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General Studies 3 >> Security Issues

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1. Context
Recently, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced the signing of a peace agreement with the Meitei separatist group United National Liberation Front (UNLF) in Manipur, terming it a “historic milestone.” The Home Minister also expressed the hope that this would encourage other valley-based insurgent groups (VBIGs) to participate in a peace process.
2. What is the UNLF?
  • The United National Liberation Front (UNLF) is a separatist militant organization operating in the Indian state of Manipur. Founded in 1964, the UNLF seeks to establish an independent sovereign state of Manipur. The group has been involved in armed insurgency against the Indian government since its inception.
  • The UNLF was founded by Arembam Samarendra Singh on November 24, 1964, with the stated goal of achieving independence for Manipur from India. The group's ideology is based on a blend of socialism and Manipuri nationalism. The UNLF has carried out several attacks against Indian security forces and civilians over the years.
  • The UNLF is one of the oldest and most entrenched insurgent groups in Northeast India. The group's strength is estimated to be around 2,000 armed cadres. The UNLF has a strong support base among the Meitei people, who are the majority ethnic group in Manipur.
  • The UNLF has been designated as a terrorist organization by the Indian government. The group is also banned by the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom.
3. Manipur insurgency

The term "insurgency" is used to describe a specific type of armed rebellion against a constituted government or authority. It is characterized by the use of small-scale, irregular warfare tactics, such as guerrilla attacks, ambushes, and sabotage, rather than conventional warfare tactics like large-scale battles. Insurgents typically seek to overthrow the existing government or establish an independent state.

The reasons why the term "insurgency" is used to describe this type of conflict:

  • Insurgencies typically rely on irregular warfare tactics, which are characterized by their flexibility and adaptability. This allows insurgents to operate in a way that is difficult for the government to counter.
  • Insurgents typically lack the conventional military strength of the government they are fighting against. This means that they must rely on tactics that exploit their strengths and the government's weaknesses.
  • Insurgencies are typically motivated by political goals, such as overthrowing the government or establishing an independent state. This distinguishes them from other types of armed conflict, such as civil wars, which may be motivated by a variety of factors, including ethnic or religious differences.

4. The history of conflict in Manipur

The history of conflict in Manipur dates back to the 18th century when the Meitei kingdom was at war with neighbouring kingdoms. The conflict intensified in the 19th century when Manipur was invaded by the British. After Manipur was annexed by India in 1949, several separatist groups emerged, leading to the ongoing insurgency.

  • During the 18th century, The Meitei kingdom was at war with neighbouring kingdoms, such as the Ahom kingdom and the Burmese kingdom.
  • Manipur was invaded by the British in 1819, 1824, and 1891. The British eventually annexed Manipur in 1891.
  • Manipur was annexed by India in 1949. This led to the formation of several separatist groups, such as the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and the Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF).

5. The major ethnic conflicts in Manipur

The state of Manipur in India is home to a diverse population with numerous ethnic groups, each with its own distinct culture, language, and traditions. This diversity has also led to complex ethnic tensions and conflicts in the state.

The major ethnic conflicts in Manipur

  • Meitei vs. Naga: The Meitei people are the majority ethnic group in Manipur, residing primarily in the Imphal Valley. The Naga people, on the other hand, are concentrated in the hill areas of the state. The conflict between these two groups stems from historical grievances, competition for resources, and differing political aspirations.
  • Meitei vs. Kuki: The Kuki people are another significant ethnic group in Manipur, inhabiting the hills and valleys of the state. The conflict between the Meitei and Kuki communities has been fueled by historical clashes, competition for land and resources, and political marginalization of the Kuki people.
  • Naga vs. Kuki: Within the Naga community itself, there have been instances of conflict between different Naga tribes, particularly between the Tangkhul and Zeliangrong Naga groups. These conflicts often arise over land disputes, political leadership, and cultural differences.
  • Naga vs. Meitei vs. Kuki: There have also been instances of tripartite conflict involving the Naga, Meitei, and Kuki communities. These conflicts are often characterized by complex dynamics, with each group vying for dominance and control over resources and territory.
6. The precedent for the peace agreement

The 2020 Manipur peace agreement is the first significant step towards resolving the long-running insurgency in the state. The agreement is based on the premise of preserving Manipur's territorial integrity within India while addressing the grievances of the various ethnic groups in the state.

There are several precedents for the 2020 Manipur peace agreement. These include:

  • The 1997 Shillong Accord, which was signed between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM). The accord led to a ceasefire in Nagaland and the beginning of peace talks between the two parties.
  • The 2003 Assam Accord, which was signed between the Government of India and several separatist groups in Assam. The accord led to the surrender of weapons by some of the groups and the beginning of peace talks between the two parties.
  • The 2015 framework agreement between the Government of India and the NSCN-IM. The framework agreement is a broad outline for a peace deal in Nagaland.

The 2020 Manipur peace agreement is a significant step forward in the peace process in Manipur. However, several challenges will need to be addressed to achieve lasting peace in the state. These challenges include:

  • Addressing the grievances of the various ethnic groups in Manipur.
  • Building trust between the Government of India and the UNLF.
  • Ensuring that the peace agreement is implemented fairly and equitably.

7. The steps taken by the Government of India

The Government of India has taken several steps to address the insurgency in Manipur, including:

  • The government has offered amnesty to insurgents who surrender their weapons and renounce violence.
  • The government has held peace talks with several separatist groups in Manipur.
  •  The government has invested in several economic development projects in Manipur.
  • The government has promoted cultural exchange between different ethnic groups in Manipur.
  • The government has signed ceasefire agreements with several separatist groups in Manipur. These agreements have helped to reduce violence in the state.
  • In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of insurgents who have surrendered their weapons and joined the peace process.
  • The government has withdrawn security forces from some areas of Manipur to build trust with the local population.
  • The government has established autonomous councils for some of the minority groups in Manipur. These councils give these groups a greater degree of autonomy over their own affairs.
  • The government has taken steps to address the grievances of the various ethnic groups in Manipur. This includes measures to improve education, healthcare, and infrastructure in the state.

For Prelims: United National Liberation Front, valley-based insurgent group, Manipur, Meitei kingdom, Ahom kingdom, Burmese kingdom, Manipur People's Liberation Front, Meitei, Imphal Valley, Naga, Kuki, 

For Mains: 
1. Define the term "insurgency" and discuss the characteristics that distinguish it from conventional warfare. How do insurgent groups like the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) operate, and what factors contribute to their use of irregular warfare tactics? (250 Words)
2. Evaluate the steps taken by the Government of India to address the insurgency in Manipur. Discuss the effectiveness of measures such as amnesty offers, peace talks, economic development projects, and cultural exchange initiatives in building lasting peace. (250 Words)
Previous Year Questions
1. Recently, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was completely removed from which one of the following States? (UPSC CAPF 2018)
A. Arunachal Pradesh
B. Nagaland
C. Meghalaya
D. Assam
2. Consider the following pairs:  (UPSC 2018)
Tradition                                      State
1. Chapchar Kut festival            Mizoram
2. Khongjom Parba ballad        Manipur
3. Thang-Ta dance                     Sikkim
Which of the pairs given above is/are correct?
A. 1 only         B. 1 and 2       C.  3 only            D. 2 and 3

3. If a particular area is brought under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India, which one of the following statements best reflects the consequence of it? (UPSC 2022)

(a) This would prevent the transfer of land of tribal people to non-tribal people.
(b) This would create a local self-governing body in that area.
(c) This would convert that area into a Union Territory.
(d) The State having such areas would be declared a Special Category State.

 4. Ahom kingdom was developed by whom? (OTET 2017)
A. Sukapha       B. Suhungmug        C. Sangram Shah        D. None of these
5. The treaty of Yandaboo was signed in (NDA  2019)
A. 1826        B. 1825        C. 1824             D. 1823

6. Consider the following pairs: (UPSC 2023)

Area of conflict mentioned in news Country where it is located
1. Donbas Syria
2. Kachin Ethiopia
3. Tigray North Yemen

How many of the above pairs are correctly matched?

(a) Only one         (b) Only two          (c) All three            (d) None

7. With reference to Manipuri Sankirtana, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2017)
1. It is a song and dance performance.
2. Cymbals are the only musical instruments used in the performance.
3. It is performed to narrate the life and deeds of Lord Krishna.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? 
A. 1, 2 and 3           B. 1 and 3 only           C. 2 and 3 only        D.  1 only
8. Imphal valley of Manipur is an important centre of ________ craft. (SSC MTS 2021)
A. Kauna        B. Godna          C. Butta           D. Mirijims
9. 'Imphal Basin' surrounded by Manipur hills is a fine example of  (UPPSC Civil Service 2019)
A. Lacustrine plain        B. Loess plain        C.  Glacial plain       D. Alluvial plain
10. Consider the following pairs:
1. Dampa Tiger Reserve                 Mizoram
2. Gumti Wildlife Sanctuary          Sikkim
3. Saramati Peak                            Nagaland
Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched? (UPSC 2014) 
A. 1 only        B. 2 and 3 only          C. 1 and 3 only        D. 1, 2 and 3
11. Which two of the following are correctly matched?  (UPPSC Combined State Exam 2022)
Tribe                  State
1. Kharia           Odisha
2. Kuki              Uttar Pradesh
3. Yanadi           Rajasthan
4. Paliyan         Tamil Nadu
Select the correct answer from the codes given below.
A. 3 and 4       B. 1 and 4       C.  2 and 3         D. 1 and 2
12. Which of the following is NOT correctly matched? (UPPSC BEO 2020)
(Revolts)                             (Years)
A. Neel Rebellion               1859-60
B. Jaintia Rebellion            1860-63
C. Kuki Rebellion              1860-90
D. Kuka Revolt                  1870-72
1. ​Neel Rebellion          2. Kuki Revellion        3. Kuka Revolt          4. Jaintiya Rebellion
Answers: 1-C, 2-B, 3-A, 4-A, 5-A, 6-D, 7-B, 8-A, 9-A, 10-C, 11-B, 12-2
For Mains:
1. Suppose the Government of India is thinking of constructing a dam in a mountain valley bound by forests and inhabited by ethnic communities. What rational policy should it resort to in dealing with unforeseen contingencies? [UPSC 2018]
2. What are the two major legal initiatives by the State since Independence addressing discrimination against Scheduled Tribes (STs)? (UPSC 2017)
Source: The Indian Express

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