After suspending FMR with Myanmar, MHA to review pact with Manipur insurgents

A decision is expected to be taken by the end of Feb

Myanmar Manipur unrest Representative Image

The unending cycle of violence in Manipur has prompted the union home ministry to take some hard decisions like the suspension of the Free Movement Regime on the India-Myanmar border, but now all eyes are on whether it will withdraw the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with 24 Kuki insurgent groups for violation of ground rules. A decision is expected to be taken by New Delhi by month end.

According to the agreement, the cadres of the armed groups are expected to restrict their movements to the designated camps and keep their arms locked in safe rooms. The Manipur government has claimed a violation of the SoO ground rules even as security agencies have reported missing arms and ammunition during the long months of violent ethnic clashes in the state starting last May. This has not only led to demands by ruling party legislators in the state to end the SoO agreement and allow security forces to begin operations against the armed insurgents, but also has put the MHA in a tough spot with it’s long term plans to restore peace in the strife torn state.

The SoO with the umbrella group Kuki National Organisation and the United People’s Front has been part of the union home ministry’s overarching efforts to bring peace and stability in the Northeast - with less boots on the ground and withdrawal of the Armed Force (Special Powers) Act from most areas.

But days ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, it still seems a far cry and an uphill task for security forces to reign the violence and lessen their presence in Manipur where 200 companies (more than 2,000 security personnel) of central armed police forces and 175 columns of Army and Assam Rifles are deployed on the ground.

Kuldiep Singh, former CRPF DG and security advisor to Manipur government, said the home ministry will take a call on the demand for withdrawal of the SoO.

He said peace talks are being held by the interlocutors from the Centre with Meitei and Kuki communities. However, he termed the recent violence in Churachandpur district unfortunate where the official residence of the deputy commissioner was torched. “There are hotspots both in the valley and the hill areas where violence takes place every now and then.’’

He also said investigations are going on to ascertain whether there was direct incitement to violence.

For now, the suspension of the free movement regime has given some reprieve to security forces who have been battling threats from armed insurgent groups moving across the porous border smuggling arms and drugs.

“There is some resistance by tribal groups in Nagaland and Mizoram to the decision to suspend the free movement upto 16 km, but the FMR will remain suspended like it was done during Covid pandemic,” said a security official.

At the same time, work has begun to undertake the mammoth task to fence the porous border- with basic issues like land acquisition, clearing of jungles and awarding of contracts being discussed by the home ministry.

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