Manipur's rebel group UNLF signs peace pact with govt, HM Shah calls it historic

TNN Bureau. Updated: 11/30/2023 1:45:49 AM Front Page

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday signed a peace agreement with United National Liberation Front (UNLF), Manipur's oldest militant organisation dominated by the majority Meitei community, under which the rebel group has agreed to renounce violence.
The development comes days after the ban on the group under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was extended for five years earlier this month.
Representatives of the UNLF signed the agreement here with senior officials of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Manipur government, an official spokesperson said.
While political settlements have been finalised with several ethnic armed groups of the Northeast as part of conflict resolution initiatives of the Centre, it is for the first time a valley-based Manipuri armed group has agreed to return to mainstream by abjuring violence and agreeing to honour the Constitution of India and laws of the land.
"A historic milestone achieved!!! (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi govt's relentless efforts to establish permanent peace in the Northeast have added a new chapter of fulfilment as the United National Liberation Front signed a peace agreement today in New Delhi.
"UNLF, the oldest valley-based armed group of Manipur, has agreed to renounce violence and join the mainstream. I welcome them to the democratic processes and wish them all the best in their journey on the path of peace and progress," Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in a post on X.
The agreement will not only 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 but also provide an opportunity to address the longstanding concerns of the community, the spokesperson said.
Manipur has been witnessing ethnic clashes between the Meitei and tribal Kuki communities since May resulting in the death of over 180 people.
A peace monitoring committee will be constituted to oversee enforcement of the agreed ground rules. The development is likely to be a significant step in restoring peace and normalcy in the state.
It is hoped that the return of UNLF to the mainstream will also encourage other valley-based armed groups to participate in the peace process in due course.
Hoping that the development will give a fillip to usher in a new era of peace in the Northeast in general and Manipur in particular, Shah said "It is a landmark achievement in realising PM @narendramodi Ji's vision of all-inclusive development and providing a better future to the youths in Northeast India."
The UNLF was formed in 1964 and has been operating from both within and outside Indian territory.
The Centre has signed agreements with several armed groups of the Northeast since 2014 to end militancy and promote development.
The Centre has also continued Suspension of Operations (SoO) with 21 Kuki- dominated groups to ensure that peace is established in hilly regions of Manipur. This agreement was signed in 2008.
The Manipur government had announced unilateral withdrawal from the SoO in March against two Kuki-dominated insurgent groups alleging that they were involved in encroaching of forest land. However, the Centre did not endorse it.


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