New Delhi, Sept. 27: The landmine-infested areas of Manipur’s Churachandpur and Chandel districts can draw hope from what is happening in neighbouring Nagaland.
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) is heading towards a no-mine treaty with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), a Nobel prize-winning organisation.
The Naga outfit is known to be close to the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the Meitei outfit that is accused of planting landmines in Manipur. Both groups have bases in Myanmar.
Next month, the NSCN (K) will have one more round of talks with ICBL officials in Hong Kong. Its rival, the NSCN (Isak-Muivah), signed the treaty as a non-state party in 2003.
The ICBL co-ordinator in India, Balkrishna Kurvey, has been in touch with various militant groups of the Northeast to make them signatories to the no-mine treaty.
“The UNLF has made it known it is not open to negotiations on this,” he told The Telegraph today.
This would mean that the UNLF has admitted to planting mines in parts of Manipur. Khengjoi block in Chandel is one such area from where people fled last year for fear of landmines.
Dominated by Kukis, community leaders have been trying to convince the UNLF to clear the area of landmines, which have already maimed several people.
With the NSCN (K) entering into negotiations for a no-mine treaty, there is now a slight chance of the Manipur outfit following suit.
Kurvey said the ICBL was trying to get as many outfits of the region as possible to sign the treaty. The Kuki National Organisation has already done it and talks with the National Democratic Front of Boroland are in progress, he added.
However, negotiations with the NSCN (K) could be tougher because the outfit wants to take the issue “to the people”. Moreover, the Khaplang group may also not want to spoil relations with its Manipur ally.
“We are against civilian casualties, but whether to sign the treaty or not is up to these groups who, like us, are fighting the mighty Indian nation,” NSCN (K) leader A.Z.Jami, who is negotiating with the ICBL, told The Telegraph over phone from near the Indo-Myanmar border.
India itself is not a signatory to the no-mine treaty and has lost as many as 1,776 army personnel to landmines so far. The government has no data on civilian casualties in landmine explosions.