Manipur Fallout in Northeast, Nagaland in Particular 

Asia News Agency

Manipur Fallout in Northeast, Nagaland in Particular 

Manipur remains on the boil. On January 24, at Imphal’s historic Kangla Fort, banned Meitei extremist organisation Arambai Tenggol forced at least 36 Meitei state legislators to take an anti-Kuki pledge while promising to protect Meitei interests.

The civil war in neighbouring Myanmar, writes Maj Gen Ashok K Mehta retd. (Military Commentator) “has spilled into not just Manipur but also Mizoram and Nagaland, with dire prospects that insurgency in the North-East could revive with greater ferocity, given that 6,000 small arms looted from Manipur state armouries are in the wrong hands.”


Nagaland, the biggest worry

The biggest worry, according to Mehta  “must be about the strategic patience of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) over the 2015 Framework Agreement (FA).

“Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio, like his counterpart in Mizoram, has rejected the Centre’s proposal to fence the border and cancel the Free Movement Regime (FMR) implemented with the Myanmar government in 2018. Nagaland has a 215-km border with Myanmar, and fencing will divide people in Noklak, Mon, Kiphire and Phek districts. The Khiamniungan tribe has around 50 villages in India and 150 in Sagaing region of Myanmar. The Nagas have a high stake in Manipur, where Naga-inhabited hill districts are being claimed by Kukis, even as the NSCN-IM has rejected the Kukis’ demand for a self-administered hill area."

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (December 2023), 382 violent incidents related to the NSCN-IM have resulted in 63 deaths. Incidents were also reported from Dimapur and Arunachal Pradesh, pockets of which the NSCN-IM claims.

Since 1997, the NSCN-IM has been locked in a ceasefire agreement, and 80 rounds had already taken place when the FA was signed with great fanfare. That the talks have been stuck “over the NSCN’s demand for a separate flag and constitution is no secret.”


Other issues that will further complicate negotiations with the Nagas

Two other issues that will further complicate negotiations when resumed with the Nagas, “will be the Kuki demand for their map,” which includes most of the Naga territory in Manipur’s Senapati, Chandel, Ukhrul and Tamenglong districts. It drew a sharp response from the United Naga Council, which said that the move could pose a threat to the inalienable rights of Nagas in Manipur and the map of Nagalim. The second problem pertains to the Eastern Naga region, which comprises Kiphire, Longleng, Mon, Noklak, Shamator and Tuensang districts and accounts for 20 of the 60 seats in the Nagaland Assembly. The Eastern Naga People’s Organisation has been demanding a separate state. The people have complained about a ‘development deficit’ and placed their separation demand with the PMO in 2010.”

Given that the FA is in a stalemate, inordinately delayed and made more complex by the Kuki Zo map in Manipur, the NSCN-IM fears that the “peace process could be derailed”. With a new firebrand military leader the de facto supremo of the NSCN-IM and with the Naga government and people unhappy with the fencing and abrogation of the FMR, the risk of militancy and insurgency reigniting in the North-East, either by accident or design, is higher than ever before. If the Arambai Tenggol can ‘hijack’ the Manipur Assembly, including the CM, the NSCN-IM may be tempted to follow suit as sparks and splinters continue coming from Manipur.

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