The National Investigation Agency is probing at least three Kuki militant groups and one Zomi militant group as forces behind the unrest in Manipur. The agency started the probe on instructions from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which has said these groups intend to hive off an independent Chin-Kuki-Zomi state out of Manipur, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Two of these groups are under suspension of operation (SoO) agreement with the government.
Sources said the instructions had been passed on in July and the agency has been probing the link between these militant groups and the violence in Manipur. The militant organisations have been identified as Kuki National Army (KNA), Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA), Kuki National Front (Nehlun faction) and United Kuki Liberation Army.
Both KNA and ZRA are under SoO agreement. The MHA has been holding talks with the representatives of their political wings for several years. Before violence broke out, these talks focused on achieving a peace deal with tribal groups in the hills of Manipur. Since May, these talks have focused on establishing normalcy in the state and finding a political solution to the crisis. An NIA probe into their activities could put significant pressure on the groups.
NIA had similarly booked NSCN IM for terror funding even as the Centre signed the Framework Agreement with the group for further talks on sealing the Naga peace deal.Notably, over a month before violence broke out in the state, the Manipur government had in March decided to withdraw from the suspension of operation (SoO) agreements with KNA and ZRA. However, the Centre did not follow suit.
Sources said MHA has also told NIA that these groups are getting support from People’s Defence Force (PDF) in Myanmar. PDF has been fighting against military Junta in Myanmar since the 2021 coup.
“It has been learnt that some Manipur-based Kuki militant groups are being provided funds from Chin-Kuki-Zo groups in Myanmar to perpetrate violence in the Imphal Valley. They have been asked to procure weapons and ammunition which are coming from Myanmar and some other north east states. They are supposed to create a separate Chin-Kuki-Zo state by hiving off areas from Manipur, Bangaladesh and Burma,” an official said summarising the communication sent to NIA.
An MHA official said these groups have allegedly been providing training to local people and armed men have been pushed to the foothills to target people in the Valley. “They have also been targeting security forces in sniper attacks,” the official said quoting the MHA communication.
In an interview with The Indian Express on Tuesday, Manipur CM N Biren Singh also spoke about a trans-border conspiracy. “The current situation isn’t a dispute between two communities. It is very clear from the report of the NIA, the highest investigative agency of our country, that there is a hand of external forces. The present crisis should have settled if it wasn’t for their meddling,” he said.
KNA is the military wing of the Kuki National Organisation, one of the key political organisations representing Kukis in Manipur. The Zomi Revolutionary Army is an armed Zomi nationalist insurgent group formed in 1997.
(This article was originally published on The Indian Express.)