GUWAHATI: After five days of a standoff that left people panic-stricken, Assam Rifles personnel and National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) insurgents have agreed to withdraw from two remote villages of Ukhrul in Manipur.
A decision towards de-escalating the tension was taken by Nagaland’s Kohima-based Ceasefire Monitoring Group (CFMG) and a delegation of NSCN-IM leaders at a meeting held on Tuesday.
The standoff was triggered by the setting up of an “unauthorised” camp by the rebels at Khamasom village near the India-Myanmar border. The NSCN-IM has been in a peace mode since 1997 following its signing of a ceasefire agreement with the Centre. According to ceasefire ground rules, members of the outfit cannot venture outside their designated camps which are located in Nagaland.
The NSCN-IM said the process for withdrawal of the rebels and Assam Rifles troopers from the two villages had been set in motion.
“The matter was amicably resolved today (Tuesday) at a meeting that we had with CFMG chairman Lt Gen (retd) Shokin Chauhan in Kohima. It was decided that both sides will vacate the areas simultaneously. The withdrawal is in the process,” NSCN-IM’s Ceasefire Monitoring Cell convenor Kraibo Chawang told this newspaper on the phone from Nagaland.
He said the CFMG chairman conveyed the decision to Assam Rifles authorities and similarly, the NSCN-IM communicated it to its members holed up in the camp.
The Assam Rifles started sending reinforcements to Sihai, which is a Naga village located around five km from Khamasom, since April 26 on learning that the rebels had set up an “unauthorised” camp.
Earlier, the CFMG chairman had passed instructions to NSCN-IM authorities to tell the rebels to vacate the camp but the insurgent group did not budge. The outfit said the ceasefire ground rules apply to wherever it is settled.
The paramilitary force had learnt about the presence of the camp during a routine aerial recce on April 25. Subsequently, it had urged the locals and church leaders to tell the insurgents to vacate the camp as it was set up in gross violation of the ceasefire ground rules.
On Tuesday, various Naga organisations of Ukhrul district took out a peace rally at Sihai where the Assam Rifles personnel were stationed and urged both sides to defuse the tension.