Manipur govt’s withdrawal from talks with militants awaits MHA’s nod

Imphal:  The Union Home Ministry is yet to give its approval two weeks after the Manipur government has withdrawn from the tripartite talks and Suspension of Operations (SoO) signed with three underground tribal militant outfits in the northeastern state, officials said on Wednesday.

Soon after the state government took the decision, Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, and apprised him about the ‘ground situation’ and ‘adverse activities’ of three outfits — the Kuki National Army (KNA), Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) and Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA).

Manipur Chief Secretary Rajesh Kumar accompanied by other officials also last week met Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and the Centre’s representative on peace talks, A.K. Mishra.

The Manipur government’s decision to withdraw from SoO and tripartite agreement with three insurgent groups on March 10 was in accordance on its assessment that these outfits are supporting the influx of Myanmarese immigrants from across the border, encouraging illegal poppy cultivation and the drug trade.

It was reported that the cadres of KNA, ZRA and KRA are instigating the poppy cultivators in the state against the government, which has been taking action against illegal poppy cultivators, and destroying poppy fields in the forest lands, specially in the reserve and protected forests. However, an umbrella organisation of the Kuki outfits has dismissed the accusations.

On March 10, tribals organised protest rallies against the state government on this count in three districts that were also allegedly backed by Kuki militants.

The Manipur cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister, took the decision after violent protests were staged by the civilians in different parts of Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal districts on March 10 against state government’s crackdown on poppy cultivation and encroachment of forest lands.

The Centre and Manipur government had signed the tripartite agreement and SoO with the Kuki militant outfits on August 22, 2008.

Under the SoO agreement, several hundred militants of three outfits had come overground. However, the Central government is yet to come to the negotiating table.

“The March 10 cabinet meeting noted that the rallies were organised for a cause which is unconstitutional and therefore the rallies were illegal. The cabinet also reaffirmed that the government will not compromise on the steps taken to protect the state’s forest resources and for eradicating poppy cultivation,” a statement noted.

As part of the ‘War Against Drug Mission’, the Manipur government has been destroying poppy fields and evicting the settlers from the reserved and protected forest areas.

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