Manipur has once again caught in a vicious cycle of ethnic clash between Kuki and Meetei. It sparked off on 3rd May 2023 when Kuki communal organizations spearheaded a “Tribal Solidarity March” against Meeteis’ demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes List of India.
The march has indeed turned into violent showdown by unruly Kuki mobs and armed terrorists with imported and advanced weapons. They vandalized forest offices, looted arms and ammunitions, and carried out coordinated attacks upon Meetei in the Kuki dominated districts of Churachandpur, Tengnoupal, and Kangpokpi. The attacks include killing, injury, destruction of houses and properties, desecration of religious structures, forced displacement, and keeping under hostage thousands of unarmed Meeteis.
It provoked spontaneous reactions from Meetei mobs in the valley districts who began attacking Kuki neighbourhoods. In the following days Kuki militants backed by some covert powerful forces carried out series of armed aggression on vulnerable Meetei villages.
Meetei mobs and Manipur police retaliated. The spiral of armed aggression, retaliation, killing, injury, and burning of villages have been continued. Many suspected that Kuki militants in collusion with some personnel of the central security forces are responsible for spearheading the ethnic clash to fulfil the agenda of creating a separate Kuki homeland. Many also suspected that they are backed by Burmese Kuki infiltrators with whom they allegedly collaborate in drug smuggling, poppy cultivation, and territorial control.
The BJP central leadership is being accused for allegedly supporting them to fulfil their electoral politics and other vested interests. Unfortunately, widespread misinformation by Kuki propagandists, missionary groups uncritically picked up by a section of the Indian media have painted a biased picture of the situation by demonizing Meetei and promoting Kuki’s minority victimhood narrative.
But that’s not the truth. The story of Manipur is indeed a saga of Lies, Propaganda, and Betrayal.
How it started?
The Manipur region is several centuries older than modern India. Earlier before 1947, Manipur was a kingdom that coexisted with the previous kingdoms of Kamrup and Tripura (Tui-phra) in what is now Northeast India. In other words, the current territory of Manipur is a continuation of the former Kingdom of Manipur which lasted until annexation by the Dominion of India in October 1949. Its location in the world geographical grid is between latitudes 23°83″ and 25°. 68″ (N ) and longitudes 93°03″ to 94°78″ (east). Its immediate neighbors are the Indian states of Nagaland (to the north), Assam (to the west), Mizoram (to the south), and the Chin State of Myanmar (to the south) and the Sagaing region (to the northeast, east , and southeast).
Approximately, 90% of the geographic area comprising the districts of Chandel, Churachandpur, Kamjong,
Kangpokpi, Noney, Pherzawl, Senapati, Tamenglong, Tengnoupal, and Ukhrul has been marked as mountainous exposing the Propaganda of Inevitable Split 7 or hilly area. The remaining 10% of the geographic area comprising the districts of Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West, Jiribam, Kakching, and Thoubal has been marked as valley or plain area.
Manipur is home to indigenous Meetei, tribals and other migrants. Such diversity is explained by the fact that during a long historical past, the indigenous communities of Manipur absorbed several hordes of people belonging to different communities and ethnicity.
Today, among the “tribes” those who organisationally identified with Naga are the Anal, Angami,Chiru, Chothe, Inpui, Kabui, Lamkang, Liangmei, Mao, Maram, Maring, Monsang, Moyon, Poumai, Rongmei, Sema/Sumi, Tangkhul, Tarao, Thangal, Zeme etc. Those who organisationally identified with Kuki are the Gangte, Hmar, Koirao, Mate, Paite, Ralte, Simte, Suhte, Thadou, etc. Those who maintain separate identities but live as Kuki’s allied cognates are the Mizo, Hmar, Paite, and Zou.
Those who want to maintain separate identity and shift organisational affiliation depending on time and situation (intermediary communities) are the Aimol, Kharam, Koireng, Kom, Purum, and Koirao. There are other linguistic groups as well, who are intricately linked as inseparable segments of an organic composition called Manipur.
But Manipur, today, is threatened by Kukis? Then, who are the Kukis?
Kuki is a nomenclature for Thadou speaking tribes or cognates. They are not indigenous to Manipur but wandering tribes who have migrated to Manipur in different waves. British classified them into Old and New. The Old Kukis— such as the Aimol, Anal, Chowte [Chothe], Chiru, Kolhen [Koireng], Kom, Lamngang [Lamkang], Purum, Tikhup, and Vaiphei—are found in some archaic texts as early as the 16th century.
The old Kuki are calm in nature and do not cause disturbances at all. However, new Kuki such as Thadous, Jangshens (Singsons) and their descendants and allied relatives began to migrate in different waves from the middle of the 19th century. The British made them subjects of Manipur, get them settled here and assigned various obligations to them like illegal soldiers, workers or porters etc.
A large section of the New Kukis have been marauders. Between 1850 and 1947 they frequently plundered vulnerable indigenous Meetei, Tangkhul and Kabui villages for booty. There were series of coordinated plunders between 1917 and 1919, which has been wrongly referred to as the so called Anglo-Kuki War. Most of their chiefs have been expansionists and voilent in nature.
However, political and administrative arrangements were made in 1948 so that they would live for a collective Manipur and contribute to peace and progress. Unfortunately, after 1950, different waves of Kuki refugees or infiltrators in Manipur deceitfully acquired Indian citizenship and expropriated the pre-existing communities of their rights on land, resources, jobs, opportunities, and facilities.
As their number grew, they began communal politics to carve out a separate Kuki homeland to be known as Zalen’gam. Some of them indulged in drug smuggling and poppy farming to raise money for funding clan armies, arms, ammunitions, propaganda and solidarity. They had a wide network of cross-border narco-terrorists, who also indulge in destroying forests for poppy farming. Such enemies of forests, eco-system, and humanity dragged the larger bulk of innocent civilians into communal clashes.