- Manipur has been in the cross-currents of India’s oldest insurgent movements.
- Naga – The Naga movement (1950s) is the country’s longest-running insurgency which fights for the Greater Nagaland or Nagalim.
- Kuki – Kuki groups also have fought the Indian government for an ‘independent Kuki homeland’, spread across Manipur.
- The Kuki insurgency gained momentum after ethnic clashes with the Nagas of Manipur in the early 1990s.
- Meitei – The Meiteis in Manipur also opposed the merger agreement between the Manipuri king and the Indian government (1949).
- In 1964, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), a meitei insurgent group, was formed, demanding secession from India.
- Subsequently, numerous Meitei insurgent (valley insurgent) groups like the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) came into being.
- Naga-Kuki clash – The land that the Kukis claim to be their ‘homeland’ in the Manipur hills overlaps with the Greater Nagaland or Nagalim.
- The NSCN-IM entered a ceasefire agreement with the Indian government only in 1997.
- Kuki-Zomi – In 1993, a massacre of Kukis by the NSCN-IM left thousands of Kukis homeless.
- The Kuki-Zomi tribes organized various armed groups as a reaction to this aggression of Nagas.
- Meiteis and Meitei Pangals (Muslims) – Similar clashes were taking place between them which led to the formation of the Islamist group People’s United Liberation Front (no longer active).
Violence in Manipur
Manipur has over 35 communities living in the valleys and hills and these communities have a history of violent clashes since olden times.
Manipur has 16 districts; however, “valley” and “hill” districts are how most people conceptualize the state’s division.
- The present-day valley districts of Thoubal, Bishnupur, Imphal East, and Kakching were formerly a part of the kingdom of Kangleipak, which was controlled by the Ningthouja dynasty.
- The Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi group, which consists of the Kuki, Thadou, Hmar, Paite, Vaiphei, and Zou peoples, and 15 Naga tribes dwell in the valley, which is surrounded by low hills (hill lands make up the majority of Manipur’s geographical area).
- Naga tribes who descended from the northern hills frequently invaded the Kangleipak kingdom, which was then a protectorate of the British.
- The Kuki-Zomi were sent to Manipur from the Kuki-Chin hills of Burma by the British political agent there to serve as a barrier between the Meiteis and the Nagas and defend the valley from looting.
Since the time of the monarchy, there have been ethnic hostilities between the Meiteis and the hill people (Naga & Kuki).
- Insurgencies among the Meiteis and Kuki-Zomi were brought on by the 1950s Naga independence movement.
- To demand a state within India named “Kukiland,” the Kuki-Zomi factions become militarized in the 1990s.
- They were no longer friendly with the Meiteis, who they had before supported.
- Hindu Meiteis and Pangals (Muslims) battled in 1993, and there was also horrifying violence between the tribal Nagas and Kukis, which resulted in the killing of many Kukis in a single day by Nagas and the eviction of thousands from their homes.
The presence of such turmoil encouraged insurgency to grow in the area with scores of militant outfits beings formed. The government over the years through numerous efforts was able to bring a few of the outfits to the negotiating table.
- The NSCN-IM (Naga) entered a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1997.
- Many valley-based Meitei groups are yet to agree to any negotiation.
- In 2008, two major Kuki groups KNO and UPF signed a tripartite Suspension of Operation (SoO) with the center and Manipur state government.