IMPHAL, March 27: “There is no place for violence in a democratic country like ours, a prolonged armed movement cannot achieve anything”, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi said at a surrender ceremony held at Leimakhong army headquarters today.
In what can be termed as one of the biggest homecoming ceremony till date, 52 cadres of a Kuki underground outfit, the United Tribal Liberation Army (UTLA) laid down arms during the ceremony led by their s/s commander in chief Robert Singson.
The cadres were the remaining military wing cadres of the outfit after it had signed the tripartite Suspension of Operation agreement involving the GOI, GOM and the Kuki groups.
Speaking at the occasion, Ibobi Singh said that the initiative taken by the cadres to join the mainstream is commendable and is a beginning towards bringing peace and development in the state. He stressed that armed rebellion cannot bring about any positive changes and appealed the other outfits to come to the negotiating table.
“For bringing peace, the doors of the government is always wide open for negotiations”, he said.
The homecoming ceremony which was held at the multi-purpose auditorium of the Red Shield Division was also attended by home minister Gaikhangam, Major General Binoy Poonnen, DGP K Baral.
The UTLA cadres dressed in brand new combat fatigues also occupied seats with other top army officials.
Commander in chief, UTLA Robert Singson also gave a statement that the outfit was formed to unite the tribal’s of the state.
“We have decided to abandon the path of violence and join the mainstream”, he said.
The cadres were felicitated by the dignitaries at the function. A couple of child soldiers were also among the surrendered cadres.
Speaking during the occasion, the GOC Binoy Poonnen praised the cadres for their courage and wisdom in choosing to come back to the mainstream.
“The decision of these youths is a step in the right direction and such events will act as a harbinger for numerous positive events in future”. Poonnen added that homecoming of the cadres is a step towards returning of normalcy and peace in the state.
“Law and order in the state has improved”, the GOC while answering to queries on the sideline of the function told media.
Except for the ZDV and UKLF having numbers between 10 to 15 cadres, the majority of the Kuki outfits are in suspension of operations. He further said that the outfits have no ideology as such and added that extortion is their only activity.
The cadres surrendered along with 42 automatic and semi-automatic weapons including AKs, pistols, a Light Machine Gun, carbines, pistols and Self Loaded Rifles (SLR).
Some of the weapons displayed were looted from an attack carried out at Chekra Cham in South Assam. The attack took place on November 13, 2009.
It may be mentioned that earlier, 43 cadres of UTLA had surrendered earlier before the Chief Minister at the Banquet Hall of 1st Manipur Rifles on October 27, last year. A suspension of operations was also signed between the government and UTLA on Monday.