AMCO’s Peace Efforts During the Kuki-Naga Conflict, 1992–1994

Published on April 30, 2010

By Lal Dena

“Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country, language or custom. They do not live in cities of their owns; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life. They have a share in everything as citizens”. – Cyrial Richardson

Formation of AMCO:

Deeply aware of the need for a single church organization encompassing all the different denominational churches in Manipur and the urgency of its affiliation to other national Christian organizations in view of newly emerging critical issues in society, some prominent church leaders met at the Manipur Baptist Convention (MBC) conference hall on February 28, 1989 at 11 a.m. Rev. Douzapou Haokip and Rev. W. Roel presided over the meeting as chairman and secretary respectively and after a prayerful and minute discussion, the meeting decided to form an action committee called “All Manipur Christian Action Committee (AMCAC).”

In its second meeting at the same place on March 6, 1989, the AMCAC constituted its office bearers as follows: Rev. Douzapao Haokip, president ; Rev. R.R. Lolly, vice  president; Rev. N. Kaizanang, general secretary; John Wungreithei, assistant general secretary; H. Touthang, treasurer and H. Thumthang, accountant. Later on, Kungsong Wanbe replaced John Wungreithei as the latter had to leave Imphal.

The first thing the AMCAC did was organize a silent procession of about 5,000 people in Imphal on March 13, 1989 in protest against the atrocities committed by the 21st Assam Rifle to Christian workers and innocent villagers in one district of Manipur. The public meeting held at Khuman Lampak, which was presided over by Rev. R.R. Lolly and addressed by Fr. Devassy Pundussarry, Rev. W. Roel and Pr. Y.D. Luikham, resolved to send a memorandum to the president and the prime minister of India highlighting discriminatory actions meted out against Christians in the state of Manipur.

As the AMCAC started its work in right earnest, there were suggestions from different quarters for change of its name and the All Manipur Christian Organization (AMCO) was adopted on July 4, 1989 with its office at the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Mission at Chingmeirong, Imphal.

The organization was registered under the Society Act of 1860 with the following objectives: (a) to protect the member churches from social injustices, false allegations and accusations, illegal practices, attacks and counter-attacks from within and without: (b) to create a healthy environment conducive to mutual understanding and cooperation among the Christian community irrespective of race, caste or creed; (c) to fight against communalism in order to bring about harmonious and peaceful co-existence and brotherly neighbourhood; (d) to fight against corruption of any kind and at any level in society and help the government suppress illegal trafficking in drugs and contraband items; (e) to set up a common platform for redressal of the grievances of Christians and act as a liaison between the people and the government as good citizens; (f) to encourage the existing church bodies and para–church bodies to do and extend mutual help to one another for the promotion of better Christian understanding and co-operation; (g) to safeguard and  protect the properties of the Christian churches, moveable and unmovable from illegal requisition and demolition and, (h) to coordinate relief measures of any kind in order to assist victims of natural calamities and accidents in consultation and collaboration with other Christian agencies and government machineries.

AMCO’s Peace Efforts: 

The most serious challenge that AMCO faced was the Kuki–Naga conflict (1992-94) which threatened brotherhood and religious fraternity among the Christian communities particularly between the Kukis and Nagas in Manipur. Despite their claim of being Christians, they committed many inhuman atrocities and even massacres on each other besides burning of hundreds of villages thereby rendering as many as 31,547 persons homeless.

To diffuse the tense situation and fear-psychosis which gripped the two communities, the AMCO leadership convened an emergency meeting at the MBC hall on September 25, 1992 and condemned fresh incidents of killings at Moreh, Ukhrul, Senapati, Chandel, Tangkhul Avenue, Imphal, and Pallel. The meeting also made fervent appeals to the warring communities and Christian communities that (a) all past wrongs of the communities concerned should be forgotten and forgiven in the name of Christ, their common Lord and Saviour; (b) the Christian members in Manipur in general and the Christians in Imphal area in particular were to observe social harmony and genuine Christian fellowship among them by not yielding to false rumours; (c) all Christians were to refrain from all kinds of political and social conflicts which might bring tension and discord in their fellowship and relationship; (d) all Christians of Manipur, regardless of their denominational affiliation, were to observe a special day of mass prayer for peace and understanding among all communities in the state on October 4, 1992, Sunday morning, from 7 a.m. in their respective chapels and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at MBCC Centre Church, and all Christians in the hill districts were to observe this mass prayer on October 11, 1992 Sunday, at all the district headquarters.

The AMCO leadership further resolved that the government be requested to investigate the root cause of all these troubles and disturbances and to bring about justice and peace among the people of the state. Along with this request, the AMCO also set up a Peace Committee consisting of (a) Rev. Hawlngam Haokip; (b) Rev. S.K. Hokey; (c) Rev. A. Rockey; (d) Rev. Douzapao Haokip; (e) Kungsong Wanbe; (f) H.D. Joy; (g) Rev. Vanlalchhunga; (h) H. Thumthang; (i) Rev. Darsanglien Ruolngul and (j) Fr. Devassy Pundussarry. The members of the peace committee visited all district headquarters with copies of appeal letters for peace.

In spite of AMCO’s best efforts, the situation did not improve. Fresh burning of villages and killings continued at several places. Realizing the fact that the underground elements of both groups were behind all these troubles, the AMCO leadership decided to make a direct appeal to the underground brothers to have a serious rethinking on the futility of violence and sought at least a temporary truce on the following points: (a) to stop killing and torturing innocent civilians and extortion immediately; (b) to stop burning of houses and villages; (c) to resolve the conflict through dialogue based on justice and truth; (d) to reflect on the fact that they were all the children of the same God; (e) to create a fear and tension free atmosphere so that all displaced persons could go back to their respective villages in peace.

At the same time, AMCO approached both the state and central governments, the North East India Christian Organization for Relief and Development (NEICORD), the Catholic Relief Society (CRS) and U.N. agencies like the World Food Programme (WFO) for relief, rehabilitation and fund for the victims of the conflict.

On September 28, 1993, a Goodwill Mission from the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India (CBCNEI), Guwahati, met the leaders of the United Naga Council (UNC) and the Kuki Inpi, Manipur (KIM), including members of the AMCO Peace Committee for immediate restoration of normalcy and unconditional ceasefire on October 2, 1993. The same representatives met again at the Bishop’s House, Mantripuhkri, Imphal the next day with John Joseph, National Minorities Commission, government of India and decided to apprise of the prime minister of India by highlighting the following points: (a) failure of the state machinery to maintain peace and order in the state; (b) in case the security forces launched “Operation October”, utmost care must be taken not to cause unwarranted harassment and sufferings to the innocent masses; (c) adoption of non-partisan and neutral attitude free from political vendetta; (d) immediate release of adequate compensation to the victims of the conflict for loss of lives and property and rehabilitation of displaced persons; (e) provision of adequate protection to all cultivators in all vulnerable villages for a peaceful harvest; and (f) creation of lasting peace in the state. Further, on the initiative of John Joseph, the Kuki and Naga leaders met separately and jointly agreed in the presence of the chief minister and the governor of the state on the following points:

1. There should be a “peace period” for three months.
2. To enable the members to contact the contending parties, two weeks’ time should be given.
3. The modus operandi for going about to contact the concerned persons should be worked out separately.
4. The government was to give all help and assistance such as vehicles and finance as and when required.
5. Security forces and police personnel must maintain absolute impartiality in dealing with the two warring communities.
6. No Kuki or Naga armed forces and policemen be deployed in the affected areas.
7. Substantial ex-gratia and compensation should be given to the affected families by the government immediately.
8. The public roads and highways, both national and state, should be
effectively made free and the safety of passengers be ensured by the state government.
9. Return of displaced persons to their original places be ensured by the government to enable them to harvest their paddy during the “peace period.”

With limited manpower and resources, AMCO left no stones unturned to implement the points of agreement in letter and spirit. With relief aid in cash or in kind from different churches, individuals, NGOs, government and international agencies, AMCO visited all the refugee camps in all the hill districts, consoled the injured in different hospitals with gifts and prayers all through the period of the conflict.

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) in cooperation with the North East India Christian Council (NEICC) also visited Manipur three times to help resolve the conflict. Aware of the ineffectiveness of appeals and rallies, the AMCO leadership in its meeting with the representatives of the NCCI on April 3, 1994 at Hotel Ashoka, Imphal decided to meet the underground leaders of both groups personally.

15.3 Concluding Comments:

In conclusion, it may be pointed out that the two communities involved in the conflict are almost cent percent Christians and the majority of them are Baptists by denomination. But in so far as the practice of Christian love is concerned, it appears that our ethnic loyalty tends to outweigh our Christian loyalty. There is an ethno-centric streak in all of us which requires the grace of God to overcome. What is therefore demanded of a true Christian and Christian leadership is an uncompromising commitment to a ministry of peace and justice whatever may be the cost. Christian discipleship does not mean passivity. It means constant and continuous involvement and participation in the process of liberation of man from violence and oppression; guilt and distress. This is, according to Martin Stohr, an essential part of discipleship, even if discipleship often fails. To quote Martin Stohr, “it is not that failure that incurs guilt, but the failure even to attempt discipleship.”

References:

1. AMCO bulletin, 26 November 1993.
2. The memorandum of association of the AMCO, 1993.
3. Appeal letter of the AMCO Peace Committee, 30 September 1992.
4. An appeal for peace from the AMCO Peace Committee, 21 July 1993.
5. Proceedings of the AMCO meeting, 27 July 1993.
6. Proceedings of the AMCO emergency meeting, 23 September 1993.
7. Memorandum to the prime minister of India, 30 September 1993.
8. Proceedings of the AMCO joint worship and prayer services, 3 April 1994.

The writer, author of eight books and numerous articles, is a professor at the history department in Manipur university, India. He was also president of Northeast India History Association, visiting professor at Dibrugarh University, Assam, and visiting fellow at Korea Foundation, South Korea.

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