Kuki-Naga relationship needs strengthening

Published on December 8, 2005

By Dr. TS Gangte

INTRODUCTION:

December 8, 2005: The issue raised herein has a reference to the recent  rally staged by the KUKI INNPI MANIPUR (KIM) on January 19, 2001, in New Delhi and the reactions thereof as appeared in the “Imphal Free Press” a local daily, in its issue on February 6, 2001, under the caption, “ NSCN (IM) denies Targeting Kukis” as a front page news item and that of “ North East Sun” a fortnightly magazine, dated February 15-31, 2001, wherein did it appear in the lower portion of page 9 as a rejoinder to the publication of the said rally, titled “ NSCN (IM) refutes Kukis’ claim”, contents of which were mostly identical with the news items that appeared in “The Imphal Free Press” referred to herein above.

KUKI UNDER BELLIGERENT AREAS:

When there is armed hostility or confrontation between two feuding contenders, it is true in all such cases all over the world that there are inevitably innocent civilian populations being subjected to all kinds of hardship, suffering, atrocities, such as, killings, loss of moveable and immovable properties, burning of houses, uprooting of villages, missing, abduction, torturing of defenseless villagers, etc, without least intention to do so on the part of the two belligerent sides.

And, as in bounden duty, the two belligerent sides take care of the welfare and safety of their respective defenseless civilians by evacuating them to neutral zones and safety-secured places where they may not be within the possible ranges of targeted areas of arsenal and depredation. They are also given compensations for the loses suffered, rehabilitation provided to displaced persons and refugees and ex-gratia payments made to the next of kin of deceased, injured and other kinds of victims.

The present situation under reference is essentially a conflict between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India basically for grant or otherwise of “self-determination” to the former. The Kukis have nothing to do on the issue. The only problem relating to them is in respect of their having inhabited in some parts of land under belligerency which the NSCN (IM) claims as belonging to the areas for their Sovereign State. There is nothing wrong in claiming so on the part of NSCN (IM). It is for the Government of India to concede or not to concede to their claim.

The Kukis are, however, expected to be fully aware of their rights as loyal citizens of India on the one hand and responsibility for protection, security and duty towards the Kukis under the situation thus obtained which must on no account be undermined, belittled, marginalized and shirked away on the part of the Government of India on the other. Accordingly, the Kuki Inpi Manipur submitted memoranda to the Prime Minister of India commencing from PV Narashimha Rao on 12-02-1996 till incumbent Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, for redressal of their grievances, the latest memorandum submitted being on the January 19, 2001.

GOOD RELATIONSHIP NEEDS STRENGTHENING:

As there was no action whatsoever on the part of the Government to meet demands of the Kukis, a “ Public Interest Litigation” was filed in the Supreme Court of India to draw attention of the Government of India to the burning issues of the Kukis. The matter was, however, referred to the Parliamentary Committee by the Supreme Court. Yet, nothing substantial came out. It, therefore, goes without saying that Kuki Inpi Manipur organized a rally in New Delhi befittingly commensurate with the democratic norms that grievances of the public be placed to the notice of authorities concerned in the public projecting indifferent attitude of Government for redressal of the problems of Kukis urging them at the same time for necessary action.

It was a rally to expose apathy of the Government towards the Kukis and their problems of great magnitude without slightest intention to implicate anyone, least the NSCN (IM). It was also an expression to highlight fundamental rights of the Kukis. The rally should, therefore, have received tremendous support with exceeding appreciation from all concerned. The rally should be viewed without prejudice, parochialism, sectarianism and free from abysmal narrow outlook. The good neighbourly atmosphere and the brotherly relationship which exude their peaceful co-existence must at all cost be zealously safeguarded and that no element of divisive force that are at work clandestinely and surreptitiously be allowed to raise their ugly heads to shatter, wreck, damage and mar all the good things that exist among the Nagas and the Kukis which are guiding principles that need strengthening.

Reference to the NSCN (IM) on the issue by KIM in their Memoranda were but natural principles of cause and effect made functional without intention to antagonize NSCN (IM) and to malign their image. It should be accepted in the spirit of a “pinch of salt”.

CALLING NAME UNNECESSARY:

Therefore, if it was not a deliberate attempt to provoke negative reaction, the Kukis should not have been called by name which was not true, and was absurd to the core .Normally, nomads have no land and do not conquer land and people .The Kukis have land and country to rule over, to fight wars to protect their land to conquer others.

The Kukis are as much indigenous and masters over the land they occupy as any other community and tribal group in Manipur and the world over could claim for themselves. They have made supreme sacrifices in defence of their country and independence thereof to which no other tribe can put claim to it. Higgin, JC, former political Agent Manipur, was convinced to say that the Kukis were the only “spoilt buddies” who did not feel the pinch of heavy hands of the whitemen. The Kukis were by convention regarded as ‘allies by the Manipur state , in that , while the Raja reigned over the valley of Manipur, the Kukis “ruled the roost in the hills that surrounded the valley of Manipur, said Reid, sir Robert, former Governor of Assam in his book on the ‘History of the North East bordering on Assam’. The Kukis were found always at war throughout their history in their relationship with the British. Their first encounter with the British was in 1777 during Warthen Hastings, time.

Series of Kuki incursion over the British territory and their subjects were as far dated as 1760 when Mir Kasim ceded as district to Robert Clive. The chief of Chittagong applied for a detachment of British Sepoys for protection from incursions of the Kukis in 1770. The Kukis were said as belonging to the royal family of Tripura as per chronicles of the royal family. The Kukis also tussled with British for supremacy over the Lapvomi areas of then Somra Tract for more than 10 years from 1860, known as ‘Kuki Expedition’.

Of all the wars fought against inroad of the mighty British imperialism by more than two hundred “Indian Princes and Rajas”, including the Kukis, the Anglo –Kuki war of 1917-1919 (British called it Kuki Rebellion) was the ‘longest’ and fiercest’ war ever fought in the entire Indian sub-continent as per military history of the British –India period. For this, Maj. General Palit, DK (1984:81, The Sentinel of North –East), described the Kukis as to have proved ‘a formidable foe’, as staunch and brave in battle as the British claimed for themselves.

The nature and character of Kuki as tributes given by various writers are , such as, ‘born-warriors’, ‘great tribes’, ‘ independent- loving’, ‘ferocious, ‘powerful’, martial tribes’, etc, which could hardly be expressed better in commensurate terms than their active participant in the freedom struggle for independence of India when they responded to the call of Netaji Subhash Chandra  Bose to join Indian National Army in great numbers for liberation of India from the yoke of British imperialism. Records being witness, Kukis are the largest recipients of ‘Tamra Pattra’ in the North- East India among the INA war veterans.

There are many more acts of valour, victory, defeat, etc. of the Kukis which are witnesses of their greatness. Thus, calling name to the Kukis as ‘nomadic’ would prove futile based on a wrong premise. The Kukis do not fit into the terminology, ‘Nomads’. Yet, call them as one wish to, which makes no material change substantially. The Kukis will remain as ‘powerful and independent people’ as they were before.

SO-CALLED NAGA KUKI HOSTILITY NON-EXISTENT:

The so-called ‘Naga-Kuki hostility’ as having started from Moreh Town in 1992 is a ‘misnomer’. There is no Naga-Kuki hostility’ as such. The Kukis are not at war with Nagas and vice-versa. If there existed tension and hostility between different activists of extreme Naga and Kuki underground outfits which sometimes surfaced in atrocities of various kinds, such as killings of innocent and defenseless civilians, that is entirely a different issue which cannot, under any circumstances, be termed as ‘Naga-Kuki hostility’. It must be understood very clearly that the Kukis and the Nagas have been living together for generations in peaceful co-existence even many generations before the naga polity as today developed. And, there had never been an instance of ‘Naga-Kuki hostility’ as such.

Mud-slinging and petty allegations of such nature as ‘origin of Naga-Kuki hostility’ will not bring about solution to a situation. Approach to such fluid situation has to be pragmatic without reference to past incidence with accusing fingers at each other based on communal platform and antagonism. If one has to go by that standard, there shall never be an end, fanning on communal discontent.

INSINCERITY AND INTRANSPARENCY RECOILED:

One is tempted for sure to say that the entire problem rests with the Government of India- ‘allegedly creator’ of so called ‘Naga-Kuki hostility’. The Government should have been sincere and alive to attend to the problem of defenseless Kuki civilian population. They cried for ‘SOS’ at the very initial stage when ‘Quit Notice’ was served on them on October 22, 1992, soon followed by a wholesale Ethnic Cleansing’. Without pretending to speak with exaggeration and authority, the apathy of the Government to pay attention towards the plight of the Kukis led to the escalation of atrocities of all sorts. Interestingly, instead of tackling the situation with solutions, the Government found themselves incapable on handling it, encouraged a state of semi-civil war and ignored the Kukis despite requests for help to rescue them from the jaws of death.’ A stitch in time saves nine’ should have been the ideal.

i) The Government was bent on utilizing the situation to discredit’ the NSCN (IM) so as to prevent their entry into UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation) as could be seen from documentations of the Government. A document titled, ‘DOES VIOLENCE GET MANDATE’ at page 26 under the caption, NSCN (I) INTOLERANCE OF THE KUKI TRIBES said, “Nothing illustrates the intolerance of the NSCN (I) towards the population groups inhabiting in their area of influence.”