The Attack in Manipur May Have Been A Fallout of Unity Talks Between Insurgent Groups from the Northeast

07 June 2015
Members of the cadres of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K), the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and the People’s Republican Army of Kangleipak–Progressve [PREPAK(P)] after a combined parade at a camp in Myanmar, Sagaing Division in December 2011.
Rajeev Bhattacharya
Members of the cadres of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K), the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and the People’s Republican Army of Kangleipak–Progressve [PREPAK(P)] after a combined parade at a camp in Myanmar, Sagaing Division in December 2011.
Rajeev Bhattacharya

In the biggest attack on the Indian army in recent years, armed militants ambushed a convoy on 4 June 2015 in Manipur’s Chandel district, which borders Myanmar. At least 18 soldiers were killed, while 11 were injured. The attack has forced the government to redraw its strategy to contain militancy in the state.

A combined group comprising the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K)—a Myanmar-based insurgent group also active in the northeast of India—the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and a faction of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), both of which are insurgent groups from Manipur, have claimed responsibility for the attack in a joint press release that was sent on 4 June 2015.

The involvement of the KYKL in the act has raised eyebrows since it has never been a part of any large-scale armed operation since its inception in 1994, when Namoijam Oken, its chairman walked out of the United National Liberation Front—an insurgent group based in Manipur. He went on to form the KYKL with senior functionaries from two other outfits from Manipur. The organisation's focus has always been to rebuild Manipuri society by ridding it of vices such as immoral activities, drug trade and corruption. It has primarily been known for its role in cultural policing in the state.

According to a middle-rung functionary from a rebel outfit in the northeast, the KYKL’s participation in the attack was one of the developments catalysed by a series of meetings in Myanmar between the rebel groups of the northeast in April. These meetings had been held to discuss the formation of the UNLFW, a coalition between the NSCN-K, the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) which is active in North Bengal, along with the anti-talks factions of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), both of which have a presence in Assam.

The objective of the UNLFW, according to a press release that was sent out by the anti-talks faction of ULFA on 4 May 2015, was the “unified and total struggle” for the liberation of “ancestral homes” in the northeast and contiguous Naga areas in Myanmar.  As reported earlier in Vantage, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) of Manipur, which is the largest underground outfit in the northeast, had demanded that its chairman RK Meghen be appointed the chief of the UNLFW. However, since Meghen is currently serving time in jail in Guwahati, the demand was rejected and S S Khaplang—the Myanmar based chief of the NSCN-K — was chosen instead. UNLF retorted by refusing to sign on the document and the rest of the five Manipuri groups followed suit, since they had formed an alliance among themselves called Coordination Committee (Cor Com) in 2010.  They did, however, according to a functionary from a Manipuri outfit who spoke to me, agree to offer “moral support for the time being.”

Rajeev Bhattacharya is a senior journalist in Guwahati and author of Rendezvous With Rebels: Journey to Meet India's Most Wanted Men.

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