Reception for freed Kuki students held in New Delhi

Published on March 28, 2007

By Luntinsat Kipgen

March 28, 2007: It was 12 O’clock Tuesday when people began to assemble in front of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) office waiting for the auspicious welcome reception. With our hopes high and down, we waited till 6:00 pm when the two buses carrying the released Kuki student heroes from Tihar jail were arriving with their white bandages on their wounds; on the heads, hands, legs, necks, etc. Their faces looked pale probably due to complete denial of food and water during the first two days, and feeding on roti instead of our staple food i.e. rice during the other two days of detention. But, behind the facade of their simple smile, we did not fail to notice their high morale and resolution to fight till victory.

As they stepped out of the buses and moved towards the reception hall, there were sounds of applause, joy and excitement that filled the air.  Mr. David Buhril moderating the program then called upon honorable Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Mani Charenamai (Outer Manipur) to have a welcome speech in which he congratulated the students by calling them ‘brave young boys and girls fighting for the just cause’. It was followed by a short break during which the bailed out students were served food as they were very hungry then.  

After the dinner break, the reception program continued at around 6:30 pm. In the front were seated the two Lok Sabha MPs – Dr. Th. Meinya (Inner Manipur) and Pu Mani Charenamai (Outer Manipur), Ex MP Pu Holkhomang, Our Lawyer – Pu Sandeep, Supreme Court Lawyer – Pi Nandita Haksar, Kuki Worship Service Delhi (KWSD) Chaplain – Pu Rev. Dino, JNUSU president – Dhananjoy and vice-president – William Tyler and other distinguished persons.  

At the very outset of the program, David Buhril, the moderator, for the second time, invited Pu Mani Charenamai to deliver his speech. He called the student protesters, “heroes” and thanked them for the sacrifices they have made in doing the right thing. He congratulated those students who broke down the barricades and also those who voluntarily surrendered themselves for the love of their fellow students who had already been arrested. “I wished to be with you the moment you were struggling for the just cause,” said Pu Charenamai. He also expressed that he felt sorry for the students who stood for just cause being treated like criminals in Tihar jail and told them not to be ashamed of it.  

He condemned the brutality of Delhi police and Rapid Action Force. About the problem back home in Manipur he lamented, “Last year, there was abduction of 20 odd people from Churachandpur district by Burmese army and now 400 taken captives from Chandel district.”  He also accused the state government being responsible for the victims of landmine in Chandel for not taking any measure so far to address the issue. He assured that he would do whatever he can at his capacity, both at the centre and state for the safe return of the 400 captives.  

The next speaker was MP Dr. Th Meinya who said he wanted to be identified as a human being and not as a Meitei. “I live in Manipur which is part of India, which is part of Asia, of the world, of the solar system, of the milky galaxy, and of the universe. “When you fight for human dignity, I am with you because we are one,” said the MP. To express his universality, he also said he would not object any one who wishes to marry his young daughter and son on the basis of ethnicity because to him, “we all belong to the same race.” Like the other MP, he assured the students for the safe return of 400 captives by consulting with the military junta of Burma. 

The turn for our lawyer Sandeep came then. He expressed his happiness to see the jailed students being bailed out to be graced in such delightful manner. He thanked the Kuki young boys and girls for their bravery as he quoted Mr. Benjamin Mate who said to him, Kukis are lion hearted. “Students said you look like a Kuki, so I am Kuki,” said Sandeep, and he continued, the legal fight for the charge labeled against us is yet to be over and the fight for your cause back home may still take along way. So, you need to be stronger on all fronts, particularly on the legal side. He also asked apology for not being able to bail out Mr. Thangboi, the secretary of Kuki Students’ Organisation, Delhi (KSOD), due to clerical mistake, which, he assured, would duly be corrected the next day. (However, at the time of writing this report, at 5:00 pm Mr. Thangboi has, as was told to me, been released.) He also stressed the need for law experts from the Kuki community itself for any legal battle in future.

After Pu Sandeep was seated back, Mr David Buhril, in reply to his word ‘Lion hearted’ praised him saying, “You are much more lion hearted than we the Kukis are and that implies you are one of us.” Madam Nandita Haksar, a Supreme Court lawyer followed. She said, “I thank you all the Kuki students for making a democratic space in Manipur, in India and in JNU campus. She also said, “It was the happiest moment for a lawyer to see the release of the jailed people for whom the former had been fighting and it must be one of the happiest moments for Sandeep.” 

Now, JNUSU president Dhananjoy was called upon. Thanking the brave students, he said the release was not out of mercy by the authority, but they were compelled to do so. Pointing out the failure of state and central governments in protecting the lives of 400 Kuki captives, he said, “It is the responsibility of the state to grantee security to its citizens.” He also said, “JNUSU is with you and will always be for you whenever you need us, and we’re ready to extend all possible helps.” Regarding the jailed students who missed their exams, he said, “We have spoken to the vice chancellor of Delhi University and that your exams would be taken.” Good news for students who are very serious about their education. 

A strong and assertive young man from the United States of America, Mr. William Tyler, the vice-president of JNUSU said that the map of India keeps changing; different maps in terms of security, economic development, religion, politics, etc. He also strongly criticized the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for having close ties, giving military hardware, providing economic aid, having trade relationship, etc, with the barbaric military regime of Burma, which is responsible for the kidnapping of 400 Kukis. India must review its Burma policy, said Tyler. He also assured, if the need be, to help the Kuki students in mobilizing more people to come up on the streets of Delhi, to compel the UPA government to act upon the demands for protection, security, safety for the captives, deactivation of landmines and compensations for the victims. 

Mr. Muanpuia Punte Hmar, who is the vice-president of the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), asserted that we Chin – Kuki – Mizo are one and the same people who come from the same origin. “I am a Kuki as much as I’m a Mizo or a Chin, and so feel comfortable with any one of these names,” said Muanpuia. He also appealed to the audience to feel the same way as he does and be united.  

Then, Pu Holkhomang, ex-MP’s turn came. He narrated about his past friendship with the former prime minister of India, AB Vajpayee and the former home minister LK Advani to whom he also talked about the multiple hardships faced by the people of Manipur, particularly the Kukis. Though I was badly defeated in the last MP election, he said, “I don’t harbour any ill feeling against Mani Charenamai.” To highlight the ethnic affinity of the people living along the Indo-Burma border, he mentioned that he shared the same clan with the Burmese MP Pu Thangme from Tamu district. Having talked on variety of issues which could not be properly heard from the back seat as he did not care much about the microphone, he concluded his speech by saying “This time it is the Kukis who are the victims, but tomorrow it may be the Paites, the Hmars, the Zous, the Lushais, the Nagas, so let us unite and fight together.” 

Immediately, Pu David the moderator stood up and commented on what Pu Holkhomang had just said. “Pu Holkhomang’s concluding line is as bad as anything because in it he has put a partition.” (If I should comment on it, let me say, Pu Holkhomang, by virtue of his character, is not serious about issues of this kind and that we should take it lightly as one by an ordinary person.) 

Then the KSO’s fraternity organization leaders all spoke one after another. Each leader in his turn, in one tone, stressed the need to unity as inevitable for protection of our existence and of our land, security. One of the impressive statements from a leader was, “Though the state and the centre have the constitutional obligation to ensure protection and security, we can guarantee ourselves these things if we stand united.” Some of them went to the extent of criticizing our armed groups for their constant factional clash using both newspapers and bullets, instead of collectively fighting for the common cause.   

Two representatives from the jailed students, one each from the male and female students were also called upon to narrate their experiences from the moment they were caught to the time they were released on bail.  Elizabeth Haokip, M. Phil student from Jawaharlal Nehru University began her story. While narrating the stories of policemen manhandling and molesting the girl students inside the buses, on the street and also in the police custody, she was a bit hesitant to publicly tell some of the indecent incidents. She also said that some girls got their shirts or dress being pulled apart and then got hit at the chess. In spite of all these odds and brutalities, she said, “Our morale were high because we knew the leaders were there still fighting for us.” We do not deserve the kind of honour and reception we receive tonight because you who were not arrested and continued fighting for us deserve greater honour, she added. Meeting rights activists like Medha Patkar and others who were also detained in the same cell, she said, those experiences would continue to inspire her to fight for our rights.  

Mr. Thangjamang Haokip, representative from KSO general headquarters and is a resident of Chandel district, spoke on behalf of the male students in Tihar jail. One of the best good news from him was that seventy students who shared the same cell had resolved to spread, on being released, the message of unity and fraternity among the Kuki brethren tribes back at home and abroad in all possible ways. He also appealed to all the Kuki tribe leaders to shun idiosyncratic way of playing divisive politics, vested interest and instead come to a common platform.  

After all the speeches were over, the KSOD president – Mr. Limminthang Chongloi – expressed his thanks to all the distinguished persons, student organization leaders, rights activists, individual supporters, the Kuki heroes and all those who participated in any manner during the time from the 23rd March demonstration to the last reception program. 

Pu Rev. Dino, then once again, thanked all the people big or small who joined in the fight for just cause of the Kuki people back at home and then thanked the almighty God – Jesus who during his life on earth worked hard for the marginalized and down-trodden people – for the given victory that was achieved. With the benediction prayer said by Pu Rev. Dino Touthang, the reception program came to an end. 

We owe inexpressible thanks to Mr David Buhril, who is also the assistant editor of the Northeast Sun magazine, utilizing his multiple talent of versatility, eloquence, wit, etc, etc, has moderated the program not only this one but also the one which was held at ITO during the silent protest on 26th March. We are very much proud of him.  

Conclusion:

Another challenge I would like to pose to the readers and to all the Kuki students is – I am convinced that we are moving forward to reunification, which means we are closer to attaining higher administration. So, we need self-reliance on human resources such as teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, economists, environmentalists, writers, rights activists, and so on. Do we have enough number of these resources? If so they will guarantee us security of food and water, dignity of life, peace, perhaps everything one can imagine. If not so, choose one for you now.