New Delhi, Nov 29 (EFE).- The Government of India affirmed on Wednesday that it reached a “historic” agreement with the separatist group United National Liberation Front, which has been active for almost six decades in the northeastern state of Manipur, a region recently embroiled in a wave of ethnic violence that has left at least 175 dead in the last four months.
“A historic milestone achieved!!! Modi govt’s relentless efforts to establish permanent peace in the Northeast have added a new chapter of fulfillment as the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) signed a peace agreement, today in New Delhi,” Indian Home Minister Amit Shah celebrated on X, formerly Twitter.
Shah added that the group, the oldest of dozens fighting for independence or autonomy for their territories in India’s troubled northeast, signed a peace deal with the government in New Delhi.
He also welcomed the group “to the democratic processes” and wished them “all the best in their journey on the path of peace and progress.”
The minister shared images of dozens of uniformed men and women in formation, handing over their automatic rifles one by one in a wooded area.
Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh also celebrated the occasion on the social network X.
“The oldest armed group of Manipur has chosen the path of peace, renouncing violence to join the mainstream and embrace democracy. The United National Liberation Front (UNLF) has signed a peace agreement in New Delhi, marking a significant milestone in our relentless pursuit of permanent peace in the Northeast,” Singh said.
Manipur, home to hundreds of tribes and ethnic groups, is located in northeastern India in an isolated area bordering Myanmar, connected to the rest of the country by a narrow strip of land. It is one of seven states in northeastern India known as the “Seven Sisters.”
Home to some of India’s oldest separatist insurgencies, the region is a mosaic of ethnicities, languages and cultures.
The area has been affected by a decades-long dispute over land and natural resources that has fueled deep-seated struggles between the Meiteis and the Kukis.
Formed in 1964 to fight for an independent state for the Meitei community in the state of Manipur, the UNLF is one of seven “Meitei extremist organizations” banned by the Union government for advocating the secession of Manipur from India through armed struggle.
While these groups have weakened and declined over the years, the increased activity of cadres of these groups with the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur is of concern.
Recently, Manipur has been immersed in a wave of ethnic violence that began on May 3, when a march of youth from the Kuki minority protested against a court’s request to classify the Meitei majority as “tribal,” a status that would allow them to occupy territories in the mountains and access government positions.
The Kukis encompass several tribal groups and are generally Christian, a minority in the region although dominant in the mountain territories, while the Metei majority, generally Hindus, occupy the flat areas.
The court’s decision was seen by the Kukis as a way to take away their privileges and make the Hindu majority prevail.
This gave rise to a conflict that has confronted both tribal groups in the last four months and has caused segregation between communities within the state, leaving at least 175 dead and more than 50,000 displaced. EFE