state. Both the KNA and ZRA, however, denied the allegations.
There are nearly 30 Kuki insurgent groups, of which 25 are under the SoO.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
Source: The Print