The UNLF-Government Peace Accord

The UNLF-Government Peace Accord

A New Dawn for Peace in Northeast India

GS-3 Internal Security


Northeast India, comprising eight states, has been witnessing insurgency since the 1950s, with various armed groups fighting against the Indian state for different reasons.

The region, which shares borders with Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh, is home to 40 million people, belonging to diverse tribal groups. The region also faces several challenges, such as underdevelopment, lack of livelihood opportunities, isolation and exploitation, demographic changes, and external support to insurgencies.

The government has been trying to address these issues through various initiatives, such as development schemes, connectivity projects, and peace agreements. However, the challenge of bringing lasting peace and stability to the region remains the same.

One of the recent developments in this context is the historic peace accord signed between the Union and Manipur governments and the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), one of the oldest and most influential extremist organizations operating in the Manipur valley. This peace pact marks a significant milestone in the history of insurgency in Northeast India, as it is the first instance of a valley-based Manipur armed group renouncing violence and returning to mainstream activities.

Background of the UNLF

The UNLF was founded in 1964, with the aim of seceding from India and establishing an independent socialist state of Manipur. The group was led by Arembam Samarendra Singh, who was arrested in 2010 and is currently serving a life sentence. The group was primarily active in the Manipur valley, with operations extending to some Kuki-Zomi hill districts. The group also had bases in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region, Chin state, and Rakhine state, backed by the Myanmar military. The group was classified as an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, along with seven other Meitei extremist organizations.

The UNLF had two factions, one led by K. Pambei, consisting of 65 cadres, and the other led by R.K. Achou Singh alias Koireng, operating independently from Myanmar. The peace accord was signed by the Pambei faction, while the Koireng faction did not participate in the peace talks.

Features of the Peace Accord

The peace accord was signed on November 27, 2023, in New Delhi, in the presence of Union Home Minister, Manipur Chief Minister, and UNLF leader K. Pambei. The accord was the result of a series of negotiations that began in 2019, facilitated by the Intelligence Bureau and the Assam Rifles. The accord has the following salient features:

  • The UNLF agreed to abjure violence, surrender arms and ammunition, and abide by the Constitution of India.
  • The UNLF cadres will be rehabilitated and provided with financial assistance, skill development, and employment opportunities.
  • The UNLF will be allowed to form a political party and participate in democratic processes.
  • The UNLF will be consulted on issues related to the development and welfare of Manipur.
  • The UNLF will drop its demand for secession and respect the territorial integrity of India and Manipur.
  • The UNLF will cooperate with the government in maintaining peace and security in the region.

Significance for Internal Security of India

The peace accord between the UNLF and the government is a remarkable achievement for the internal security of India, as it marks the end of a long-standing and violent conflict in the Northeast region. The accord has the potential to bring lasting peace and stability to the region, by paving the way for the integration of the UNLF into the mainstream society and politics, and by encouraging other insurgent groups to join the peace process. The accord also enhances the security and development of the region, by reducing the threat of violence and terrorism, and by creating a conducive environment for economic and social progress. The accord also boosts the image and credibility of India as a democratic and inclusive nation that respects the diversity and aspirations of its people.

Implications of the Peace Accord

The peace accord has been hailed as a historic step towards ending insurgency in Northeast India, as it paves the way for the integration of the UNLF into mainstream society and politics. The accord also sends a positive signal to other insurgent groups in the region, especially the valley-based ones, to join the peace process and resolve their grievances through dialogue and democracy. The accord also strengthens the trust and confidence between the Centre and the state governments, as well as between the different communities in Manipur.

Challenges ahead

However, the peace accord also faces some challenges and limitations, such as:

  • The non-participation of the Koireng faction, which may continue to pose a security threat and disrupt the peace process.
  • The possibility of a backlash from the hill-based groups, who may perceive the accord as a threat to their interests and aspirations.
  • The need for effective implementation and monitoring of the accord, to ensure that the promises and commitments are fulfilled and the grievances are addressed.
  • The need for addressing the underlying causes of insurgency, such as underdevelopment, lack of livelihood opportunities, isolation and exploitation, demographic changes, and external support.

Conclusion and way forward 

In conclusion, the ongoing dialogue between the Government of India and insurgent groups in the North East holds paramount significance for multifaceted reasons. Firstly, it serves as a crucial step towards establishing lasting peace and stability in a region marked by diverse ethnicities and competing interests, providing a platform to address grievances and foster common ground. Secondly, the resolution of conflicts through peaceful means opens avenues for economic development, fostering improved infrastructure, education, healthcare, and job opportunities. Thirdly, continuous dialogue is indispensable for maintaining internal security, acting as a preventive measure against violence and ensuring the well-being of citizens while safeguarding national interests.

Furthermore, the engagement in dialogue has broader implications for international relations, as seen in collaborations with the United Nations and other global bodies, emphasizing the importance of a multilateral approach to internal conflict resolution and aligning with international standards and practices. The commitment to dialogue also underscores the government's dedication to inclusivity, ensuring that all groups, including marginalized communities, have a voice in the political process, contributing to more representative governance.

Moreover, dialogues are instrumental in seeking long-term solutions, aiming beyond temporary fixes and striving for disarmament, demobilization, and the successful reintegration of insurgents into society, fostering a sustained atmosphere of peace. The comprehensive approach of the Government of India, involving both dialogue and counter-insurgency operations against violent factions, reflects a strategic and nuanced approach to addressing the root causes of insurgency and envisioning a peaceful and prosperous future for the North East.

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