The Centre engaged in discussions with representatives of Kuki groups from Manipur on Wednesday (July 26) to address the ongoing crisis in the state.
Akshay Mishra, the Centre's representative for the Northeast and a former additional director of the Intelligence Bureau, met with representatives of Kuki militant groups who are operating under the Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with the government.
Additionally, a separate round of talks took place with representatives of the Coordinating Committee for Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), where an Intelligence Bureau official represented the Centre.
COCOMI is a civil society organization representing the Meitei community.
On Tuesday, COCOMI released a statement expressing their belief that the government should not engage in dialogue with SoO groups, as they hold them responsible for the ongoing violence in the state.
Despite ongoing talks with SoO groups over the past few months and the near-finalization of a Kuki peace deal before the state was engulfed in turmoil in May, multiple rounds of discussions have taken place since the outbreak of violence in the state.
Reports have revealed that the focus of the current series of talks is primarily on finding ways to bring an end to the ongoing violence in the state. While previous discussions had centered around finding a political solution to the issue of tribal self-determination, the priority now is to gradually reduce and ultimately stop the violence.
According to a reports from government, the timing is not right for engaging in political talks. The immediate goal is to explore various approaches to deescalate the violence in the state.
At present, the discussions do not involve the Kuki demand for a separate administration.
The Home Ministry is actively coordinating with Manipur CM N Biren Singh in order to address the concerns of the Meitei community. Singh's intervention played a crucial role in ensuring a relatively smooth dismantling of bunkers by security forces in the fringe areas of the Valley.
Although Kuki groups strongly opposed this decision, citing vulnerability to attacks, COCOMI supported the move.
The impact of these talks is evident as the level of violence has slightly decreased in recent days. However, isolated incidents of firing and arson continue to be reported in the fringe areas.
The circulation of a viral video depicting the assault on two women has drawn national attention to the Manipur crisis, prompting both sides to exercise restraint for the time being, as stated by a Manipur security establishment officer.
According to sources, there is currently no solution in sight on the political front. The Kukis are insistent on having a separate administration claiming loss of trust in the Manipur government, while the Chief Minister is advocating for the status quo.
However, neither of these solutions are currently viable. Granting a separate administration to the Kukis would anger the Meiteis given the current situation, and the Kukis will not accept the status quo. It is possible that only after the violence subsides, the two sides will be able to listen to each other and find a resolution.
It is worth noting that a political settlement formula had been reached with the Kuki-Zomi insurgent groups by the end of April this year. The peace talks had agreed upon the establishment of "territorial councils" for the tribes of Manipur.
The Kuki groups had requested that the ten hill districts, which are predominantly inhabited by Kuki-Zomi and Naga tribes, be divided into two territorial councils - one for the Nagas and one for the Kuki-Zomi groups.
The government led by Biren Singh proposed the creation of ten territorial councils, one for each district. The Center suggested a division of 2-2-1, a proposition that was supported by the Zomi insurgent groups.
However, the proposal is now off the table as the Meiteis are opposed to it, and the Kukis are demanding a completely separate administration.
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