The Forgotten Sons

Published on August 3, 2005

By Seikholen Thomsong

 

‘A Saga of Valour and Sacrifice’

 

Dedicated to hundreds of Kukis hurt, killed, scarred or maimed for life just because they fought for a cause to help their brethren achieve self respect. Dedicated to the brave men and women who had undergone deprivation, hardship, and even physical and emotional torture for Mizoram but found no mention anywhere. Nobody wants to remember of admit the contributions of the brave Kukis but their saga lives on in the hearts of people.

 

PROLOGUE

 

This piece of work has been cobbled up to find out the truth about the reasons why the two cousins of the Tibeto Burman stock viz. the Mizos and the Kukis who had fought side by side against the British and later against the Indian government for obtaining a state for the Kuki-Chin-Mizos in the 1960s became so divided and unconcerned about each other.

 

Also it is aimed to generate public discussion and debate over the issue and if possible mend the broken bridges between the two communities or at the least stop future misunderstanding from occurring in this part of the country. This article of mine would at best generate discussion and explain why the feelings that have been perpetuating in the Kuki society were so.

 

The Kukis* might have been too sensitive about the inability of the Mizo Accord to include their areas in the state of Mizoram. Or they might have been expecting too much from a one time ally when they were facing the wrath of the NSCN(IM)(It was not all Nagas) in the bloodbaths  between 1992-1996.

 

The hundred million dollar question, which should be asked is, “Did the Kukis* fail to measure up as an ally to the MNF in its movement for self governance?” If so, where or what were the deficiencies? Was it because it was a hardline and more chauvinist of the MNF that negotiated with the Central Govt and later captured power after statehood was granted that Mizoram was considered only for the MIZOS/LUSHAIS? Was the surrender of one man, who supposedly felt he was going to be killed because he was a Kuki, an actual betrayal of the cause? If it was not true why was it not clarified to the person? If the individual or group has sinned what exactly were its sins? Why had the MNF kept mum when its former ally needed its good offices to stop bloodshed against them?

 

(* By KUKI here I am talking of all non Naga tribes of Manipur because they were all known as Kukis at one point of time 1950-1970s (or at least for some time in their tribe certificates as “Thadou-kukis”, when they wanted to avail quotas and scholarships from the govt.)- The Writer.

 

 

CHAPTER I: THE UPRISING

 

 

The Historical Backdrop

 

Towards the end of the British rule in India, like the princely states, there were many tribal communities on the periphery of the Indian nation. They had the same dilemma as that of the princely states – to integrate and be a part of a single Indian state or to secede from the prospective Indian state and seek its national destiny independently.

 

The Mizos residing in the Mizo Hills, Assam and part of Manipur and Myanmar, were divided into two camps. The group that favored to secede was the group consisting of the various local chiefs. They saw that their future was bleak in joining the democratic and socialistic new Indian nation. The group favoring to integrate was the group of newly educated middle class of the society. The newly educated middle class got their education from the English missionaries and the schools they started. They were aware of the winds of change sweeping across the continents post WW II and the new impetus given to democracy and modernity against authoritarian or autocratic or Nazi like governments and their administration.

 

In Mizoram, this middle class saw that the restoration of the old order meant the reversion to the oppressive rule of the Chiefs and the endless continuation of their tyranny on the commoners. This enlightened middle class formed a political party called the Mizo Commoners Union (subsequently called Mizo Union) and organized a social movement for integration with India as it would mean the abolishment of the institution of the chieftainship which was a promised agenda of the Indian National Congress. The traditional elite of the Chiefs formed the United Mizo Freedom Organization and propagated a position against merging with India.[1]

 

The new middle class prevailed over the aspirations of the chiefs, the Mizos settled down to peace and order within India. However, the Indian state allegedly failed to meet the aspirations of this new middle class. Constituted as a district within Assam, the Assamese leadership was said to have ignored the developmental needs of the tribals. Despite its promise, the Indian state was seen as delaying the abolishing of the institution of Chieftainship. Hindu and Assamese chauvinism also reared its head and the Mizos who are proud of their culture and language felt threatened of their culture and language being overwhelmed in the long run; the District Council, the governing body of the Mizos, was without any financial empowerment. Lastly, the periodic bamboo famine, ‘MAUTAM’ hit the hills resulting in starvation deaths of hundreds. The Assamese leadership appeared unconcerned. All these developments prompted the traditional leadership to re-emerge and vigorously propagate the idea that the marginal tribes like the Mizo would always be treated unevenly by the Indian state.

 

The famine gave the opportunity for the rise of Laldenga, an ex soldier of the Indian Army, who was a member of the District Council. He formed the Mizo Famine Front during the time of the famine and later changed it to Mizo National Front (MNF) to spearhead a movement for secession from the Indian union.

 

The Composition

 

The Mizo Separatist Movement was able to mobilise almost all echelons of society due to the growing disappointment with the Indian state. This enabled the leadership to transform their agitation into a social movement. “The myriad sub-tribes inhabiting the Mizo Hills, the generic Mizo identity and the Lushai (Dulian) language became easily acceptable. This greatly integrated the Mizos as one entity with the formation of Mizo Union.” [2]

 

Electoral Politics

 

Laldenga had left his job in the district council and had taken over as president of the Mizo National Famine Front. He initially tried to build up his power base and popularity in the Mizo Hills. He turned the MNFF into Mizo National Front by dropping the ‘F’ for famine from its name. In 1963 it contested elections in the Assam Legislative Assembly. Its candidates John Manliana and LH Lalmawia won from Aizawl West and Lungleih respectively. The MNF also won 145 seats in the Village Council; however it could not dislodge the Mizo Union which had won 228 seats.

 

The failure to capture power made Laldenga leave the country to look for other avenues. By then, he had widely publicised his interpretation of the Mizo history – of the need for secession. During Christmas in 1963 he along with Sainghaka and Lalnunmawia headed for Dhaka.  The Assam Police detained him for some time on his return, but the CM of Assam Mr. Chaliha released him. Within a week, 20 Mizos crossed the border and went to meet Pakistani officials for an arms deal. By the end of 1964, Laldenga was ready with the drafting of the Mizo case for international audience, while Zamanna and Sainghaka had prepared the armed base. The first battalion of the MNF was organized and named after Vanapa, a mizo folk hero. It consisted of about 200 men and the strongest and fittest 50 of them were made the Special Forces whose main duty was to shadow Laldenga and save him from danger or capture.

 

Laldenga’s visit to Manipur and Mobilization

 

In 1965, Laldenga visited Churachandpur district in the southern part of Manipur and pleaded the case of ‘Greater Mizoram’ among the hill tribes there, which have sizeable Mizo presence or their cousins Kukis, Hmars, Paites, Vaipheis and Zous. Many had sympathized with the plight of the Mizos and would extend food, shelter and sanctuary for fugitive MNA volunteers in the near future. Many even joined the MNA, among them the Thadou-kukis joined in the largest number.

 

The Structure and Command of the Mizo National Army

 

By beginning of 1966, four more battalions of the MNA were organized and they all were named after Mizo heroes such as Chawngbala, Taitsena, Zampuimanga and Vanapa. The MNA was organized into five commands.

 

The MNA had a well-defined military structure and even had their Military law on the lines of the Indian Army. A point to be noted here is that the bulk of MNA was formed by jawans of the Indian Army who had deserted their units because of alleged mistreatment meted out by the officers. This explains the planning in terms of administration, logistics and tactics of their operations.[3]

 

The MNF had a senate of six members and a house of representatives consisting of 24. The membership of MNA would swell after OP JERICHO when college students joined en masse from the colleges of Shillong and other places. Some even left govt jobs and joined the fight for secession. But the bulk and leadership of the MNA was still in the hands of Laldenga and the people he trusted – the ex-jawans and many of them were not highly educated.

 

Operation Jericho

 

By February 28, MNF was ready with its declaration of independence. The declaration with 60 signatories emphasized separate identity of the Mizos and alleged suppression of their faith- Christianity and the hardships faced by the Mizos such as the famine etc in order to strike a sympathetic chord in the hearts and minds of all Mizos. On the night of the 27th February 1966, 1000-armed volunteers encircled Aizawl in a brilliantly conceived, planned and rehearsed drill. General Sawmvela had issued a very clear directive, to flank and pin down larger outpost of Assam Rifles by accurate fire and the smaller ones were to be over run and captured. The targets were the state treasuries and the government offices for the cash and other assets, which they could use.

 

The same operation was carried out in Lunghleih and Champhai. While the MNF failed in the capital city of Aizawl they were successful in the other two places and captured about Rs 18 lakhs from Lungleih and from Champhai, both the treasury and the Assam Rifle post fell to the MNF. The MNF could capture six light machine guns (LMGs), seventy rifles, eighteen Sten guns two 2 inch mortars, 38 pistols, six grenade firing rifles and plenty of ammunitions.[4]

 

Deployment of Indian Armed Forces

 

The Indian army responded swiftly though initially they were caught unaware. In the words of Gen Manekshaw, GOC-in-C (Army Commander) Eastern Command, with its HQ at Fort Williams, Calcutta, “The Indian army was caught with its pants down.”

 

The army set up a Brigade HQ at Aizawl, recaptured Lungleih on 14 March, Champhai on 17 March and Demagiri on 20 March.

A young Maj, VK NAYAR of the Para regiment led the Indian army column of paratroopers who were sent to retrieve lungleih. The city of Aizawl was strafed by the Indian Air Force sorties for days, to soften the target and finally the Army was sent in to capture ground.[5]  The counter insurgency force began cracking soon after and almost all lost ground were recovered by 20 March 1966.

 

Flight to Dacca

 

“After his peace and negotiation initiatives were rejected by the Assam and Indian govt, Laldenga held a cabinet meeting in the Reiek Caves, the MNF HQ in Mizoram. The meeting decided to send Laldenga to embark on a diplomatic sojourn to convince sympathetic nations to take up the case of Mizoram.” [6] On 3 July 1966, Laldenga left for Dhaka. There he went to various embassies of foreign countries and pleaded for monetary and political help from the western nations. But though nations of the western world were sympathetic they did not want to embroil themselves in the internal affairs of India. Moreover they had come under severe criticism when they had extended support to the Nagas fighting for freedom. Laldenga stayed there till the time it was safe for him to venture back.

 

 

CHAPTER II: THE STORMY WAVES

 

By 1967, the glory of OP Jericho had waned. The might of the Indian Army counter insurgency operations had started to yield results. The Indian Army took a leaf out of the British army’s successful clamp down of the insurgency of Malaya in the 1950s. The Indian army applied what was known as the Brigg’s plan in Mizoram.

 

Brigg’s Plan

 

Mike (a.k.a. Mad Mike)- a member of the British Special Air Services (SAS) the special forces of the British army, submitted a detailed analysis of British CI efforts in Malaya. A new approach was started which the British called Counter Insurgency (COIN) Ops. It was called the “Briggs plan” named after Sir Harold Briggs who was the high commissioner of Malaya that time. [7]

 

Restructuring of Villages

 

As per this plan, half a million Chinese squatters from 410 villages were resettled in new fortified villages called KAMPONGS. These kampongs have schools clinics and agricultural land in them and thus the people resettled in such need not go out or meet anyone.

The basic features of the Brigg’s plan that was applied in Malaya were as follows. First, it isolated the guerillas from source of recruits, intelligence and supplies. Second, it consolidated by creation of Chinese political party “Malayan Chinese Association” to give an outlet to the Chinese community in the coming independence of Malaya. In the case of the Mizos it was the congress party and the political party of Brig (retd) T Sailo-

Peoples Conference. Thirdly, efforts were on to break communist organization in the unpopulated areas, by dominating the ground and forcing the guerillas into the battle with the security forces. Fourth, The British Special Forces of the army were to support the “Briggs plan”. The Special Air Services (SAS) let the guerillas come to them by ambushing well-used jungle tracks supply caches, jungle clearings used by the guerillas to grow their own food. Fifth, the Briggs Plan also used surrendered guerillas and victims of guerilla actions in its Counter Insurgency. In the case of Mizoram, Randhawa the ex army brigadier who was made the head of the Police after Arya, IGP was slain applied this and managed to kill many MNF activists by tricking them to come near him and his gang of surrendered militants or civilian victims of violence perpetrated by the MNF. Sixth was the “operation Hearts and Mind” the humane operation, which sought to help the civilians in their civic needs, was launched. The application of The Brigg’s Plan was so successful that for some time the MNF leadership had to cool its heels in Bangladesh or hide away in the dense jungles of neighboring Manipur.

 

Around 105 villages were regrouped into 18 Protected and Progressive Villages (PPV) (they were not called KAMPONGS, thanks to Indian army ingenuity). Only the name was changed. The tribal institution of Tlawbawk (lou Buh) was discontinued. Identity cards were issued to the settlers of PPV who had to have it checked daily on leaving for the fields and on coming back. So much time was wasted in checking and frisking that the farmers’ working hour decreased drastically. To make matters worse, daytime curfew were enforced most of the time. The men who had not joined the MNA (many had left for Dacca or hidden in the dense jungles) were herded up and sent to Kashmir to work on construction of border roads. Even locally, they were made to work as porters for the army. As a result, food production was decreased and the people had to survive on government rations supplied to them, which could be cut off at the whim of a soldier.

 

The MNA decided to re-organize into smaller groups to conduct small-scale offensives. The MNA was now composed of 7 battalions under 2 brigades – the DAGGER Brigade and LION Brigade. The Mizo hill was organized into four sectors. The MNA at this time realized that it was necessary to carry out major diversionary actions in order to disperse the security forces and disrupt the reorganization of the villages. Thus Operation Crusade was formulated.

 

 

CHAPTER III: THE TRAIL OF TEARS

 

The MNF leadership felt the need to widen its area of operation as they were virtually immobile in Mizoram. Laldenga, when he visited Manipur in 1965, had managed to garner not only sympathy but also managed to recruit more men. The MNF had four main reasons to hide away in Manipur firstly, influence and recruit fresh fighters from among the tribals in Manipur sympathetic to its cause. Secondly, it was to spread its area of influence and thus somehow disperse the Indian army and thirdly, to open a route to China. Fourth, to find new source of tax and find sanctuary in case the situation in Mizoram becomes too hot as it was post OP JERICHO.

 

Entry of the Kukis

 

Manipur has a sizeable population of the Kukis, Hmars, Paites, Zous, Vaipheis and others who are ethnical cousins, though speaking a different dialect. It was here that Laldenga raised hundreds of volunteers. The bulk of the volunteers were from the Thadou-Kukis, of which Demkhosieh Gangte rose to prominence and recognition later. He was described as “one of the most battle seasoned captains in the Eastern Hilss” by certain journalists and writers who covered the Mizo national movement closely. There were also many brave women of the Thadou-Kukis who became active fighters in the MNA. They were Hekim, Hoinu and Hevah and names of two more women who joined the MNA could not be obtained. “The Kukis were very co-operative, brave, kind and helpful.”[8]

 

Demkhosieh was born on 11 June 1926. He did his schooling from NEIG Mission School at Haflong, NC Hills, Assam. Unfortunately, in 1935 his father Ngulkhopao passed away and he could not continue with his studies. He followed a maternal uncle Hawllen to Moirang in Manipur. Not much was known of his childhood but an incident that occurred when he was a young lad fed the legend that he had become- once he was found sitting on the teacher’s chair in the classroom. When asked why he did so, he replied nonchalantly that he had learned enough and he was fit to become a teacher himself. That was the characteristic confidence that set him apart from the rest.

 

In 1943, at 17 he followed Hav Thangtinkham, Non Commission Officer (NCO) in charge of recruitment in the Assam Regiment Centre at Shillong. With nine (9) rupees, which his aunt had given him he reached Shillong and was taken to see the Commandant, Lt Col HE Mack. The Commandant felt he was too young and kept him at his home as an orderly so that he could be recruited later. Within a year, the commandant noticed his abilities and skills at arms and thus he was recruited in 1944. He left the army in 1950 and the next year he joined the Manipur Police. He was transferred to the SIB in 1953.He married in 1956.

 

In 1960, he had become the president of the Kuki National Assembly. The first time he met Laldenga was when he led a delegation of KNA leaders to Aizawl to settle differences with the Hmar community. The Hmars and the Singsits were in conflict due to alleged mistreatment of the Hmars at the hands of their Singsit chiefs.

 

There is no record of the exact date when he joined the MNF but scholars like Dr TT Haokip, who actually met him and spoke to him, said that Demkhosieh joined the oath taking at Chaltlang in 1960, where new recruits swore in the name of the blood of their forefathers for the Mizo cause. In 1968, MNF leaders sent him to Bangladesh to train in advanced army training. A Pakistani officer called Iqbal Khan trained him, along with other cadres.

 

By now, the Shanti/Mukti Bahini(Bengali separatists in East Pakistan) movement had started in East Pakistan and there were rumours that India would someday come to the aid of the Bangladeshi rebels who wanted to overthrow the Pakistanis. Some RAW official, actually remarked to his subordinates in 1971, that cutting East Pakistan into two would prevent a Sino-Pakistani axis and help protect India’s north east. This reveals that the objective of the Indira Gandhi government was to take advantage of the Pakistani’s military actions on Bengalis to achieve a strategic advantage in the area.[9]

 

In 1968, Demkhosieh was sent along with four men of the MNF who hailed from Falam in the Arakan hills of Myanmar to reconnoiter for a new HQ there in case the Indian army invades East Pakistan. This far sightedness of the MNF proved useful when in 1971 the Indian army actually marched into Dacca. The first thing that the paratroop regiments did was hit the training centre of the militants. Fortunately the top brass of the MNF were able to bundle off Laldenga, though reluctantly,[10] and his wife to the safety of the new HQ in Arakan Hills which Demkhosieh had reconnoitered.

 

Operation Chin Hills

 

Demkhosieh was sent to the Arakan hills in in 1968, this means that he would have taken part in the Operation Chin Hills. This was one gem of a military operation undertaken by the MNF. The MNF came to learn of the not so secret intelligence that Indian army would invade Dacca and that it was only a matter of time till D-day. Thus it wanted to send its cadre to China to enlist Chinese support and to train its men in jungle warfare. China was sympathetic to all insurgent groups emanating from the area. The Indian secret services were training Tibetan separatists and thus China had no qualms about training insurgents from the NE India.

 

The contingent that was to be sent to China consisted of the following officers – Senator Bualhranga, self-styled Brig R Sangkawia as the commander, self-styled Col Sapbawia, second in command (2IC), self-styled Maj Thanchungnunga, self-styled Capt James Lalhmingliana, self-styled Lt Ramtharlawna, self-styled 2nd Lt Thangkhuma. A meeting was conducted in Sihmit valley and about 527 MNA volunteers were selected.

 

The route chalked out in the meeting at the Sihmit valley was – Start Point (SP) Sihmit valley –Haimual village- Bukphir village- Lentlang village- Hawlkawn village, where they slept overnight-  Run river- Than Mountain- Samtal village- Moreh- Charaw(Ukhrul district)- Kabaw valley- Mualvailup village- Chindwin river- Kachin area – Yunan( China).[11]

 

The fact that the route to China runs through part of Manipur and Kuki inhabited areas of Burma (Myanmar), apart from the fact that the MNF needed recruits and safe sanctuary in the vast dense hills of Manipur, could not be ruled out as one of the reasons why the MNF cultivated the friendship of the Kukis. Also, when the Mizos faced starvation in 1960, the Kuki National Assembly, the political organization of the Kukis of Manipur, (KNA) under the leadership of Demkhosieh Gangte had collected Rs 3800/- from the kukis of Manipur and Nagaland and sent it to the MNFF as famine relief.[12]

 

But the problem facing the MNF going to China was that the Burmese army would not just let the MNF pass through their territory. So the MNF leadership, without the knowledge of Laldenga planned the OP CHIN HILLS. The broad objective of this operation was to create a smokescreen that would provide a safe passage, to the 527 officers and men of the MNA going to China, without any skirmish with the Burmese army.

 

In this operation, cadres of MNF attacked various Burmese army posts in Burmese territory. There were in total five battalions taking part in this operation and their area of responsibility were as follows. The ‘L’ battalion had to attack Rihkhawdar camp and another camp near the Rih lake. The ‘S’ battalion had to attack Tiddim army camp. The ‘C’ Chawngbala battalion had to attack Falam camp. The ‘K” battalion were earmarked to attack Halkha camp. The last, ‘T’ Taitsena battalion had to attack Tuibual camp to divert the attention of the Burmese army so that the China contingent led by Bualhruanga could reach the Yunan safely. They were supposed to regroup and re-organized at their rendezvous- codenamed “FORT WHITE”, a place they had chosen somewhere in the interior part of Myanmar.

 

The operation met with minor success and in some case the MNA suffered casualty. The casualty list was like this- ‘L’ Bn nine injured none killed. ‘T’ bn injured nil, two were killed. ’Ch’ bn one injured and one killed. ‘S’ bn one injured and none killed. ’K’ bn, was the one attacking Halkha camp resulting in fifteen injured and four killed.[13]

 

The contingent reached the Chindwin River but could not proceed further. They stayed put there considering asking the KIA to help them cross into China but a famine broke out there and thus the MNF leaders decided to come back home.

 

Later, Demkhosieh Gangte would lead a contingent consisting of about 27 kukis and 20 Mizos to China. Of the 27 Kukis, most were stalwarts of the society who later played crucial roles in the politics of Manipur. Some of the stalwarts were Late Lalkhohen Thangeo, who later became president of Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), SL Paokhosei, Ex-MLA, Lalkholun Kipgen, TN Haokip, speaker of the Manipur Assembly. PS Haokip, fondly recalled how TN Haokip, who was just a lad at that time, wanted to join the MNA very much and was inconsolable because there were no uniform left for him. A Mizo Indian army jawan, on leave at home, was approached but he would not part with his army uniform. So elders like Demkhosieh convinced him that he would be given the first uniform that they could lay their hands on from then. Thus TN Haokip, finally mollified, stopped playing truant and went with the others.

 

The MNF spreading its area of operation in the hills of Manipur was a tactically very sound idea. The MNA could find shelter in the hills of Manipur and Nagaland (they had cordial relation with the Naga insurgents too). Thus by widening their area of operations and influence they could scatter the Indian armed forces and engage them in smaller groups. The terrain due to its vastness and presence of dense jungles provided safe sanctuaries to the MNA. The civilian population was sympathetic to them. Thus they could hide and operate against the Indian army with impunity from the villages.

 

Operation Crusade

 

Having persuaded a sizeable chunk of the tribes to join them in the movement, the MNA started its operations in the Hills of Manipur. The first was named as Operation Crusade.

This in fact consisted of the political and emotional parleys that Laldenga had with the elders of different tribes in Manipur. The MNA soon launched military operations, first in the Tamenglong district where a detachment of Indian army were ambushed, arms and weapons seized. The enormity of success was paralleled if not surpassed, later by the NSCN attack of Oinam Assam rifle camp in the 1980s.

 

The backlash was furious and the Kukis suffered from the counter insurgency conducted in their areas. In fact elders of the Kuki society narrate, till today, how the Kukis had allegedly undergone various hardships in the course of sheltering and hiding MNF from the Indian army. Many young men were allegedly arrested and tortured for alleged abetment of the Mizos. Some allegedly succumbed to the beatings and torture of the Indian army. Many are said to be either physical or emotional cripple till today.

 

 

CHAPTER IV : TO CHINA AND BACK

 

 

The March to China

 

In Nov 1972, the first batch of MNF to successfully reach China started out under the leadership of Demkhosieh Gangte. The MNF numbered 47 including volunteers from Manipur. Demkhosieh himself was a Thadou-Kuki volunteer from the south – west district of Churachandpur. The party did not have maps but only one compass with them. [14]  They set out from Mizoram and reached Manipur where the Kukis gave them food and shelter and hid them from the Indian Army patrols. Then they went to Moreh and proceeded to the Arakan hills in Burma. From the Arakan the MNF took the degree of march to China to be 10 degrees and set out for the Yunan, China. They marched and confirmed the correctness of the route from each village that they passed by. In the march to China they were given shelter, food and protection by many of the Kuki villages in Burma and safely guided up to the Kachin region.[15]

 

Navigation is not simple, as one has to know how to study a map and follow it on ground in tandem with the use of a compass. First, start points and end points/destination are chosen on the map and marked. Distance is calculated, by calculating the number of squares. And with the help of a protractor the degree for marching is measured. Now the degree is measured with the help of a compass and the march commences. After every halt, the navigator measures the compass and takes you in the direction of the degree on the compass.

 

The degree has to be verified after every 2-3 hundred metres because if you veer off an inch at the start, when you reach your objective rest assured you would have missed your destination by minimum a mile. While marching a person counts his footstep and measure the distance that has been covered in kms. This man must have measured how many normal steps of his can cover, say, a hockey field whose length is 100 metres. Thus he can roughly say how many steps of his makes a km. Another man has a rope or stones in his hands to keep record of how many kilometers they have walked or covered.

 

So it was sheer determination of the men and the fact that Kuki villages were there along the route to Kachin area that they could reach their destination in thirteen months. Otherwise, they never would have reached at all. They passed through the Kachin area in Burma and were mistaken for agents of the Burmese army by the Kachin Independence Army who seized their weapons and made them prisoners. However the KIA provided food, shelter, clothing and escort till the Chinese border when they were confirmed of the bonafides of the MNF. This was in lieu of 50 % of the arms and ammunitions received from the Chinese, which the MNF has to give the KIA. The MNF entered China in Dec 28, 1973 and stayed there for three months and ten days.

 

The return from China

 

The MNF started back in April 1974 and crossed the river Chindwin in Burma in January 1975. The KIA took only a few gold chains and let them proceed on their way. The MNA was ambushed on their way back and lost two men. They found their way back safe and stayed at the Kuki village of Molvailup in Manipur.

 

The MNF came back with 3 radio transmitters, 32 light machine guns (LMGs), 12 pistols, 4 rocket launchers (RLs) M-40, 78 rockets, 28614 rounds of ammunition, 32000 US dollars, 62000 Burmese Kyats, 69 gold chains (more than ten ounce each), 10 inflatable boats, books written by Mao Tse Tung and personal clothings. It was said that the MNF were so disillusioned with the system they saw in China that on the way back home they used the covers of the books written by Mao for binding their diaries and the inner pages as toilet tissue paper.[16]

 

The China contingent had been away almost three years from Mizoram and by then many reverses had taken place. After the 1971 Bangladesh liberation, the ISI could no longer give them support. Laldenga had to flee to the Arakan hills and then to West Pakistan. Many of the MNF leadership had surrendered and there were widespread suspicion that many more were going to desert the leader. It was at this time that the MNA hitman Capt Lalheia became notorious. He was responsible for the daring assassination in 1975 of GS Arya, IGP, LB Sewa, DIG and the SP Mr Panchapagesan in the police headquarters in broad daylight. He was known as the “hitman” and between 1972 and 1974 he had assassinated most of the moderate leaders who had come over ground or deserted Laldenga.

 

There were rumors that a death warrant for Demkhosieh had also been issued around this time. It was not known whether an order to that effect i.e. to kill Demkhosieh was actually passed by Laldenga. Like Laldenga himself, Demkhosieh was an ex soldier, trained and disciplined in the same Indian army and a professional soldier’s loyalty can never be in doubt, at least to Laldenga.

 

The Kukis of Manipur, Demkhosieh and the others were greatly hurt by such a development. Thus Demkhosieh wrote a letter to the newly elected CM of the union territory Mr Chhunga and suggested peace talks with the Government of India.

 

 

CHAPTER V : THE FALLOUT

 

 

The Misunderstanding

 

Demkhosieh surrendered with 27 of the group consisting mostly of Kukis, to the Indian army in Imphal, Manipur. The reason is still an issue of debate till today. Demkhosieh was supposed to have lost his desire to continue as he was already disillusioned from the trip to China and more so when he purportedly learnt that the MNA High Command had issued an order for his assassination. The way the Chinese treated the Tibetans were observed by the contingent as they trained in the Yunan. Also those were trying times for the MNF Supremo, who had barely escaped from Dhaka and most of the moderates (DUMPAWLS) had surrendered and ditched him. Thus he might have been paranoid about who was loyal to him and who was not.

 

The only logical explanation could be that the MNF High Command might have passed a decree that all moderate leaders and deserters should be killed. Capt Lalheia, (code name MC 351), the hitman and his men in their zealous enthusiasm might have carried the order too far and tried to kill anyone and everyone whose loyalty they doubt. Demkhosieh, a Kuki from Manipur might not have been trusted very much. Other factors could well have been possible for the fall out. The Mizos, 20 of them who formed a portion of the group going to China might have resented the leadership and how all the goods, gifts and the leader Demkhosieh controlled monetary help given by the Chinese. However, there is no proof of that angle available anywhere in written records.

 

Realisation and Beyond

 

Demkhosieh realised now that it would be impossible to continue to fight for Mizoram after the fall out. He now wanted to take Thadou-kuki recruits to China for training. So he gave some money, sent some of his men and asked them to go the interior of Manipur and raised young recruits to go to China. The men that he sent could find no fresh recruits and came back empty handed after having spent all the money. Thus Demkhosieh decided it was futile to go on and surrendered to the Indian Army in Imphal.

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

Later, after Mizoram attained its statehood, certain Kuki leaders querried the MNF leadership why the kukis had been ignored, some Mizo leaders allegedly replied, “Whatever rewards that were for the Kukis has been wasted by Demkhosieh by surrendering to the Indian government”. This logic however is weak and holds little justification. If the Kukis have forfeited their inheritance because Demkhosieh surrendered, then how do the MNF explain the tens and hundreds of Mizos moderates who surrendered even before Demkhosieh did! Was Demkhosieh the only MNA who surrendered? Why the differential treatment?

 

To the kukis, the only explanation and conclusion was that the clever Mizos befriended them when they needed taxes, food, shelter, sanctuary and recruits but quickly forgot the bonds of friendship as soon as the fruits were ripe and well within their grasp.

 

But to give the Mizos their due, the question of Greater Mizoram was indeed raised in the negotiation between Laldenga and the Powers that be in Delhi.[17] No one knew how seriously the MNF representatives pursued it. The fact that the hardliners were the ones who actually had gone to the negotiating table would also have killed any scope for communities other than the Lushais to benefit from the fruits of settlement with the Indian government (look at where the Hmars stand today). No one knew if that Greater Mizoram was supposed to include all Kuki inhabited areas or just South West District of Churachandpur.

 

Perhaps, Pu Zoramthanga and certain leaders of the MNF who were part of the coterie surrounding Laldenga would have inside knowledge of the whole issue. The fact is that Kuki men have lost their lives and some are crippled physically and mentally till today. How many women were raped because they were helping the MNA? None of them were given even a mention anywhere forget about being included in the statehood.

 

In the not so distant past when the KNA and NSCN (IM) clashed, the MNF leadership could have used their good offices to usher in peace as both the KNA and the NSCN had helped them in their quest for political self – governance. A simple gesture would have gone down really well with the Kukis. But the MNF chose to distance itself from playing any role in the KNA – NSCN (IM) fights.

 

Lessons Learnt

 

This serves as a reminder to the Kukis/Eimis that henceforth if they have to make any struggle for any political advancement it has to be calculative and shrewd and not be fooled again.

 


[1]  Sajal Nag: “A comparative analysis of Naga, Mizo and Meetei Insurgencies.”

[2]  Sajal Nag: “A comparative analysis of Naga, Mizo and Meetei Insurgencies.”

[3]  Subhir Bhaumick – “Insurgent Crossfire”

[4] Subhir Bhaumick: Insurgent Crossfire.

[5] Shekhar Gupta –“Seccesionism in Modern India”

[6] Nirmal Nibedon – The Dagger Brigade.

[7] Taken from the book ‘Swords of Lightning’

[8]  Some ex MNA soldiers in a telephonic conversation with the writer.

[9]  Subhir Bhaumik quotes PN Bannerji, Joint Secretary of the RAW.

[10]. Laldenga was made to believe, by the ISI, that the US naval fleet from Gulf of Tonkin would come to his aid.  Brig Sailo’s son, who was among the personal staff of Laldenga, supposedly heard the MNF supremo muttering to himself about US intervention on the eve of Indian Army invasion of East Pakistan.

[11] . This was stated by ex-MNA  members to the writer. Also similar info could be obtained from the book; Zoram in Zalenna Asual, vol I- VII by Col R Lalrawnliana, Cdr of ‘L” bn. 

[12]  Demkhosieh in an interview given to Dr. TT Haokip.

[13] Ex MNA sources in Aizawl.

[14] Mizoram: Contours of Non Military intervention by Vijendra Singh Jafa, IAS, ex Chief Secy of Assam

[15] PS Haokip, President KNO in an e-mail to the writer.

[16] As per Vijendra Singh Jafa.

[17]  Subhir Bahumick said so but certain writers such as SAJAL NAG beg to differ.

 

Posted on August 03, 2005

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