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Understanding ITLF Declaration as response to Kangla Resolution

by Rinku Khumukcham
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Understanding ITLF Declaration as response to Kangla Resolution

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF), in response to recent developments in Imphal, issued a nine-point declaration yesterday, solidifying their demands. The core of their demand centers around the Suspension of Operation agreement. Within the SoO agreement involving Kuki militants, the State, and the Central government, a clause addressing the sanctity of Manipur’s territorial integrity is contested by ITLF. They demand the removal of this clause, emphasizing their aspiration for a Union Territory with a legislature. The articulation demonstrates a consensus, particularly among the southern Kuki-Zo tribes, on the nature of the separate administration they seek. These demands present a direct contradiction to the Kangla Resolution, which explicitly called for the abrogation of the SoO.
Another notable point in ITLF’s declaration is the recommendation that Kuki-Zo MLAs should resign if the need arises. This demand is based on the notion that these ten MLAs remain accountable to the Manipur State Assembly. During the last assembly session, Kuki-Zo MLAs had to request a leave of absence. Following the Kangla episode, there could be an apprehension that Manipur government’s leadership might convene a State Legislative Assembly session to approve the Six Points Kangla Resolution. If an assembly session is called now, and discussions on the Kangla Resolution occur, these MLAs would either have to request leave or face being in the minority. ITLF’s declaration signals that these ten MLAs can choose not to participate in the affairs of the Manipur State Assembly if such a session happens, providing a potential solution to their dilemma.
The question arises as to why these MLAs have not resigned despite expressing a lack of confidence in the current regime, especially given their minority status in the state assembly. The leadership of the Manipur government’s reluctance to expel them can be understood in this context, despite demands from certain sections of the Meitei community for their expulsion. The strategic maneuvering appears to keep the onus on these MLAs, placing the burden on them. Resignation would bring them acclaim as leaders but at the expense of losing their official positions. Their not resigning could generate internal friction within their movement as there is an ongoing campaign within the Kuki-Zo community urging these MLAs to resign.
Another major participant in the ongoing conflict is the Committee on Tribal Unity (COTU) from the northern side. They have released a statement on the Kangla resolution. The statement, though perceived the ascendance of Arambai Tenggol as an existential threat to the Kuki-Zo community, did not mention Separate Administration as a solution. Instead, it urges the Centre’s intervention to “salvage the state” which has “succumbed” to an armed militia and address what they perceive as the absence of Rule of Law in the valley. COTU’s demand being vague could mean either bringing PR or enforcing AFSPA. Currently, it appears that there is no consensus between COTU and ITLF regarding the nature of separate administration. However, a more detailed response from COTU on ITLF’s declaration is needed to provide a clearer understanding. It is also crucial here to understand whether they agree on the Union Territory with legislature, especially when the operational area of COTU and ITLF are still not territorially linked despite numerous attempts to militarily carve reliable supply lines connecting them along the foothills.
The Manipur Government may perceive this as a strategic moment to convene a state assembly session for approving the Kangla resolution, especially if COTU remains uncertain about ITLF’s declaration. Failure to capitalize on this opportunity could diminish the political impact of the Kangla resolution on the central government, relegating it to just another resolution. For those rooting for Kangla resolution, a crucial push from the legislative assembly to the central government is vital, given ITLF has formulated its declaration to counter the Kangla resolution. The question is whether the current regime is willing to initiate a proper state assembly session.

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