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What is the SoO agreement with tribal insurgent groups that the Manipur govt withdrew from?

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Linkages between Development and Spread of Extremism


Source: IE

Context: The state government of Manipur decided to withdraw from the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with two hill-based tribal militant groups.


Background: Two hill-based tribal militant groups – Kuki National Army (KNA) and Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) were allegedly influencing agitation among forest encroachers.


The Kuki people:

  • They are an ethnic group native to the Mizo Hills (formerly Lushai) – a mountainous region in the southeastern part of Mizoram and Manipur in India.
  • In Northeast India, they are present in all states except Arunachal Pradesh and some 50 tribes of Kuki peoples are recognised as STs.
  • The Chin people of Myanmar and the Mizo people of Mizoram are related to the Kukis and are collectively termed the Zo


What are the roots of the Kuki insurgency?

  • The Kuki insurgency gained momentum after ethnic clashes with the Nagas of Manipur in the early 1990s.
  • While the two tribes have shared a hostile relationship since colonial times, clashes took place in the 1990s when claims of “kuki homeland” in the Manipur hills overlapped with the imagined Naga homeland of Greater Nagaland/Nagalim.
  • While the Naga movement is the country’s longest-running insurgency, underground Kuki groups too have fought the Indian government for an ‘independent Kuki homeland’ since then.


What is the SoO pact?

  • There are nearly 30 Kuki insurgent groups in Manipur, of which 25 are under tripartite Suspension of Operations (SoO) with the Government of India and the state.
  • The SoO pact was signed on August 22, 2008, with the primary objective of initiating political dialogue.


What are the terms of the SoO pact?

  • The important terms under the pact are that security forces, including state and central forces, are not to launch any operations, nor can the underground groups.
  • The signatories (like UPF, and KNO) shall abide by the Constitution of India, the laws of the land and the territorial integrity of Manipur.
  • They are prohibited from committing all kinds of atrocities, extortion, etc.


Impact of SoO pact:

  • The Kuki outfits who were initially demanding a separate Kuki state have come down to a ‘Kukiland territorial council’, which would have financial and administrative powers independent of the Manipur Assembly and government.
  • As a rehabilitation package, the UG cadres living in the designated camps are given a monthly stipend of Rs 5000.
    • Financial assistance is also being provided to maintain the designated camps.


What next?

  • The revocation of the SoO agreement has now raised questions about the government’s intent to resolve the issue earliest.
  • Feeling ignored, the outfits could once again start insurgency activities threatening the internal security of a strategically located region.


Insta Links:

The history of the Kuki insurgency in Manipur


Mains Links:

The northeastern region of India has been infested with insurgency for a very long time. Analyze the major reasons for the survival of armed insurgency in this region. (UPSC 2017)