Manipur's UNLF signs historic peace deal, ends decades-long armed movementtext_fields
Imphal: Manipur's oldest valley-based armed group, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), has marked a significant milestone by signing a tripartite peace agreement with the central government and the state administration.
This announcement was made by Home Minister Amit Shah on X, following discussions that took place days after Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh confirmed the engagement with the group, which had been engaged in a six-decade-long conflict against Indian forces.
The peace pact signifies the conclusion of the prolonged armed movement, which was initially led by prominent figure RK Meghen, based in Imphal Valley. Over the years, the group fragmented into various factions after Meghen's departure from the organisation.
UNLF, much like other banned valley-based organisations such as the People's Liberation Army (PLA), contested the annexation of the pre-Independence Manipur kingdom by India, striving for a sovereign Manipur.
"The peace agreement signed today with the UNLF by the government of India and the government of Manipur marks the end of a six-decade-long armed movement," stated Home Minister Amit Shah, emphasising the agreement's significance in achieving Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision for comprehensive development and securing a better future for the youth in the northeast.
The descriptor "valley-based" delineates the group's origins in Imphal Valley and adjoining districts. Concurrently, around 25 hill-based insurgent groups operate under the suspension of operations (SoO) agreement.
Manipur has recently witnessed ethnic clashes between the Kuki tribes, predominant in the hills, and the Meiteis, the majority in the valley, over land disputes and a share of the Scheduled Tribes policy. The clashes have resulted in over 180 casualties and internal displacement of thousands.
According to sources, UNLF members will be accommodated in designated camps, similar to insurgents under the SoO agreement, though detailed provisions are yet to be disclosed.
Lieutenant General Konsam Himalay Singh, retired, welcomed the peace initiative, acknowledging its significance amidst the current fragile state of affairs in Manipur. Another retired senior army officer, Lt General L Nishikanta Singh, lauded the agreement's potential to culminate in the cessation of a six-decade-long Meitei armed struggle, reported NDTV.
The peace accord with UNLF, although not directly linked to ethnic tensions, is viewed as a positive step by strategic experts following Manipur's developments. The group, historically based in the dense jungles of Myanmar, has been diminishing, coinciding with Manipur's significant growth in the past decade, including upcoming major railway expansions in the valley areas.
"This historic milestone underscores the Modi government's relentless efforts to establish enduring peace in the northeast," said Amit Shah, emphasising UNLF's decision to renounce violence and integrate into mainstream democratic processes.
Manipur's Chief Minister N Biren Singh expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for fostering a conducive environment for peace initiatives. The agreement with UNLF stands as one of the most substantial peace deals in the northeast since the 2015 framework agreement with the Nagaland-based NSCN(IM), an endeavour that PM Modi deemed a "historic" stride toward peace.