Kuki-Meitei Connection and Relationship
By Letkhosei Haokip
According to William Shaw in his book, 'The Thadou Kukis' (1929:47-48) (op cit) "There was a girl by the name of 'Lenghoi or Nungmaidenga', a Chohte clan of the Kukis, who fell in love with a large ***** which resided near the village. To others the ***** appeared as a ***** but to the girl it was a very handsome young man. Eventually she became pregnant by the ***** and a male child was born to her.
He grew up and all spoke of him as fatherless at which he used to be ashamed. His mother told him not to mind but to go and make friends with his father the *****. The boy was not afraid and met the ***** whom he caught by the neck and the ***** told him many wonderful things that were to happen to the boy. The boy then went and told his mother of this and she gave eggs to perform the "Ahtuisan". When searching for a new site upon which he was to make a new village.
He tried 'Langthabal' first but the omen was not auspicious, so then he went to the middle of the valley where, performing the 'Ahtuisan', the result was excellent; so he made a village there and thus the Manipuris were originated".
TC Hodson's 'The Meitheis' (1908:100) also had stated this ***** Pakhangba@Lairen
Pakhangba, (son of the Kuki woman and *****) as the ancestor of the Ningthouja clan of the Meitheis (Meiteis) to which the Maharaja of Manipur belongs. It is on this account that the Meetei/ Meitei who forms the majority and inhabit the plain areas of Manipur but has significant difference is included in the Kuki fold by the anthropologists and the Linguistic Survey of India.
The legendary folk tales of the Kukis all centred on Manipur since time immemorial. Many Kuki folklore and folktales associated with the 'word' "Guun Luidung" or 'Imphal River'. The bridge over the Imphal River known as 'Sanjenthong' is called as 'Lenchonghoi Lei' by the Kukis. A Kuki folktale about 'Lenchonghoi & Khalvompu' centred on Manipur Hills of present day Laijang region of Tamenglong district and the valleys.
To brief the story of 'Lenchonghoi & Khalvompu', it goes like this. While Lenchonghoi's seven brothers had gone out for work, Khalvompu, in the absence of the brothers, forcibly took away Lenchonghoi. While returning home after work and not finding their sister at home, the seven brothers came running in search of their sister.
From a distance, they saw Khalvompu carrying their sister in his arm crossing the 'Guun Lui' or Imphal River in the midst of strong water currents. Khalvompu being a supernatural human being could easily cross the river, whereas the seven human brothers of Lenchonghoi, could not do so. As time rolled on, when a bridge was built upon this river, it came to be known as 'Lenchonghoi Lei' a symbolic of the place where the seven brothers missed the chance of recapturing their beloved sister from the clutch of an extra ordinary man (Khalvompu).
There are so many Kuki folktales relating to the Thangting/Thangjing range and Haosapi range of present Churachandpur, Koubru range in Kangpokpi and Laijang area of Tamenglong. The foot prints of a Kuki king and legendary hero 'Galngam' (470-573 A.D) can be clearly seen on the rocks at Kolchung-Kolnoi region at present Leimata power house area.
Historical Connection and Co-operation:
In the traditional literature of the Meitei people of Manipur, "The pooyas" 'two Kuki Chiefs named Kuki Ahongba and Kuki Achouba were allies to Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, the first historically recorded king of the Meithis (Meiteis), in the latter's mobilisation for the throne in 33 AD'.  The Royal Chronicles of the Meitei Kings (Cheitharol Kumbaba ) records that in the year 186 Sakabda (AD 264) Meidungu Taothingmang, a Kuki, became king.
The Burmese repeatedly invaded Manipur in 1775, 1758 and 1765. "At the time of the Burmese invasion, (op cit), the Raja of Manipur fled for protection to the house of Khongsat Kuki's father where he ate 'Ga' (beans) only for several months. When the Burmses left the valley he returned home with Khongsat's father and Kaikholal Kuki. So the Manipuris have always treated the Kukis with respect since then". 
However, it is sad to tell that in 1862 Nehlam (1840-1862 A.D), a Haokip clansmen chieftain, within the territory of Chahsat kingdom, went to pay his respects to the Raja and the then Political Agent. He was given warm reception by the Raja and the Political Agent respectively. However the Kuki king was informed to re-visit the Konung, where he was murdered by the Raja at the most humiliating manner.
According to William Shaw, the murder conspiracy was hatched on the ground of disliking relationship built up with the political agent by the former.
All the followers of Nehlam were taken alive as captives. The Sougaijam Clans among the Meiteis is stated as the descendants of 'Sokhojam/Suokhojam', a Singson-Kuki clansman, who was among the captives. Edward T. Dalton in his book, The Native Races of India: Tribal History of Eastern India (1978:51) has tremendously appreciated The Meiteis for having a tradition of treating captives or slaves as family members with kindness and consideration.
During Ngameingam or Chandra Kirti Singh Raja's ruled, he attacked Kamhau, the Sukte Chief of Molbem. Thangkhohen Kuki, chief of Sangnao sent the chief of Bijang, his brother with 1000 Kukis to help Ngameingam. However, victory was on the part of the latter. At this (op cit), 'the Raja was weeping on the banks of the 'Gun' (Imphal) river at such disgrace when one Chongja Kuki taking pity on him fired off his gun before the Raja and said "The Raja shall not die until I, Chongja, am first killed by the Raja's enemy". This cheered up the Raja, and the followers of Chongja having made a 'Vaileng' (cane suspension bridge) got the Raja safely across and into safety'. 
William Shaw also stated that 'When Chandra Kirti was about to die, he directed that the custom of inheritance as among the Thadou-Kukis was to be observed in the future and so elected his eldest son to be the Raja after him in token of all the help the Kukis had given him'. The Meitei custom seemed formerly to have been the throne to pass from the elder to the youngest brother, and then to the eldest son of the latter and so on, and not, as one would expect, back to the eldest brother's children.
In 1949, the Meitei Maharaja or Ningthou (Chief) was asked to sign the Merger Agreement to include Manipur within the Indian Union by Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the then Home Minister.
The Kuki chiefs opposed this move because of apprehensions that it would entail ceding Kuki territory to India, which was administered by the British along with Meitei people's territory, comprising the valley historically called Manipur. In opposition to the merger agreement and to lend support to the Meitei Ningthou, who was initially reluctant to sign the merger agreement, over 250 Kuki warriors were deployed at the palace gate by the Kuki chiefs. However, the Ningthou yielded to the pressures of a fiercely demonstrating groups and signed the merger of Manipur at Shillong on 15 October 1949. 
It is on this account that the Meitei Maharajas gifted a portion of their palace compound to the Chassad Haokip King, on a very meagre amount, where the Haokip-Kukis resided till date in that particular place called 'Haokip Veng' near Palace compound. Likewise it is on the same footing that the Meiteis are entitled to be an organising member and participants of 'Chavang Kut' celebrations of the Kuki people.
Over and above this, the Haokip King of 'Chassad Kulpi' (Chassad Kingdom) had maintained cordial relationships with various consecutive Meitei Rajas. The Chassad King was carried on a palanquin by his majesty's servants from Chassad of Ukhrul upto Imphal Konung or palace from time to time to meet the Meitei Maharajas.
Post Independent Kuki-Meitei Relationship:
Social Relationship: The bond of connection and relationship between the Kukis and the Meiteis during the Pre-Independent Era still has its great significance in the Post-Independent Period too. Mention may be made of the declaration of Kuki Festival "Chavang Kut" as state holiday and the subsequent participation and material-financial contribution made by the Meitei communities at Kut celebrations.
In regards to social organisations and their relationship, the Kuki Students' Organisation (KSO) and Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM); and the All Manipur Students' Union (AMSU), MSF, DESAM etc, and AMUCO, UCM, Apunba Lup, AMKIL, NIPCO, IPSA etc have mutual co-operation and understanding. This clearly bears the testimony of the 'flavour' of Kuki-Meitei connection and relationships.
The appreciation of Edward T. Dalton (1978:51) on the Meiteis for their kindness and consideration even to captives and slaves is worth mentioning in their mass social philanthrophic activities towards the Kuki refugees of 1990s. The mass exodus of Kuki refugees from NSCN-IM's 'Ethnic Cleansing Operation of 1990s' were given shelter and lodging by brethren Meiteis, for weeks and some places for months.
Mistakes to Forgive and Forget:
However, it is a sad story to relate that on wrong assumption, the Raja of Kangleipak murdered the Haokip-Kuki king Nehlam (1840-1862) in 1862, who went to pay his respects to the Raja himself and the then Political Agent. Some of the post independent era episodes are the mass raping of 21 Hmar-Kuki women of Tipaimukh area on 16 January 2006 by some valley-based insurgent groups.
The subsequent laying of landmines in the Khengjoi-Samtal areas of Chandel district, resulting to the death and maiming of 47 people is another event. The last but not the least is the abduction of 500 Kukis from Laijang Village of Chandel district to Myanmar on 13 March 2007, in collaboration with SPDC troops.
Manipur originally known as 'Kangleipak' which is said to be a 'Golden Land' as the saying goes, "Manipur Sana Leipak, Chingna Koina Pan Saba, Haona Koina Pan Ngakpah", is the ancestral home of the Meiteis, Kukis and Nagas. Mention may be made of the historical records during the pre-independent era that the Meitei Rajas governed the valley and the Kuki Kings and Chiefs ruled the hills for generations, since B.C 19 till 1919 A.D.
As have already stated, the term "Kuki" began from 33 A.D. The 'Pooyas', the traditional literature of the Meitei people of Manipur, mentioned 'two Kuki Chiefs named Kuki Ahongba and Kuki Achouba, who were allies to Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, the first historically recorded king of the Meithis (Meiteis), in the latter's mobilisation for the throne in 33 A.D'.
The Royal Chronicles of the Meitei Kings (Cheitharol Kumbaba ) records that in the year 186 Sakabda (A.D. 264) Meidungu Taothingmang, a Kuki, became king. During the era from B.C 700- 30 A.D, the Kuki people were known as Manmasi/ Manmasis. Mention may be made of the existence of the first Manmasi Khongsai-Kuki kingdom, under Chongphut@Chongpu
(B.C 19-70 A.D).
As such, it is imperative to say that it would be proper to look back at our past histories, so as to make our state a peaceful and tranquility state for its entire people indiscriminate of caste, creed or religion.
Notes & References:
Willian Shaw, The Thadou Kukis (1929), ( Cultural Publishing House, Delhi, Reprint), 1983
TC Hodson's 'The Meitheis' (1908:100)
The Linguistic Survey of India, vol. III, pt. iii & M.K. Bhasin, Genetics of Castes and Tribes of India: Indian Population Milieu (1983), classifies'Meitei' as Kuki dialect or language.
D. Lunghnema, The Mizo History Series III, (Mizo Chanchin), (Zotlang Press, Aizawl,), 1993
NP Rakung (Reader), 'Letter to the Editor' in "The Telegraph, (17 January 1994, Imphal).
Sehkhomang Singson, Bethel village, Churachandpur district, Manipur.
Edward T. Dalton, The Native Races of India: Tribal History of Eastern India (1978
P.S Haokip, The Kuki People, (©2006 www.asiantribune.com
) & (www.kukiforum.com
) webcasted on 15 March 2005@)
S.M.A.W Chisti, Political Development in Manipur:1919-1949,(2005), ISBN 10-8178354241, ISBN 13-9788178354248).
Holkhomang Haokip, Founding Committee member of Modern KUT (Chavang Kut) celebration.
Thangpu Haokip, Kingkin Village, Churachandpur district, Manipur. (An elderly former resident of Akhan village, Nagaland, shifted to Manipur during 1990s).
Sources: The Sangai Express, "Assembly Decides to Inquire CCpur 'Mass Rape' Allegations",(8 March, 2006, Imphal).
Seilen Haokip, Rhetorics of Kuki Nationalism: A Treatise, 2010
The writer is a research scholar in Manipur University, India.