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UNLF (P) cadres involved in violence in Manipur despite ceasefire, say officials

Manipur violence 1
Manipur violence.. Credit: PTI Photo

IMPHAL, FEBRUARY 18: Security agencies have voiced concerns over the escalating violence in Manipur perpetrated by the banned United National Liberation Front (UNLF) despite the armed group signing a ceasefire agreement with the Union Government last November, officials said on Sunday.
Led by Kh Pambei, the UNLF (P) became on November 29, 2023 the first Meitei armed group in the Imphal Valley to enter into a ceasefire agreement with the Government and agreed to renounce violence.
However, officials said the group has failed to disclose the number of its cadres who were supposed to be kept in a secure area and they have not surrendered their weapons either.
Reports also indicate the group’s members have been setting up camps in the outskirts of areas predominantly inhabited by the Kuki population with an aim to target the tribal, the officials said.
They said that based on the ground reports, security agencies have observed the UNLF (P) cadres have been engaging in violent activities against both security forces and the general public.
The officials said the cadres were involved in looting arms and ammunition from the 5th India Reserve Battalion (IRB) at Chingarel in Manipur East on February 13.
Following this incident, the police arrested 6 individuals, including 2 UNLF cadre and the case is now likely to be transferred to the CBI for further investigation.
The recent sightings of UNLF (P) cadres in various areas such as Moirangpurel, Tumukhong and Itham have raised concerns, with reports indicating they were carrying reconnaissance activities for establishing camps in Moirangpurel and Itham.
On February 7, 2024, UNLF (P) cadre allegedly opened fire at Moirangpurel on vehicles heading towards Churachandpur, a district dominated by the Kuki community.
The unrest escalated when reports claimed that a shooting incident in Maphou village, predominantly inhabited by the people of the Kuki ethnicity, was carried out by individuals allegedly associated with the Arambai Tenggol and UNLF (P) cadres.
These cadres of UNLF (P) were reportedly providing live updates on social media while claiming to target the Kuki community.
Despite the ceasefire agreement aimed at ending hostilities between UNLF (P) and security forces, the recent incidents show that UNLF (P) cadres have been moving freely with their automatic weapons, seemingly immune to arrest by security forces.
Quoting an instance, the officials said armed UNLF (P) cadres were stopped by the Central Security Forces and handed over to the local authorities but within no time they were out on the pretext that their organisation had entered into a ceasefire agreement.
Ahead of recent unrest in Churachandpur in the hills of the Manipur states, the officials said that UNLF (P) cadres in uniform were sighted near Terakhongsangbi in their vehicles marked with UNLF insignia.
Ethnic clashes between the Meitei and tribal Kuki communities in Manipur since May last year have resulted in the loss of over 180 lives.
The ceasefire agreement was expected to bring an end to hostilities between UNLF and security forces which have claimed precious lives on both sides over the last more than half a century and also provide an opportunity to address the longstanding concerns of the community.
The UNLF, established in 1964, has been active both within and outside Indian territory. Since 2014, the Centre has signed agreements with several armed groups in the Northeast to quell militancy and foster development.
Additionally, a Suspension of Operations (SoO) with 21 Kuki-dominated groups has been ongoing since 2008 to ensure peace in Manipur’s hilly regions. The Manipur Government’s unilateral withdrawal from the SoO in March due to allegations of encroachment on forest land by 2 Kuki-dominated insurgent groups, has not been endorsed by the Centre.