The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Manipur outfits close ranks

Indo-Myanmar border, Oct. 17: Bowing to public pressure, three underground outfits of Manipur — the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Prepak) and the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) — have shed their ideological differences to unite under the Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF) banner.

Though the MPLF was formed way back in 1999, its only function till date has been to call a general strike every year on October 15, a “black day” to protest Manipur’s merger with the Indian Union. This year, the event brought the three militant outfits together at a remote village in the rebel-controlled areas along the Indo-Myanmar border in Churachandpur district.

In a state where nearly 18 insurgent outfits operate, the unity show was dubbed a positive step. Several Meira Paibis (women’s groups) who attended the “black day” gathering, said this could be a step towards a greater unity among all communities in Manipur. “Several groups create confusion. We should not break this unity for the sake of Manipur,” an activist said.

For a Kuki village chief, the existence of the MPLF in his area is a necessity. “Had the MPLF not been here, different Kuki outfits would have turned our villages into a battlefield,” he said. The Kuki chief urged the MPLF leaders to work for the development of the remote hill areas.

Though the unification process is in its initial stages, the commanders of the three outfits, operating along the Indo-Myanmar border, feel the “dream” can turn into reality. “Differences can always be resolved amicably. We will continue to work towards unity,” said G. Jame, assistant chief of army staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the armed wing of the RPF.

N. Nongyai, the UNLF’s organisation secretary, echoed the same view: “We have received lot of complaints from the people on the existence so many outfits. I think unity is the need of the hour,” he said.

The main hurdle in the unity drive has been the difference of opinion among the two bigger outfits, the UNLF and the RPF. However, this time, it was the fringe organisation, the Prepak, which played a major role in bringing the two groups together. Prepak’s defence secretary, Chinglemba Mangang, said, “Prepak is ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of unity. This is only the beginning and I believe things will start rolling soon.”

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