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Manipur Violence Broke out Days Before Finalisation of Kuki Accord ‘Opposed’ by CM: Report

Had the deal been sealed with the Kuki groups on May 8, it had the potential to trigger considerable disappointment among the Meitei community to which the CM belongs.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh. | PTI

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh. Image Courtesy: PTI

The plan of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)) to finalise a peace accord with Kuki insurgent groups on May 8 was hampered due to the violence in the Torbung area of the Churachandpur-Bishnupur border in Manipur on May 3 that spiralled into a cycle of violence, according to a special report by The Wire.

The report quoted sources in the MHA who said that the leaders of the Suspension of Operations (SoO) groups of the Kuki community were to be invited to visit New Delhi to formalise the accord as an outcome of the peace talks being carried on with the Narendra Modi government through an interlocutor since 2016. The claim was reportedly corroborated by an SoO leader. They were quoted as saying, “Yes, we had almost reached an agreement; the modalities of that accord were to be on the lines of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution which has been our demand. We were given the impression that we will get an autonomous territorial council under the Sixth Schedule, like the Bodos of Assam have, which would have been a significant win for our political movement. With financial independence from the state government in Imphal, it would have been almost like having a separate state.” 

The leader, however, stated that there has been a change in the stand of the SoO following the violence. “[T]here is a strong public demand for a separate state, not the territorial council, and, therefore, our stand is also changing,” they were quoted as saying.

The report also claimed that while the BJP was in favour of signing a peace treaty with the Kuki SoO groups on May 8, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh was “extremely unhappy”.

The revelation comes on the back of the opposition expressed by a number of Meitei civil society organizations to the proposition of incorporating Kuki-dominated regions within the ambit of the Sixth Schedule and the fear that a “separate administration” would affect the “territorial integrity of the state.

Should the Union government have successfully sealed the deal with the Kuki groups on May 8, it had the potential to trigger considerable disappointment among the Meitei factions, potentially igniting a wave of protests. According to insider sources quoted by The Wire, Chief Minister Singh, who hails from the Meitei community, held apprehensions about his vulnerability to backlash from his own community. This was due to the direct repercussions that such a move might have on his political trajectory. Notably, Singh has been contending with ongoing internal dissension within his party, led by other prominent Meitei figures within the BJP. In fact, groups of party MLAs had journeyed to New Delhi as recently as this April, rallying for a change in leadership.

The report also quoted a Congress MLA, on the condition of anonymity, who questioned the role of the CM in the events leading up to the violence, as a few Kuki leaders have been accusing the CM of supporting violence against their community and have termed it as ‘state-sponsored’.

The Congress MLA was quoted as saying: “While the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government must have been looking at securing the Manipur Outer parliamentary seat for the 2024 general elections by granting the Sixth Schedule to the Kukis, it would have directly affected Biren.  It would have meant that it is not just the Meitei public that would have risen against him but the rebellion within his party to remove him would have only got stronger.”

They added, “It then brings up serious questions: As Biren had insider information on the peace accord; did he try to turn the possible tide against him with help from radical groups like Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun who are his supporters? Since those groups are being accused of unleashing violence on the Kukis in Imphal, it is an important question.”

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