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Kuki Insurgents Meet Negotiators, Seek Separate Administration Amid Meiteis’ ST Demand

Kuki Insurgents Meet Negotiators, Seek Separate Administration Amid Meiteis’ ST Demand


A camp of a Kuki insurgent group that signed the SoO in Manipur

New Delhi:

Amid the continuing ethnic violence in Manipur for nearly three months, the Home Ministry on Wednesday held talks with Kuki insurgent groups that have signed the suspension of operations (SoO) agreement. The insurgents sought a separate administration from Manipur, but within India.

“There has been a shift as far as talks are concerned. Earlier, we were demanding territorial council within Manipur. But now we are seeking our own administration, separate from them,” an insurgent who is part of the SoO talks told NDTV.

He said the Kukis have been chased out of state capital Imphal valley and they need an administrative set-up to govern them, so they are seeking a separate administration. “We want a political settlement, and we informed Delhi about it,” he added.

The Meiteis who have been living in Kuki-majority hill areas, too, have fled and come to the valley. They are unable to return home to the hill, just as Kukis are wary of returning to Imphal valley due to severe trust deficit.

When the SoO agreement was signed, it was a tripartite agreement between the state government, the centre and the insurgent groups. But today, only SoO insurgents were called to Delhi for talks.

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The insurgents met AK Mishra, the adviser to the government on northeast affairs, and Mandeep Tuli, joint director (north).

“Earlier, the talks were tripartite, but now we have no faith in the state government. We told the centre our predicament. Also, if we have our own administration, we would be able to get back to our feet,” another insurgent said.

The insurgents’ demand is, however, a sudden change from what had been the narrative just before clashes broke out between the Meiteis and the Kukis on May 3 over the Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) status. The Kukis had been objecting to the Meiteis’ ST demand, but now that issue has gone into cold storage and the insurgents have come to the front to demand a separate administration.

This, the Meiteis have alleged, was the entire plan of the SoO-linked insurgents to get to their end goal i.e. separate administration, while the anti-ST demand protest was only a diversion.

“The agreement is a tripartite one, but often talks are held between three parties on standalone basis too. There is nothing unusual in it,” a senior Home Ministry officer clarified when asked if the talks still were between the three parties.

On March 1, the Home Minister had extended SoO with the UPF and the KNO for an another year. The SoO was initially formalised with these two Kuki groups, an umbrella of 24 insurgent groups, in 2008.

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