July 29, 2023 || Tongsan Media Group ||

A new chapter of negotiation has been defined for political administration of the Kuki-Zo territory in the backdrop of a devastated ethnic violence in the State of Manipur between the majority Meitei community in the valley and Kuki-Zo groups in the Hills.

The two umbrella organizations of Kuki-Zo insurgency groups such as Kuki National Organization (KNO) and United People’s Front (UPF) have held a dialogue with the Centre Government’s representatives including AK Mishra, on July 26 evening in New Delhi.

Sources said that the talks, which lasted for about three hours, is the first formal political dialogue between the insurgent groups and the Government of India since the violence broke out on May 3, 2023, for finding out ways for separate administration. Unlike the previous talks of pre-May 3 ethnic clash which was ‘tripartite’, the political dialogue this time is a ‘bipartite’ talk, which means without the involvement of Government of Manipur.

In the meeting, sources said, the insurgent groups pressed the Government of India for separate administrative set up for the Kuki-Zo community, the nature of which was put to the court of Centre government. Union Territory status with legislature may be a viable option, said sources.

It is to be noted that the KNO and UPF had signed Suspension of Operation with Indian Army in the year 2005 and ‘Tripartite talks’ with the Centre and Manipur Governments for finding political solution began few years back. The Tripartite talks had reportedly negotiated for Territorial Council within the ambit of Manipur territory and the final settlement had also been worked out in the end of April this year.

However, the proposed political settlement could not be materialized due to the outbreak of horrific ethnic violence in the State and since then, no formal meeting was held between the concerned parties until a day before yesterday.

Reliable sources also said that as the previous settled peace talks is off the table now, the KNO-UPF and GoI representative have begun a new chapter for negotiation and the nature of administrative set up would likely be negotiated in the next round of talks. The next round of ‘bipartite’ political peace talks for the Kuki-Zo community spearheaded by the KNO and UPF, would be held on the month of August 2023, sources added.

As per reports, the Government of India’s representative also met the leaders of the Manipur Integrity Coordination Committee (MICOC), a valley-based civil society groups, in a separate meeting in order to defuse the ongoing ethnic violence in the Northeastern state. MICOC had earlier made a statement urging the Centre government not to hold talks with Kuki-Zo insurgency groups under SoO, alleging that they were the groups responsible of the ethnic clash between the warring communities.

Manipur violence has reached more than 80 days and sporadic violent incidents of arsoning and gun firing continue unabated. While the Kuki groups are adamant for total separation of administration from Manipur after having lost all confidence in Manipur government, the valley people led by Chief Minister, N. Biren Singh stands firm against separate administration for the hill people.

Source: The Hills Journal

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