The great betrayal: Brief notes on Kuki insurgency movement

Published on August 10, 2006

By Donn Morgan Kipgen

August 11, 2006: The present day Mizo youths and scholars might have impressed upon themselves that the bloody insurgency movements led by the Mizo National Front (MNF)’s supremo Laldenga was strictly a Mizo national affairs. Even to this day, 10 years after the shocking signing of Mizo Accord 1986, most people have fallible impression that the MNF was a Mizo-speaking UG militant outfit of the then Union Territory of Mizoram. However, nothing can be farther from the unquestional truth. That spectacular armed insurgency movement had really been a joint Chin-Kuki-Mizo (CHIKIMS) affairs encompassing the territories of Manipur, Assam, Tripura and border areas of Burma.

The primary tactical objective was an integration of all CHKIMS inhabited areas in the form of Greater Mizoram. Unfortunately that all important objective was inexplicably left out on the historic days of reckoning. To say that the Mizo Accord of 1986 was a socio-political sold out would be an understatement in the history of the CHIKIMS. It was a down-right betrayal literally to the non-Mizo CHIKIMS’ nations who sacrificed their lives, limps and resources for the promised all Christian autonomous homeland designated promisingly as Greater Mizoram with special constitutional status like the Jammu and Kashmir (under Art 372).

Sadly, that was not to be when the MNF and the Govt of India’s (GOI) started and then swiftly drafted the peace agreement in 1986. Admist the joyous celebration in Mizoram, something very important had been completely forgotten, the seeds of which have now flowered with blood and tears in Manipur and Assam. In what ought to be their finest hours of their lives, there was neither warm welcoming nor a glorious heroes’ homecoming for the veteran Thadou-Kuki, Hmar and other Zomi cadres of MNF especially in southern Manipur.

The pompous promise of Greater Mizoram was simply crossed-out with one brazen stroke of a pen. It turned out shockingly to be just a new State of Mizoram for the Mizo speaking MNF. However, the ‘abandoned’ MNF commanders like Demkhoseh Gangte, the old veteran hearts refused to blow out the simmering candle light of hope. The day of reckoning for the Kukis did come not too long when Nehlun Kipgen raised the Kuki National Front (KNF) on the 18th of May, 1988 at Molnoi village of Burma, whereas his revolutionary partner Thongkholun Haokip took hold of the Kuki National Army (KNA) due to ideological and geo-political differences.

Unfortunately, at present, the Kuki militants are steadily going just a little out of line and they certainly are not doing complete justice to dreams of the two heroic late leaders and the hopes of the veteran hearts. Actually, the CHIKIMS militant outfits are indirectly doing a favour to the armed forces by infighting and wasting their military resources. But as Napolean Bonaparte said, ‘nothing is impossible’, for ‘victory belongs to most persevering’. The rise of Kuki insurgency movement is similar to that of the present Naga insurgency movements: a painful betrayer by big brothers at the gates of triumph. The Naga insurgency movement in 1960s was the bloodiest in North-East insurgency history. Even in Manipur, the army used light tanks, mountain guns, rocket-mortars and heavy machine guns in face to face stand off. Under such might power facing them, to call the costly sacrifices of the Naga militants a ‘reckless bravery’ would be a fitting compliment.

Like that of the Nagas, the armed forces personnel gave a professional respect to the deadly audacious jungle warfare expertise of the MNF cadres. It was always a bloody one to one encounters, there was no holding back. In comparison with those events, today’s insurgency movements in Manipur is a tame hide and seek game. No wonder the Nagas of Manipur and Burma felt completely betrayed by the Shillong Accord of 1976 signed by the NNC and GOI which left them in socio-political wilderness like the Kukis aftermath the 1986 Mizo Accord. The Shillong Accord led to the formation of the NSCN under Th Muivah and SS Khaplang, who hails from Burma. The betrayal of the Thadous (Kukis), Hmars and Zomis by Pu Laldenga’s MNF has now raised the KNF, KNA, HPC, ZRA, etc strictly on linguistic line; worse still, it led to open sense of distrust amongst the CHIKIMS.

Yes, the Govt of Mizoram ruled by MNF might have given other CHIKIMS moral supports all around at present, but the unreasonable damage had been done and the dream of unification had already been ambushed when it mattered most. Even at this very period, there is no love lost between various Kuki UG outfits and almost all of them are definitely not on the best of terms judging by the direction of the barrels of their weapons they point when they are in close promixity. It is all about ideological differences fine tuned by petty politics.

The KNF was formed to carve out an autonomous Kukiland under the Constitution of India whereas the KNA has been fighting for an independent ‘Zalengam’ which would include all Kuki inhabited areas of Burma too. At the beginning it was just a geo-political difference but now its socio-political factor which is not very promising for the CHIKIMS. The most unfortunate movements of the KNF and KNA came in a most shocking manner when KNA leader Thongkholun was assassinated under mysterious circumstance whereas the killing of T James Kuki led to the formation of KNF(MC).

The bond between the two potent Kuki UG outfits turned sour after the Kuki-Naga conflict. The Kuki Defence Force was absorbed by both the KNF and KNA in area-wise process. The image of Kuki insurgency movement have been tarnished repeatedly aftermath ‘peace agreement’ when many armed youths turned renegades just like the post-civil war of America when southern Confederate army and militiamen resorted to lootings, wanton killings, etc. Because of the chaotic reorganisation and lack of leadership quality, Kuki factional and new UG outfits were formed as fast as the raising of Manipur’s IRB battalions and commando units.

The Kuki Liberation Army (KLA) was quietly raised by Pu H. Letkholun to fill up the gaps and holes left unattended by other powerful Kuki UG outfits in late 1990s. Though the present day stand of the KLA may be very promising and encouraging its image is understandably associated with kidnapping for ransoms with astounding price rate. May be the KLA have been trying to arm itself with costly foreign arms and equipment before they go on full throttle to ‘liberate’ the CHIKIMS.

For the KLA leaders, they need to make sure that all the means should meet the ends. Then came the UKLF with a bang but now are keeping a very low profile. At the same time, the discontent brewing hot within the KNF (MC) finally boiled over when a large number of its cadres in Sadar Hills area broke away to form the Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA). There had been repeated allegations that the UKLF and the KRA had been helped reportedly by the Naga UG militants which was denied vehemently by both the outfits officially. Now, almost all the CHIKIMS UG outfits are on peace terms with the Central Govt with a temporary cease fire agreement.

However, the rattle and blast of weapons still echo all around despite the official stand down on armed activities. Nobody can predict the real outcome of this suspension of operations and regular peace talks but one can be self assured that nothing concrete for the much victimised CHIKIMS is smiling on the horizon. It’s just a beginning, but everything starts with a beginning, including life on planet earth. It remains to be seen whether CHIKIMS UG leaders have the acumen, courage, vision and the expertise to secure something very encouraging and profitable socio-politically. God alone knows but then God only helps those who help themselves.