Member of Kuki society, Answerable for the Irreversible Loss
By Luntinsat LS
As I went through the report given in the Sangai Express on September 4, 2007 I felt for the irreversible loss of the lives of ten Kuki Liberation Army (KLA) cadres at the hands of National Socialist Council of Nagalim, Isak-Muivah faction (NSCN-IM) without an encounter between the two insurgent groups. I was also ashamed of the terrible defeat, both physical and legal and the manner of such an unmanly death, so to speak.
Alas, the armed-to-the-teeth KLA cadres bowed low in front of NSCN-IM cadres. After pondering, reasoning and analyzing the heinous incident, I came to my own conclusion: that the KLA’s defeat was probably due to a miscalculation of the coercive power, which flows from the barrels of their sophisticated guns. Or, perhaps they were too confident in their might, something presumed unchallenged.
My fellow Kukis might wonder about such conclusion, and may even question my integrity or loyalty to Zalengam, the Kuki homeland. My humble response would be that my conclusions were based solely on the previous report – “that the said KLA cadres went to the Khundung Tangkhul village and attempted to hijack one passenger jeep operating to and from Tangkhul Hundung village. On receiving information of the hijack attempt, some NSCN (IM) cadres who were nearby came and asked the KLA cadres to abort their attempt.
However, the KLA cadres reportedly refused to pay heed to the warning of the NSCN (IM) men resulting in a tense row between the two groups. Shortly later the impasse turned nasty and ten KLA cadres were gunned down by the NSCN (IM) cadres at the Tangkhul Hundung public ground.”
I had a tough time battling my own conscience over the value of a life if it, like a commodity, appreciates and depreciates or fluctuates depending upon the taker. Yes, a natural death, we all accept it with the general conception that there is a time for it to happen. Again, death due to fratricidal killing, our capacity for tolerance is flexed. But when it comes to ending of one’s life by another belonging to a different community, the word tolerance suddenly gets mutated into retaliation or it vanishes as if it never existed and we have nothing to do with it.
On the other hand, if one always stays indifferent to everything that happens around him, it is very probable that he is not normal. I was also in a dilemma whether to endorse any action by the Kuki armed groups simply because they belong to the community to which I not only belong but also contributing, at my capacity, every effort necessary to make it strong.
The report dated September 5 2007 in the Sangai Express of the statement made by Malsawn, alleging “that 10 KLA cadres led by Timothy Kuki and Sgt Jonah were killed without any reason by the IM cadres” relieve me of all grieves. “The report added that the NSCN (IM) cadres, to talk about an internal affair, called Timothy along with his 11 men. After the meeting got over, the NSCN (IM) cadres suddenly opened fire killing ten KLA cadres while two others managed to escape. In another statement Addy Kuki of the KLA said that the NSCN (IM) should clarify the reason for the killings.” Though sad, I was happy to learn that our national workers died while not at fault.
The friendly visit ended in tragedy. Had the KLA cadres not faith in the NSCN-IM’s invitation for building a good relationship, they would have not visited Hundung Tangkhul in such a manner. The irony here is that the Kukis have not been able to learn lessons about the tactics of NSCN-IM from the past experiences. The Zoupi massacre of 13 September 1993 would not have been history had United Naga Council-UNC stuck to its own quit notice dateline, the 15 September 1993.
On his way back home, after attending a meeting at Manipur Baptish Convention, Imphal, convened by the Committee for Restoration of Normalcy (CRN), in which he was the secretary, Pu Lalkhohen Thangeo was pulled from the bus he boarded at Khumanlampak bus station and was then killed. Where could we find the sincerity of the NSCN-IM since its break away from NSCN-K? How come then, the KLA ventured a visit to IM at its camp?
The IM faction and its well-wishers might take pride in killing the friendly visitors. Nevertheless, there’s no other act as cowardly and shameful as this. It could be the first of its kind. In the northeast hills, we learn of head hunting and raids carried out as common practice before and during the first half of nineteen century, but never before was the killing of a visiting friend practiced. We also hear of coups within the same organization such as in the story of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The century old convention is that the warring parties fight in the battlefield. Why not, if challenged, have the guts to follow the same suit? Defeat in the battlefield is well digested and conceded by all.
Well, now it’s not just a matter of KLA alone. Some, even our own kinsman, may of course take pleasure at the fall of these men by viewing it from a narrow perspective. However, if that were the case, here lays our failure to understand the origin of the whole complexity. This is a sign of the instability in the Kuki-nation-in-the-making that directly or indirectly has an impact on the security of their neighbours as well.
While retaliation or vengeance might be perceived as manly act, to be honest, I do not personally endorse it; this is not the solution. Currently, the social fabric of Kuki organizations has a hole through which others peep to find no reason to fear or respect us. We are lagging far behind our natural enemy in terms of material resources required for warfare.
Do I sound like I am beating around the bush or being paradoxical? In a secret wine party in a village where drinking was earlier sternly objected to by the village authority meeting, which unanimously resolved to impose heavy punishment on the violators, one of them, after getting drunk, boasted about being a member of seven brothers. Note that for the Kukis, though it might not be relevant today, it was a matter of pride and arrogance, boast and aggression of being born in a family of seven brothers.
Hearing the boastful utterance, one of the men among them (in the wine party) said, ‘though you are seven brothers, I don’t find one who could withstand a punch.’ (Pasal sagi nahi vangun, khatvei khet toh khat chacha na um pouve). The point is, not the number but the strength of the organization. I therefore do not see anything to be proud of to be a member of the community, which has tens of small-armed groups, none of which could endure a blow.
Pouring salt on the wound, the NSCN-IM made a clarification in the Sangai Express on 7 September, 2007 claiming that the killing was a reluctant encounter due to challenge posed by the KLA group which had not only kidnapped one German NGO worker a few years back but also former Manipur Chief Minister Rishang Keising’s son, Victor Keising, for the purpose of extorting money.
This is never a thing to be accepted because both of these two persons were released unharmed. It was not an encounter as IM has stated, but a cowardly act of killing cordially solicited invitees for building friendly relationship. We should not have felt so much if the alleged challenge was met at the battlefield.
If KLA is accused of creating unrest in Hundung area, it is NSCN-IM, which creates uproar in the whole Northeast. If KLA is accused of committing crimes, NSCN-IM is the ultra-criminals. While the KLA kidnapped a German NGO worker (who helped only the Tangkhuls) and Rishang’s son, the NSCN-IM killed the great Kuki leaders – Pu Pakang Haokip, Chief of Maokot (founder of KNA/KNF), Pu Maj, Seikhogin (Pagin) Kipgen and Pu Lalkhohen Thangeo, Vice President, Kuki Inpi Manipur. The clarification therefore can never placate the anger. It burns more, instead.
This is a clear indication of refreshing the inter-ethnic tension. At this moment, though not desirable, a befitting reply should be given to the criminals, the NSCN-IM, who thinks they are the only national workers and that the rest are gangs. The Burmese proverb, “Solve the present problem now and the future problem in future,” may work here.
A verse of the Christian says, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.’ (Mat 6: 33). So, be strong first, dear national workers, and courage will follow you. It cannot be the other way round. A courageous weak man, if ever he lives, is more vulnerable to fall. Where, then, does strength come from? Is ‘unity is strength’ a hackneyed maxim, particularly for the Kukis?
Knowingly, if we do not take any initiative step for unity and strength and instead, continue to fall a preventable prey to others, by this very inaction, all of us, as members of the Kuki society, are answerable for the irreversible loss of ten KLA men. Tony Blair might choose to answer his Iraq invasion to his Maker, but I appeal to you, all the concerned members of our society, to give answers for the heavy toll here on earth.