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UNLF Peace Accord

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • The Union and Manipur governments took part in a historic peace agreement with the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), a prominent Meitei extremist organization in Manipur.
  • This marks a significant development as it is the first instance of a valley-based Manipur armed group agreeing to return to mainstream politics by renouncing violence.

 

About UNLF

  • UNLF stands as the oldest valley-based insurgent group in Manipur, distinguishing itself from the insurgent groups prevalent in the state’s Naga-dominated and Kuki-Zomi-dominated hills.
  • The group was formed in 1964 under the leadership of Arembam Samarendra Singh, advocating for secession from India.
  • UNLF’s operational area includes all the valley areas of Manipur and some villages in the Kuki-Zomi hill districts. Additionally, the group has been known to operate both within and outside Indian territory.
  • Operating from camps in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region, Chin state, and Rakhine state, UNLF has had the patronage of the Myanmar military.
  • It is among the eight Meitei extremist organizations declared unlawful under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
  • Two factions exist within UNLF. Notably, 65 cadres of one faction, led by K. Pambei, have joined the peace pact. On the other hand, the faction led by R.K. Achou Singh, alias Koireng, remains outside the accord, reportedly operating from Myanmar.

 

About Northeast India

·      Northeast India comprises eight states: Sikkim and the “seven sister states,” including Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and Meghalaya.

·      Bounded by Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

 

Reasons for Insurgency

  • Northeast India (NEI) is home to around 40 million people, including 213 of the 635 tribal groups listed by the Anthropological Survey of India, leading to inter-tribal rivalries fuelling insurgencies.
  • Difficult terrain has impeded infrastructural development, fostering a sense of disenchantment.
  • Limited economic opportunities lead to youth susceptibility to insurgent groups for easy earnings.
  • Distance from the centre, inadequate representation in parliament, and meager resources contribute to disillusionment, making armed resistance more appealing.
  • Influx of refugees has altered the region’s demographic landscape.
  • Insurgencies have received support from East Pakistan and later China in the form of training and weaponry.

 

Government Initiatives for Northeast Development

  • PM-DevINE Scheme: Aims to support infrastructure, social development, and livelihood activities for the youth and women in the region.
  • Northeast Desk: A dedicated Northeast Desk within Invest India facilitates outreach activities to investors and supports the region’s economic development.
  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development (MOVCD-NER): Seeks to promote organic farming in the region by replacing traditional subsistence farming with a cluster-based approach.
  • Connectivity Projects: Projects like the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Project and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor aim to create alternate routes to reduce dependence on the Chicken’s Neck.
  • Separate Ministry: The Department of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), created in 2001, was accorded the status of a full-fledged ministry in 2004.

 

Way Forward

  • Continued engagement with civil society for reconciliation with insurgent organizations is crucial for sustaining peace talks.
  • Operations like Operation Sunrise, involving joint efforts between the armies of India and Myanmar along the border, are essential for countering insurgent groups.
  • Recognizing and respecting the diverse cultural and ethnic identities in the region is vital. Policymaking should incorporate local perspectives to ensure inclusivity.
  • Encouraging and facilitating peace pacts, such as the Bodo Accord, Bru-Reang Agreement, NLFT-Tripura Agreement, Karbi Anglong Agreement, and Assam-Meghalaya Inter State Boundary Agreement, is pivotal for ushering in a new era of peace in the North East.

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