A Way Out for The Kuki People
By Lunminthang Haokip
Introduction: Who are the Kukis? Opinions will differ. The British-Indian rulers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, for purposes of administrative categorisation on linguistic groupings, might have termed a community of traditionally and culturally affined and naturally confined trouble-prone top-hill and mid-hill settlers of Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and the present Myanmar as Thadous (in Burma) and Kukis in the rest. But much water had flown down the rivers and rivulets of the Kuki-inhabited regions of North East India and North West Myanmar ever since.
Regroupings on clannish, Christian-denominational, and circumstance-compelled political lines had refined and re-defined the Kuki nomenclature several times over the past and recent decades. Today, the tribes and clans who hold on fast to the serial-war-battered sub-national terminology do so more out of the TINA (there is no alternative)-factor than out of the CINA (choice in national affiliation)-factor. The loud clamour for unity under Kuki-fold, at times, smacks of convenient opportunism with the cleverly-hidden policy of “ice can be given up when winter comes.”
Kukis of North East India: Post-1993, a lot of changes and shifts had been seen in the clashes-reminiscent Kuki-psyche. In the less-turbulent pre-1993 era, the manual job of rickshaw-pulling or washing dishes in eateries was a rare last-option even for the impoverished yet pride-rich Kuki. But of late, driven by the economics of day-to-day survival in a slippery insecure world with hunger gnawing at their vitals, beggars can no more be choosers. The jhum-fields used to be the main source of sustenance.
The woe for the man-with-the-hoe is compounded further by the generational curse of supreme authority of orthodox-chiefship over village-land that Christianity and democracy could not undo. The under-current of this mental rebellion against denial to possess individual permanent land-holding on the part of the average inhabitant resulted in village-shifting or creation of many more smaller villages. The casualties are horticultural plants and dwelling-houses. The former never grow fully and the latter are dismantled frequently.
Education: Fear-psychosis, internal, external and imaginary, coupled with inherent migratory mindset, made many Kuki-families hop from one district or town to another at regular intervals. In certain cases, going bag and baggage from one place to another only meant jumping out of the proverbial frying pan to the fire. In the mad rush to locate suitable venue of problem-free settlement, children’s education had been soft-pedalled. Rolling stones gather no moss. Students-on-the-move, continually, gather no knowledge.
Travel expenses burn big holes in parental pockets. Cost of studies goes up year after year. In a grouping-centre of communal-clashes-survived displaced Kukis, no money could be spared to educate one’s bunch of unschooled kids. So, one had to adopt a unique unheard-of system. Puppies were offered for admission to nursery class and piglets for class 1. Strange but that is the stark reality that we should double-click in our thoughts and not delete in the process of executing great plans to achieve literacy for all.
Youth Unrest and Parental Worry: Despite setbacks at home and elsewhere, hope springs eternal in the Kuki-family. There is a dogged determination to see, at least, the eldest son, if not daughter, graduate and yield high like the high-yielding variety of paddy. But the soil is bad in certain cases and in others, the thorns around the plant choke academic growth. Deprived of proper spiritual grounding, with the boundary lines of good and evil becoming increasingly blur, some misguided youths born out of the curse of Genesis 3:16 (I will multiply thy sorrow…) and whose upbringing could not be impacted by the remedial prescription of John 3:16, opted for deadly 16s.
In a bid to steer their children’s future clear out of ceasefire but cease-less-fear affairs, on behalf of family’s bread and jam, high-aiming heads of families had sent their wards to the safer academic environs in the big metros of the country. If by chance, the wards attain degrees out there in restriction-free cities that would be a surprise bonus. Who says Kuki daddies are too poor to support studies? That monthly salaries, pensions and property are either sold or mortgaged for the education compatriots get without doing ditto, of course, is the sad debt-tale of many Kuki homes.
Cultural Subordination: The level of self-respect and prestige percentage of an ordinary Kuki is at all-time low. There is no dearth of individual talent and achievers in the beleaguered community. Many hard-working personalities in the society, by sheer grit and slog, scaled heights as bureaucrats, technocrats, professionals, politicians and performers in the spiritual and private entrepreneurial sectors. But as an ethnic entity co-existing with many other communities in a plural society, the Kukis are far from getting the due share they deserve in terms of collective regard and respectability as a group of tribes.
Despite their strong presence in the twin border towns of Moreh and Tamu, for example, almost none outside their tribe speak Thadou/Kuki in the international market transactions. In government-run radio and television channel set-ups/programmes of Kuki-inhabited pockets of countries, states and districts, excepting the good coverage of gory blood-spill in 1993-94 tragedies, the slots allotted to the community are hardly proportionate to their population-size. The same can be said in the field of sports, job opportunities, medical facilities, recognition of merit, arts and culture in national and state media and institutions etc. But these lacking are too much of a bourgeoisie luxury for a, by and large, sub-nation of strugglers.
Blame It On Whom?: The problem lies not in the social set-up or the slowly geared up ethnic get-up, it lies squarely in the mental make-up typical of the anti-change Kuki mindset. A long chain of generational curses like son-centric daughter-belittling inheritance laws (that makes the proclamation of Numbers 27:8 null and void); irrationally irrelevant burden-attached Upa-system; feud-generating counter-productive fine-systems; tradition, and not God-honouring, close-kinship-non-disparaging marriage system that tilts heavily, not on Holy, but on folly marriages; emotional unbiblical sad-event observances (that runs counter to the divine plea of Matthew 5:44); a misleading misconceived mass-madness called Miss Kut-dependent Kut-fest; a disintegrating village administrative system that accelerates democratic norms in back-gear; the great commission-defying penchant to organise Churches on calculative clannish lines; the habitual weakness to rebel against the chief/Upa of a village/sub-clan and the chief’s myopic indifference to his subject’s suffering; the habit to beg from other Christian nations at the irreparable expense of ignoring the potential worth of their own human, natural and financial resources etc; etc.
Many more self-imposed curses garbed in the disguised attire of tradition and culture that exist in the Kuki sub-consciousness can be dug out. All said and done, they are the self-goal-scoring parameters of life that they voluntarily refuse to do without that unapologetically stand unmoved between what they should have been and what they actually are, today.
Modern-day Sanballats and Tobiahs: Pessimism seems to be fashionable these days. There is a tendency to pass stretched-to-the-hilt imaginary judgements on healthy initiatives in the community that readily believes bad things said about people they do not like. Every now and then, outstanding home-grown leaders exhibit sparks of visionary statesmanship. But thanks to the high-decibel negative wagging of twisted tongues, the sparks remain sparks, and not veritable rays, for lack of positive response.
In the same manner Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem had been severely criticised by the likes of Sanballat and Tobiah, vocal and practical attempts to restructure the destabilising social setbacks that made the Kukis comparatively small among the nations had been silenced by the echoing louder voice of envy, jealousy and one-upmanship at the wrong junctures of history. This accounts for the involuntary withdrawal of well-meaning futuristic out-of-the-box ideas for social change. The wrongs in the basics of concepts and systems need to be righted immediately. If one thinks that storeys of progress can be built upon faulty foundations, one may as well plant an oak tree in a flower pot and expect it to thrive.
Fresh Attempt to Rebuild: Knowing their kindred and fully aware that the implications of their visionary objectives will invite more brickbats that bouquets, leaders of the recently renamed and revamped Kuki Churches Fellowship International (KCFI), keeping their fingers crossed, floated the following ideals for their own folks to give a serious thought and make constructive suggestions through the common international internet media that the computer-literate intellectuals in the community share. Agreed that it had been said that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” But the point KCFI desires to drive home is that it is better to attempt and fail/succeed to bring about sustainable paradigm-shifting change than simply chicken out from giving it a try for fear of its ramifications.
Under the motto of C4K –Christ for Kukis, and the unflinching faith that only when we do what we can in tune with the principles of the Bible, God will do what we cannot do, in tune with the principles of His mercy, the proposed plans of action for the herded members of Kuki churches to cultivate are succinctly given hereunder:
1. To revive all Kuki Churches through the media, Revival meetings, Seminars, Bible camps and follow-up ministries.
2. To emotionally integrate church-folks through triennial fellowships.
3. To improve living standards through hard work and proper utilisation of natural, human and financial resources.
4. To live in peace with all our neighbours. Forgive and forget past incidents.
5. To set right the basics of social structures and cursed systems.
6. To have a loose fellowship of all Kuki churches with the autonomy of the Local Church in mind. Local churches to be lightly herded under KCFI-fold.
7. To confess individual, family and community sins in organised prayer sessions.
8. To glorify and honour God in marriages and every sub-national observance and celebration like Kut fest.
9. To appreciate, recognise and promote talent and merit through Gospel Awards.
10. To improve infrastructure, connectivity, Literature, human development indicators and productivity sectors through passionate prayer and righteous living.
Coclusion: Almost every Kuki is a Christian. Every Christian has a potent weapon in prayer, faith in the Almighty and claiming the promises of God. Nehemiah confessed national and corporate sins of his ancestors and God moved the king’s heart to pave the way for him to go to his land and rebuild. Sinless Daniel confessed the sins of his forefathers. Heaven heard the sincere prayer and quickened to end the Babylonian ordeal and sent the chosen people back to where they were promised.
We have truce presently. There is no peace today in our land, more so in our hearts. In this Christmas season, Jesus, the prince of peace, from His heavenly throne, desires that we repent, confess our sins, throw away evil practices and totally rely upon the promises of the scripture. On our own, using human skills and know-how, we could not bring healing and peace to our surroundings. If we obey the Word, the promise in Leviticus 26:6 can be all ours to reap: “And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beast out of the land; neither shall the sword go through your land.”
Our shattered society is akin to the wrong-click-propelled dislocated group of words in an MS-Word format that cannot be pieced together with ignorant clicks here and there. But if we collectively pray and entrust our Lord to do the seemingly impossible things for us, He will surely restore peace and orderliness in our partisan and mentally-partitioned community in the same way a click at the undo icon easily puts words together again. The stumbling block in the word IMPOSSIBLE is IM.
The writer, burdened by the pricking realities in our difficult existence or subsistence in an otherwise flourishing mess between two poles, jots down his profound thoughts in rhymed verses, for all like-minded fellow-Kukis to read and act upon:
C4K: CHRIST FOR KUKIS
1. Where there’s no vision, people perish,
Where there’s no will-of-God, widows increase;
My own folks, you love one another,
Says our good Lord and God the father;
Love of land, tribe and self is greater,
Among the nations, we are smaller.
In a bid to build church of own choice
Coz each wants to lead own fold’s sad voice;
Church-folks who once sang in one accord,
Are now split followers of one Lord;
That we may regain spiritual strength,
The binding KCFI, let’s all make ours.
2. We may be parted by land borders,
Maybe we’re bound by rules and orders;
But, like the trees, our roots of origin
And branches, in Christ are enjoined;
That the poor and deprived may get well,
Let’s put to use might of the Gospel.
3. To be stewards, on earth we were kept,
To be honoured in God, we were left;
But we swap His will with vain passions,
We’re below our due among nations,
Wake up, let’s cease to for Christ seize land,
Let Christ for Kukis be the peace-chant.
The writer is additional deputy commissioner under Manipur government and currently posted in Moreh, India.