TSE NEW DELHI, Jun 15: After of lull of more than 10 years, the Central Government initiated the first ever political dialogue with the United People's Front (UPF) and Kuki National Organization (KNO) today in New Delhi.
Terming it a positive move, MHA Joint Secretary (North East) Satyendra Garg told The Sangai Express that the groups have placed their list of demands, a "wish-list" he said, which will be studied by the Government.
The political talk today at New Delhi was chaired by Satyendra Garg, IPS, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs in the presence of Brig Prasad, Director General of Military Intelligence (DGMI), Col Amit Tewatia, DGMI, Lt Col Pankaj Shar-ma, Director General Military Operations (DGMO).
Manipur State Government was represented by Dr J Suresh Babu, Addl Chief Secretary (Home).
While the six-member representative of United People's Front (UPF) was led by Aaron Kipgen, spokesperson UPF while KNO Spokesperson Seilen Haokip led another six-member representatives of the Kuki National Organization (KNO).
Maintaining that this is the first formal process and that details are yet to evolve, the Joint Secretary stated that the framework of the talks will be under the Indian Constitution.
On being asked whether an interlocutor would be appointed for the process, the Joint Secretary stated that since the groups are talking directly to the Government through them, the need for an interlocutor does not arise "at this stage, as it is only the beginning," he said, adding, "we are talking directly."
The Secretary though did not totally dismiss the option, added "of course if the need arise we will look into it."
Agreeing that this has come after a long drawn silence from the Central Gov- ernment, the Joint Secretary noted that the Centre has taken serious view of the situation and concern. "This is an indication that the Government gives importance to the matter," said the Joint Secretary.
The first half day long dialogue is expected to make a well beginning for the future dialogue process.
Reiterating the demand for "Statehood," UPF leader Calvin echoed the same observation that talking directly without "facilitator" or an "interlocutor" would make things faster than "delaying" as in many of the other "talk processes" with several other groups in North-east India.
Expressing positivity, the UPF leader said that the groups have been pressuring for a long time for a political dialogue.
Stating that KNO's stand has been "within the framework of the Indian constitution," Seilen Haokip said that KNO is looking forward to "the best the Constitution can offer for a solution to the problem".
On the question of the recent statement by the Union Government that no 'political solution' based on ground of ethnicity or "a statehood" based on ethnicity, Haokip argued "then why an exclusive talks with the Naga group? Why a separate solution separately with the Naga groups? why a separate state for the Tamilians?"
A three-page written note signed by the Spokespersons of both the KNO and UPF was submitted to the Joint Secretary as a "starter" for the tripartite talks.
Some of the highlights include – the historical background since the British colonial rule, land holding and resources – in the pre and post colonial rule. According to the KNO and UPF leaders, the rational for the demand for statehood primarily is to ensure the political stability both from external threats and for socio-economic development. Besides, these are serious concern of discrimination such as denial of Sadar Hills district, denial of sixth schedule, eight schedule, the rendering of Hill Areas Committee non-functional, denial of proportionate representation, land alienation and annexation of tribal land.
Moreover, the KNO and UPF leaders stated that the central core demand is for political settlement within Indian Constitution in accordance with Article 3, for a statehood that comprise the lands in the hills of Manipur for which the Chieftains possess legal land titles.
With a more cohesive representation in future, full detail text of the political demand will be furnished as and when progress of the talks is determined, the leaders said.
A joint press statement of UPF and KNO said that the first tripartite talk took place directly between the Governments and the two umbrella organization where the importance of the talks was highlighted while merits and demerits of Government's interlocutor was also discussed.
It said that the talk was held in a free and frank atmosphere with mutual regard for either parties' stand and views expressed.
It also said that since the signing of tripartite SoO agreement by the two conglomerate Kuki UG groups, UPF and KNO with the Government of India and Government of Manipur in 2008, UPF and KNO has been pressurizing the Governments to appoint an interlocutor who could facilitate 'Political Dialogue' between UPF and KNO.
Reacting to the clarification sought on the part of the UPF and KNO delegates for non-appointment of interlocutor for the political talk, Satyendra Garg said that, "Government has decided to deal UPF and KNO issue directly so as to expedite the process of the political dialogue but if need arise with time interlocutor will be appointed", it added.
"Beginning the Political Dialogue with interlocutor does not in any way affect the status or dignity of the talk", it said as Satyendra Garg saying while adding that in his word, the Joint Secretary, North East emphasized the Government keenness on commencing the political dialogue.
It further said that other ethnic group of the hill area of Manipur is on the verge of reaching a political settlement while they have already been taken aboard it is pertinent on the part of the Governments to look upon the political demands of the Kukis or the UPF and KNO.
"The Governments has decided to look into the political demands put forward today", it added.
A joint representation on the outline of the political demand for Statehood jointly signed by Aaron Kipgen, UPF Spokesperson and Seilen Haokip, KNO Spokesperson was also submitted to the Government of India. Self-determination, it said, is defined in the context of the Indian Union and refers to 'Statehood' while adding that it [KNO and UPF], as a loyal citizens of the country, seeks statehood within the provisions of Article 3 in The Constitution of India, which is the best possible solution for the Kuki people's predicament and to achieve this objective the Kuki armed movement was formed in 1987.
It continued that after eight years of patience and hard work Govt of India has bestow us an opportunity to lay out our political demands on the table so that the vexed political issue of the Kukis could be settled amicably.