March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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UNITED NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT (UNLF) – MEITEI INSURGENT GROUP

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TAG: GS 3: INTERNAL SECURITY

THE CONTEXT: Recently, the Union Home Minister announced the signing of a peace agreement with the Meitei separatist group United National Liberation Front (UNLF) in Manipur, terming it a “historic milestone.”

EXPLANATION:

UNITED NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT (UNLF):

  • The United National Liberation Front (UNLF) was established on November 24, 1964.
  • It was established as the oldest valley-based insurgent group in Manipur.
  • It stands apart from insurgent groups active in the state’s Naga-dominated and Kuki-Zomi dominated hills.
  • It was formed under the leadership of Arembam Samarendra Singh, the group demanded secession from India.
  • Notably, top central committee leaders included individuals from diverse backgrounds like Khalalung Kamei (Naga) and Thangkhopao Singsit (Kuki).

EVOLUTION :

  • The UNLF underwent changes and established its armed wing, the Manipur People’s Army, in 1990.
  • Over time, it executed numerous attacks targeting Indian security personnel, operating mainly in the valley areas of Manipur and certain villages in the Kuki-Zomi hill districts.
  • Currently divided into two factions, the UNLF has an estimated cadre strength of 400-500 individuals.
  • It largely operated from camps in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region, Chin state, and Rakhine state with Myanmar military patronage.
  • However, recent unrest and attacks by Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) and People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) in Myanmar have weakened its position across the border.

Concerns and Activity Surge:

  • Despite a decline and retreat to Myanmar, concerns arose over increased activity, including recruitment of around 500 new members, coinciding with the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur.

Peace Agreement:

  • The recent peace agreement signed with UNLF is a significant milestone in Manipur’s history.
  • It marks the first time a valley-based insurgent group has engaged in such an agreement with the Centre.

Previous Splintering and Leadership Changes:

  • The group experienced internal divisions leading to formal splits, with N Oken forming the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and later, Khundongbam Pambei breaking away from the central committee in 2021.
  • Consequently, two factions emerged under Pambei and NC Koireng.

Other Meitei Insurgent Groups and Dynamics:

  • The UNLF is one of several Meitei insurgent groups in Manipur.
  • It is among the seven “Meitei Extremist Organisations” banned by the Union government.
  • While one faction is open to talks, another continues to oppose negotiations.

Tripartite Agreement and Recent Developments:

  • In 2008, a Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement was reached between the Centre, Manipur state, and Kuki-Zomi insurgent groups.
  • However, in March of the current year, the Manipur government withdrew from the agreement with Zomi Revolutionary Army and Kuki National Army due to their alleged influence on forest encroachment agitation.

Conclusion:

  • The history of UNLF is marked by its long-standing demand for secession and armed resistance.
  • The recent peace agreement with the Centre signifies a significant development in the region’s complex insurgency landscape.
  • Despite this milestone, challenges persist due to internal factionalism, differing stances among insurgent groups, and regional dynamics, requiring sustained efforts for lasting peace and stability in Manipur.

SOURCE: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/history-of-unlf-meitei-insurgent-group-that-signed-peace-deal-with-centre-9047846/lite/

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