A nutshell on Kuki occupied territories

Published on March 10, 2003

By Admin

March 11, 2003: Similar to the Jews before the Second World War and the Kurds who are scattered in different parts of the world, Kuki is also a unique nation which is scattered in different geographical regions of Asia. Unmistakably speaking, the Kukis were usually called in different names by the British colonizers although they knew that they were the same people having similar cultures and traditions. The post British colonial rule marked Kuki Diaspora. They (the British) called the same people in different names so as to sow the seed of ‘Divide and Rule’ among them (the Kuki people).

Moreover, the governments of both Burma and India are also partly responsible for the disintegration of the Kukis. For instance, in India, the same people are classified and recognized in different tribes, especially in the North-east India. Kuki is recognized as a tribe in almost all other states of the Northeast India, while it is recognized under different tribes in Manipur according to the 1956 Tribe Recognition. Likewise, the Kukis face the same problems in Burma. Another example is that, the Kukis are called Khongsais or Khongzais by the Meiteis in Manipur history. Till today, most elderly and even some younger generation of the Meiteis call the Kukis as Khongsai or Khongzai. But, it is a fact that Khongsai is only one of the clans of the Kuki nation. This adds to the worries of pockets of people. Whatever it may be, it is undeniable fact that these people are the same people who were called Kuki.

The territory of the Kukis stretches from the Chindwin River in the East, the Naga Hills in the North, and North Cachar Hills in the West and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the South. Due to large migration on grounds of religion, hundreds of Kukis also settled in Israel. Until about a century ago, these hills were largely unpopulated. The pressures on land and of population in these parts came only much later, with the migration of other tribes into the land. There might have been a few small tribes living on some mountain tops, but they were largely inconsequential. The Kukis reigned supreme over these hills and moved about like an eagle in flight.

The Linguistic Survey of India, Volume III, Part-III, by G.A. Grierson, C.I.E., Ph.D., D.Litt, I.C.S., published in 1904 by Government of India, provides a general idea of the wingspan of the Kuki territory and the composition of its people. An excerpt of the general introduction of the chapter on ‘Kuki-Chin- Group’ is reproduced as follows:

“Territory inhabited by the Kuki-Chin tribes extends from the Naga Hills in the North down into the Sandoway District of Burma in the South; from the Myattha River in the East, almost to the Bay of Bengal in the West. It is almost entirely filled up by hills and mountain ridges, separated by deep valleys.

A great chain of mountains suddenly rises from the plains of Eastern Bengal, about 220 miles north of Calcutta, and stretches eastward in a broadening mass of spurs and ridges, called successively the Garo, Khasia and Naga Hills. The elevation of the highest points increases towards the east from about 3,000 feet in the Garo Hills to 8,000 and 9,000 in the region of Manipur. This chain merges, in the east, into the spurs which the Himalayas shoot out from the north of Assam towards the South. From here, a great mass of mountain ridges starts southwards, enclosing the alluvial valley of Manipur, and hence spreads out westward to the south of Sylhet. It then runs almost due north and south, with cross ridges of smaller elevation through the districts known as the Chin Hills, the Lushai Hills, Hill Tipperah, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Farther south the mountainous region continues, through the Arakan Hill tracts, and the Arakan Yoma, until it finally sinks into the sea at Cape Negrais, the total length of the range being some 700 miles.

The greatest elevation is found to the north of Manipur. Thence, it gradually diminishes towards the south. Where the ridge enters the north of Arakan it again raises, with summits upwards of 8,000 feet high, and here a mass of spurs is thrown off in all directions. Towards the south the western off-shoots diminish in length, leaving a track of alluvial land between them and the sea, while in the north the eastern off-shoots of the Arakan Yoma run down to the banks of the Irrawaddy. This vast mountainous region, from the Jaintia and Naga Hills in the north, is the home of the Kuki-Chin tribes. We find them, besides, in the valley of Manipur, and, in small settlements, in the Cachar plains and Sylhet…Kuki is an Assamese or Bengali term, applied to various hill tribes, such as the Lusheis, Rangkhols, Thados, etc. It seemed to have been known at a comparatively early period. In the Raj Mala, Siva is stated to have fallen in love with a Kuki woman, and the Kukis are mentioned in connection with the Tipperah Raja Chachag, who flourished about 1512 A.D.”

The existence of people other than the Kukis in the then territory is not known.  Legends and folk-tales of the Kukis are devoid of references to any other people. There are no references about anybody else but the exploits and greatness of the Kukis: their goodness, or their beauty. The stories abound with adventures of heroes and their courtship with daughters of the gods, such as Ahsijolneng, Jonlhing and Jolphal, and many others.

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