The tripartite Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement between the Government of India, Government of Manipur and the two umbrella groups of Kuki militants, United People’s Front (UPF) and Kuki National Organization (KNO), is likely to be extended for another six months.
With the agreement set to expire on August 31, officials of the state met representatives of the two umbrella groups in separate meetings. The first meeting was held on August 17 with representatives of the KNO and the second meeting with the UPF on Thursday. Representatives from the Centre did not attend both the meetings owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is learnt that during the meetings, all the parties have agreed in spirit to extend the SoO agreement for another six months, till February 28, 2021. However, the final confirmation will be released by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“We held rounds of meeting with the representatives of both the umbrella groups and discussed on the matter of the extension of the SoO agreement. But the confirmation of the extension will be done by the MHA”, said Rehanuddin Choudhry, Joint Secretary Home, Manipur.
Of the total 25 armed Kuki groups operating in the state, 17 are under the KNO and eight under the United Peoples’ Front (UPF).
KNO and UPF signed the tripartite suspension of operation (SoO) agreement with the government of India and Manipur on August 22, 2008. Since then, the Government has been extending the agreement.
Dr Seilen Haokip, spokesperson KNO, said, “We are ready for settlement. Talks with the Governments have been comprehensive. Now, it is only a matter of signing the deal.”
In response to the opposition voiced by civil society organisations of the Imphal valley (the majority meiteis), Haokip clarified that the demand of the outfits is within the ambit of the Indian Constitution and within the state of Manipur.
“We are not demanding something out of the ordinary. We are asking for our constitutional rights within the state and there is nothing to be alarmed,” added the KNO spokesperson.
The Kuki militants began their armed rebellion demanding a separate state for the Kukis, scattered in different parts of the Northeastern states and Myanmar. Later, the umbrella groups stepped down from their earlier demand to a “Territorial Council” (TC). They submitted the outline of the TC during their sixth round of political talks on January 10, 2018.
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