Manipur Chief Minister using cadres of United National Liberation Front as his proxy army: Kuki-Zomi-Hmar leaders

The leaders also stated their opposition to the removal of Free Movement Regime along the Indo-Myanmar border

February 08, 2024 09:05 pm | Updated February 09, 2024 07:58 am IST - New Delhi

Cadres of the United National Liberation Front queue up to surrender their weapons in an open field. Leaders of Zo United, a unified platform comprising apex tribal bodies of Kuki, Zomi and Hmar tribes, say that since peace agreement was signed with a faction of the UNLF, the nature of attacks being carried out against Kuki-Zomi tribals had seen a shift towards “guerilla warfare”. File photo: X/@AmitShah

Cadres of the United National Liberation Front queue up to surrender their weapons in an open field. Leaders of Zo United, a unified platform comprising apex tribal bodies of Kuki, Zomi and Hmar tribes, say that since peace agreement was signed with a faction of the UNLF, the nature of attacks being carried out against Kuki-Zomi tribals had seen a shift towards “guerilla warfare”. File photo: X/@AmitShah

The Chief Minister of Manipur is using cadres of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) as his proxy army and the signing of a peace accord with a faction of the militant outfit in November 2023 has had a serious impact on the ongoing ethnic conflict in the State, a delegation of Kuki-Zomi-Hmar leaders from Manipur said on Thursday, a day after meeting officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi. 

“We raised this point at the meeting with the MHA officials on Wednesday. They said they will review it and accordingly they will take up the concerns,” said Ginza Vualzong, a leader of the Churachandpur-based Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum, who was at the meeting. 

Also read | Meitei group sets peace terms for Manipur Chief Minister, MLAs

The leaders also stated their opposition to the removal of the Free Movement Regime (FMR) along the Indo-Myanmar border, adding this too was brought up at the meeting. But just as the presser was under way on Thursday, Home Minister Amit Shah announced the decision to remove FMR. 

Legal options

Reacting to this, Mr. Vualzong said the MHA officials told their delegation on Wednesday that the decision on the FMR was not taken on the basis of one particular group or community. “They added that the government has been considering this issue for a long time and said our concern will be brought to the higher level,” Mr. Vualzong said, even as Chinkhanlun Guite of the Manipur Tribals Forum, Delhi said they might now explore legal options to make their case for the continuation of the FMR.

Also Read | Manipur Chief Minister meets Amit Shah amid renewed violence in State

Mr. Vualzong was among the tribal leaders from Manipur who had met with the MHA officials on Wednesday. On Thursday, they gathered at the Press Club of India in New Delhi for a presser under the aegis of Zo United — a unified platform comprising apex tribal bodies of Kuki, Zomi and Hmar tribes.

At the press conference, the leaders stressed on the “Talibanisation” of the government in Manipur given the incident at Imphal’s Kangla Fort, where on January 24, 37 MLAs and 2 MPs, including a Union Minister of State — all Meiteis — were administered an oath by armed radical outfit Arambai Tenggol (AT) to “protect the integrity of Manipur”. Among the oaths taken by the elected representatives was one to take AT’s demands to the Centre — which included the demand to remove the FMR. 

Apart from this, the Zo United leaders went on to say that since the peace agreement was signed with a faction of the UNLF, the nature of attacks being carried out against Kuki-Zomi tribals had seen a shift towards “guerilla warfare”. They added that five tribals had died in two separate ambushes along the Kangpokpi-Lamka road and another three village volunteers were killed in Ukhrul in another ambush last year — “all of which bore all the hallmarks of trained terrorists”.

Also Read | Keep us out of your war, Manipur Naga body warns two warring communities

The tribal delegation claimed that in addition to cadres of AT being used by the Meitei-dominated Manipur government, cadres of the UNLF were also being used “as a proxy army by the Chief Minister”. 

The Zo United went on to stress its demand for a separate administration for the Kuki-Zomi-Hmar people in Manipur, spelling it out that they wanted a union territory with a legislature. They added that the government needed to remove all State commandos from the border town of Moreh, where violence has been continuing throughout last month, and highlighted continuing discrimination against Kuki-Zomi-Hmar people.  

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