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Outfits slam talks delay

- Kuki groups plan boycott of Congress LS candidate

Imphal, Feb. 9: Two umbrella organisations of Kuki militant groups having suspension of operations agreement with the Centre and Manipur government are getting “restive” over the delay in starting political dialogue and may even boycott the Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha elections in Manipur.

The 20 militant groups, under the United Peoples Front (UPF) and Kuki National Organisation (KNO), had signed a tripartite peace agreement on August 22, 2008, and are staying at various designated camps since then, awaiting the beginning of political dialogue.

“The groups are unhappy because of the delay in initiating the talks. They are planning to boycott the Congress candidate in the Outer Manipur parliamentary constituency if the interlocutor for the Kuki talks is not appointed before the Lok Sabha elections,” a source close to the groups told The Telegraph.

A team of the two umbrella organisations led by Aaron Kipgen — the general secretary of the Kuki National Front and convener of the UPF — is now camping in New Delhi to meet Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and other Congress leaders, including party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Luizinho Faleiro, general secretary in-charge of the Northeast, to seek the start of talks.

The team will submit a joint memorandum signed by the chairman of the United Peoples Front, S. Thangboi Kipgen, and the president of the Kuki National Organisation, P.S. Haokip, to the Union home minister.

The groups are fighting for a separate Kuki state.

The source said the New Delhi trip came after a joint working group of the two organisations recently resolved to work together on common issues and ask the Centre and the state government to begin political dialogue.

“The UPF and KNO expressed strong dissatisfaction over the way the Kuki political issue has been neglected by the Centre till today,” the source said.

The fresh demand followed the beginning of political talks by the Manipur government with the Naga organisations over the demand for an alternative arrangement for Nagas living in Manipur. A four-member political delegation led by commerce and industries minister Govindas Konthoujam talked to representatives of the United Naga Council and Committee for Alternative Arrangement at Senapati district headquarters on Thursday.

In the earlier six rounds of talks, bureaucrats represented the state government. Officials of the Union home ministry were always present during all the talks.

After the talks, the United Naga Council termed the outcome as positive.

Last year, the UPF had threatened to review the suspension of operations agreement for the delay in start of political dialogue.