New Delhi, Nov. 2: The Kuki National Organisation (KNO), an umbrella of 17 militant organisations in Manipur, wants secession from the state and has threatened that unless political dialogue begins, it will abrogate the tripartite suspension of operations (SoO).
The SoO’s three-month extension given on August 31 expires on November 22.
Group spokesperson Seilen Haokip today said the outfit will not continue with the SoO and its cadres will leave the seven designated camps if the Centre does not begin negotiations.
“We have waited for seven years since signing the SoO. The KNO is for peace, but it seems the government is not. The KNO has fulfilled its obligation; the ball is now in the court of the government,” he told reporters. The KNO’s threat is seen by many as posturing to get a longer duration of SoO but few are willing to hazard a guess on the future, especially with the hill communities in a mood to reconcile.
Blaming the Manipur government for a short extension to the SoO and for not letting a dialogue commence, Haokip harped on the change of ethnic dynamics in the state to drive home the point. He said not only was the KNO in talks with the United People’s Front, another Kuki umbrella organisation with similar demands, but also with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah).
The KNO and UPF are close to a merger, a decision on which will be taken in a meeting on Tuesday.
Whereas the Naga-Kuki relationship has been seen as marred with violent rivalry — the violence in 1992 is still fresh in many minds — there are reported parleys between the two groups. “The NSCN (I-M) has said ‘we have to respect each other’s identities’,” he said.
In case of a reconciliation among Kukis and Nagas, the rhetoric against the majority Meitei community in the valley, which also has the most number of Assembly seats, may reach a more feverish pitch.
“The Meitei kingdom was always limited to the valley till the British drew lines. They fought the British but wanted to enjoy boundaries drawn by them and rule over us,” said Seilen.
The KNO leader said if the Centre is resolving the Naga problem, it would better look at the Kukis also. He said they have sent a proposal to the NSCN (I-M) about the Kukis’ demand and although the Naga rebels have not replied, Seilen felt there was little possibility of Naga-Kuki clashes. “People have realised the futility of violence,” he said.
The Kuki demands cannot come at a worse time for Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, who has been told by the Centre to give his view on the proposed solution for the Nagas in Manipur.
A fresh offensive by the Kukis is likely to upset Singh’s apple-cart and pose a fresh problem in the hills.