Imphal, February 22: The Centre and the Manipur government have extended the tripartite Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with the two umbrella groups of Kuki militants, United People’s Front (UPF) and Kuki National Organisation (KNO), for another six months. The agreement, which was set to expire on February 29, 2020, was extended till August 31, 2020, during a joint meeting of the representatives of the three parties held in New Delhi on Friday.
KNO and UPF signed the tripartite SoO agreement with the Government of India and Manipur on August 22, 2008. Since then, the government has been extending the agreement after it expired. However, the ground rules laid down in the agreement shall remain unchanged, the agreement states.
Satyendra Garg, Joint Secretary (North-East), Ministry of Home Affairs signed the agreement on behalf of the Government of India and K Radhashyam Singh, Manipur’s special secretary (Home), signed the agreement on behalf of Manipur government. UPF chairman ST Thangboi Kipgen, secretary Calvin H, HPC(D) chairman Sanga Hmar, JMG convenor Jacob Haokip, and Ketheos Zomi signed on behalf of the UPF while KNO vice-president David Hangshing, Kopham Khaling, Tongpu Haokip, and Laltanpui Hmar signed for KNO.
The meeting also reportedly discussed key issues, particularly violation of ground rules by the militant cadres and delay in payment of stipends to them.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, KNO spokesperson Seilen Haokip said the state government has not paid stipends for the cadres for the past 18 months. As a part of the rehabilitation package, the government is paying a monthly stipend of six thousand rupees each to the cadres of the two umbrella groups.
Haokip said the delay in the payment of the stipends is the main reason for the sporadic violation of ground rules by the cadres. “Some of the cadres have families. It is obvious people sometimes do whatever they can to provide for their families,” said Haokip.
While the government has not given any explanation for the delay, Haokip said the MHA has asked the state government to make the necessary arrangements to resolve the issue.
He further said that political dialogue is also progressing very “positively”.
The Kuki militants began their armed rebellion demanding a separate state for the community scattered in different parts of the Northeastern states and parts of Myanmar. Later, the umbrella groups stepped down from their earlier demand and pitched for “Territorial Council”. They submitted the outline of the TC during their sixth round of political talks on January 10, 2018. The seventh round of talks was held in June 2019.
Of the total 25 armed Kuki groups operating in the state, 17 are under the KNO and eight under the UPF. (Courtesy: IE)