In ancient times, Manipur was known as Meitei Kingdom. During British Era, it was under princely state of Kangleipak since 1891. Via a Manipur Merger Agreement, the princely state acceded to the Union on 15th October 1949 when Maharaja Bodhachandra ceded “full and exclusive authority, jurisdiction and powers for and in relation to the governance of the State to Dominion Government of India”. However, it was alleged that this accession was a forced merger at gunpoint. In the imagination of the people of the state, Manipur was to be an independent state after British left India. This was nothing new as all the 562 princely states were independent at some point in their history. However, the legitimacy of the accession of Manipur was challenged by persons and organisations that claim to be the true inheritors independent Meitei Kingdom and who seek to restore the sovereign state of Manipur. Thus, the roots of trouble in Manipur go back to the circumstances under which the annexation/merger of Manipur into the Indian Union was achieved — or manipulated.
From 1962 till 1972, Manipur remained a Union Territory. In January 1972, Manipur became the full fledged state of the Indian Union. Some more developments took place which led to growth in the resentment. Firstly, the ceding of the Kabaw Valley to Myanmar. Secondly, imposition of AFPSA, which is more recent issue.
Kabaw Valley was always viewed as an integral part of Manipur, to Myanmar, though Myanmar had been in de-facto control of the territory as part of the truce negotiated after the Anglo-Burmese war of 1826. In 1953, the territory was gifted way by Jawaharlal Nehru to Myanmar.
Rise of Insurgency
Insurgency started in Manipur as early as in the 1960s. Manipur has been greatly disturbed by armed violence with the formation of the United National Liberation Front of Manipur (UNLF) on November 24, 1964. Another significant Manipuri armed separatist group known as the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) and its armed wing, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has been engaging in armed struggle since 1976. The RPF and the PLA were supposedly trained by the Chinese in the 1960s and 1970s in Maoist guerrilla warfare and both outfits aim at violent revolutionary change to bring about a classless society in Manipur.
Yet another outfit in Manipur is the Kanglai Kana Yan Lup (KYKL), which has taken up social afflictions such as fighting corruption, drug trafficking and sub-standard education practices. Another group known as the Peoples’ Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) was established in the 1970s. The total strength of the various insurgent groups is estimated to be around 10,000.
The objectives of these organizations are same: independence and sovereignty of Manipur, however, there are three tiers of problem as follows:
- The Meiteis are active in the Valley districts
- Nagas in the Hill districts
- There are inter-tribal clashes between Nagas and Kukis over the control of illicit drug traffic with Myanmar.
Moreover, the Apunba Lup, an umbrella organization of the Meiteis has been demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, 1958. The Jeevan Reddy Committee, which was appointed to report on the desirability of continuing the enactment, recommended its withdrawal, which we discuss later on.
Once upon a time, Manipur used to be most insurgency affected state in the North East with more than 30 outfits active there. However, over the last five years, few incidents were reported. The militancy in Manipur got weaker because of arrests of the militant leaders and splits within the outfits.
In June 2015, 20 Army personnel of the 6 Dogra Regiment were killed in Manipur’s Chandel district. The fingers were pointed at Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K).