The Impact of Christian mission and British Colonialism among the Kuki People in North East India

Published on March 4, 2012

M. Thongkhosei Haokip*


One of the most oft-quoted and perhaps very influential speeches during the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh 1910 was made by the South Indian priest V.S. Azariah. In his concluding statement he pleaded: “Through all the ages to come the Indian church will rise up in gratitude to attest the heroism and self-denying labours of the missionary body. You have given your goods to feed the poor. You have given your bodies to be burned. We also ask for love. Give us friends!”[1] A century later, Edinburgh 2010 concluded with a Common Call in which “Transforming the meaning of mission means that God’s mission calls all people to work together for healing and justice in partnerships of mutuality and respect.”

The above statement echoes the heartbeat of the Kukis in Manipur of north east Indiawho had been evangelized by the western missionaries in the early nineteenth century. The Kukis become who or what they are due to the missionaries for which there is no word fit enough to express their gratefulness. While saying so, a time has come to critically assess the impact of the combined relationship of Christian mission and power unleashed by the colonial administration. Most recently, the ethnic genocide in Manipur saw the death and destruction of hundreds of people and properties worth of lakhs during the 1990’s disturbingly brought about by Christians killing other Christians. This misuse of power – power over the other – has led to harm, sin and alienation. The international council organising the Edinburgh 2010 conference identified this very issue as one of the pressing mission themes of ‘mission and power’[2] for our generation.[3]

The purpose of this paper is to show how mission and power were being used and misused both by missionaries and colonialists to the detriment of the Kuki community in Manipur. The writer is well aware of the fact that blaming the missionaries and the colonial British alone for their state of affairs will not help change their status quo. However, as a historian, my task is to present the facts as it is. It is for the people concerned to take steps to remedy their situation in the best possible way. Further, this is not to undermine the contribution of the mission toward the upliftment of the people, but to point out areas where the present and future missionaries can make good lessons from the past mistakes which is also one of the purposes of history.

I.  A Brief Historical background of the Kukis:

The State of Manipur in Northeast India is home to three main communities, Kukis, Nagas and Meiteis. The Meitei people belong to the valley of Manipur, and Kukis and Nagas to the surrounding hills. Manipur was formerly a princely state with a Meitei king whose influence prevailed in the plains. The Kukis are one of the earliest settlers in India. Based on accounts of the Pooyas, the traditional literature of the Meitei people of Manipur, since AD 33, when ‘two Kuki Chiefs named Kuki Ahongba and Kuki Achouba were allies to Nongba Lairen Pakhangba, the first historically recorded king of the Meithis [Meiteis], in the latter’s mobilisation for the throne in 33 AD.’[4] Accounts of historians, such as Majumdar and Bhattasali suggest that the Kukis as the earliest people known to have lived in prehistory India, preceding ‘the “Dravidians” who now live in South India.’[5]

The Kuki people of Manipur today are one of the tribes that may have been most affected by the interplay of mission and power that led them to disorganization and disintegration. The present condition in which the Kukis found themselves can hardly remind that these people were the same people who had played proud roles in their history. A people, whose past had been a story of chieftains, warlords, with full of heroic struggles and selfless sacrifice, were now degraded into obscurity and ignominy. Denied of their place they deserved, their very existence has in recent times been threatened.

Following the colonial flag, the Cross came to Manipur during the later part of the nineteenth century. It was brought to the Kuki people of Manipur by two separate mission, The Arthington Aborigenes Mission, later succeeded by American Baptist Mission (ABM) through William Pettigrew[6] in the North in 1896, and the independent Welsh Mission called the Indo-Burma Thadou-Kuki Pioneer Mission (IBTKPM), later changed to North-East India General Mission (NEIGM), and recently changed to Evangelical Congregational Church of India (ECCI), through Watkin R. Roberts[7] in the Southern part of Manipur in 1910. Churches and Christian communities are established and associations and conventions were formed as a result of their mission work.

II.  Mission(aries) having colonialist mind/attitude toward others

The founding of the Manipur pioneer non-denominational mission was a fulfillment of Watkin R. Robert’s long cherished dream. At the same time, it was also the beginning of a trouble for him and the mission work in Manipur. For the first time in the history of mission work in Manipur, the missions had to undergo a long-drawn conflict between the American Baptist Mission in the north and the newly founded independent Pioneer mission in the south from the beginning of the year 1910.

Though Pettigrew himself was a victim of the colonial power in the beginning, he later collaborated with them for his survival and also other vested interests. The Baptist Mission had considered the entire state as exclusively theirs and was not pleased with the newly established mission. Not only that, Pettigrew, an Englishman who was also a former member of the Church of England that has connection with the State. Taking advantage of his rights and privileges, Pettigrew put pressure on the state government. The political agent thus refused to grant permission to Roberts who was a Welsh (and not an Englishman) to open another mission. It was anticipated that the presence of another centre besides the Baptist mission would antagonise the native Rajah and his ‘darbar’, and that no mission should disturb the established law and order. It is probable that the political agent who in turn ordered Roberts’ men to leave the village warned the chief of Senvon. However, they resisted and refused to leave.[8]

The problem was further compounded by the resettlement of villagers in Mizoram to the south district of Manipur from time to time. In 1911 some 50 households of Letzakai village moved to Tuithaphai (KhugaValley, Manipur) where three Christian families converted by the Welsh Mission joined the Thadou-Kuki Pioneer Mission. Another group consisting of nearly 150 families of Mizoram came and settled near Saikot in Manipur and named their hamlet as Khopibung. [9]  This village invited Roberts who came and built a chapel and a school for them. Through these ministries the number of Christians increased and spread to villages like Hlanbung, Gelmol, Singkangphai (Thingkangphai), Bualtang, Maite, etc.[10]

When these developments came to the notice of Rev. Pettigrew, he tried to put a stop to this mission. He therefore put pressure on the government by recalling the agreement reached with the Rajah of Manipur where no one but ABMcould preach the Christian faith in the state. Accordingly, during the Annual Conference of the presbytery held in 1914, an order was issued by the President of Manipur state darbar and handed over to Roberts asking him to quit Manipur. But when Roberts did not comply with the order, the political agent of Manipur Major Cole issued another order in 1915 to Roberts’ associate Rev. H. Dala `not to work in the state and leave it’.[11]  Following a series of arguments, Rev.H. Dala reluctantly agreed in principle but not in practice. So with the increasing expansion of Christianity in the surrounding villages, a severe order was issued by the state government to drive out Christians from their villages and also dismantle their houses, which took place in 1924. The Christian villagers fled to the TKPM Head Quarter at Tingsuongkhua for fear of these atrocities inflicted upon them. But when the news of persecution against Christians reached the notice of the Governor of Assam it was called off. The government instead, ordered an inquiry as the incidents were viewed seriously by the British government who had granted religious liberty to its entire people.[12]

After extended and not very friendly discussions between the two missions a sort of gentleman’s agreement was forced upon them by Col. Cole in which a boundary between the Baptist and the pioneer mission was drawn at the Manipur-Cachar road.[13] But this seemed to solve a temporary problem as the evangelists under the TKPM were said to trespass on many occasions such as in Moirang and Mombi areas. A revised boundary was drawn to this effect.[14] But this too became ineffective with the rise of other missions. Moreover, Pettigrew prevailed on the political agent to prohibit Roberts from entering the state or carrying on work. Thus, Roberts had to rely on native workers. Pettigrew made a hasty trip to the south and even offered the pioneer mission workers double the wages but did not have any takers.[15]

III.  Mission(aries) as active agents of the Empire

Often the missionaries acted as agents of the empire in various ways. Pettigrew was made Superintendent of Schools for the whole of Manipur. Downsnoted that his service to the government also gave him an influence which stood the mission in good stead as his continuance in Manipur depended upon the goodwill of the government.[16] He was also appointed as superintendent of the first real census of the hill tribes (1910-1911) due to the fact that the only one who knew the language of the hill tribes usually was the missionary. He and his school teachers along with some senior students successfully carried out the census. This exercise enabled him and his colleagues to explore more of the areas he had not visited earlier which were considered to be a gain. However, his close proximity with the government made people to think that he was a salaried government servant (and not a poor missionary independent of the colonial government).[17]

During the First World War, efforts were on to enlist tribals for labour corps from Manipur. Manipur being under their rule, the British wanted as many labours as they could find. H.J. Higgins, the president of the Manipur State Durbar was entrusted to organize a contingent for the labour corps in France. However, when Higgins failed in his mission, the political agent asked the help of Pettigrew who had supervised the mission work from Guwahati. Pettigrew became active in recruiting the labour corps in which he could muster a strong contingent of 2000 men, of whom 1200 were from the Tangkhul Nagas.[18] The Christian Kukis had not only sided with the government but also influence some of the non-Christian Kukis to join in the war effort. About 500 non-Christian Kukis joined the war efforts due to the efforts given by Ngulhao Kuki, a native evangelist.[19] Six Christian workers and students including Ngulhao Kuki served as interpreters under Pettigrew who was appointed as a commissioned officer in the British army in India. Pettigrew was later awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind silver medal and war medal in recognition of his ‘distinguished public and military service during the war’.[20]

Soon after the war in France, the colonial government turned its attention to avenge on the Kukis for their defiance of the government’s dictat to enlist them as labour corps. In this effort, Dr. Crozier, a medical missionary of the American Baptist Mission Society, volunteered himself as medical officer in the Kuki Punitive Measures from June 1918-1919. His purpose was, according to Lal Dena, to win the favour and confidence of the state durbar that refused to permit his entry as more than two missionaries were not allowed to work in the state at the time.[21]

The active participation of missionaries in the government’s scheme bore fruit for the mission. Until the First World War the mission station was in Ukhrul. But the increase of converts and establishment of more and more Churches in many areas of Manipur necessitated finding a more central location of the mission for easier communication and speedy supervision. Though the state Durbar had strongly opposed mission extension, yet, by virtue of the services of Pettigrew towards the global war as officer in the British army and also recruiting a Labour Corps for France, and Dr Crozier who served as Government medical officer during the Kuki Rebellion, the mission was given permission to purchase
land at Kangpokpi on the Imphal-Dimapur road and also financial support amounting to Rs 2,000 to be granted annually for mission work.[22]

IV.  Mission(aries) exacerbate ethnic divide among converts

Conflicts between the Naga and Kuki in Manipur seemed to have existed during their pre-Christian and pre-modern period. Downsseems to toy the Naga line that the problem started when the nomadic Kukis began to move into an area which the Nagas regarded as exclusively theirs. He further opined that the situation was intensified by two organized political movements – the Kuki Rebellion (Rising) of 1917-19 and the Kampai movement among the Zeliangrong Nagas ten years later.[23] According to Lal Dena, the Tangkhul Nagas who went to France as labour corps were again enlisted in the coolie sections of the Kuki Punitive Measures that was unleased for the chief purpose of suppressing the Kuki uprising.[24] Downs also supports this saying that following the Kuki Rebellion (Kuki War of Independence), during which many Nagas assisted the government in its operations against the Kukis that increased tension between the two communities.[25]

Not long after the relocation of the mission centre at Kangpokpi, differences arose between Rev. Pettigrew and Dr Crozier which were partly theological and partly personal antagonism. This eventually divides the state into two spheres of influence.[26] Alongside the mission, the work between the missionaries was divided. Pettigrew was made in-charge of education, North-East (Tangkhul) and Sadar Hills (Kuki) area while Dr. Crozier would look after the Dispensary (including Lepers’ Asylum) and the North-West (Zeliangrong and Kuki) areas.[27] This seemed to minimize the tension but did not eliminate it. In the early years the two communities sank their traditional hostility in a sense of common identity and the paramount significance of the evangelical task ahead of them. However, this fragile unity between them gives way to division on associational fragmentation. Downs observed: “A process begun for administrative purposes developed into divisions along tribal lines which later moved down to even the clan level.”[28]

The result was the development of tribal overtones mostly between the Kukis and Tangkhul Nagas where Dr Crozier had sided with the Kukis and Pettigrew with the Tangkhuls. The Baptists in Manipur held a conference at Ukhrul in 1917 for the first time, which was, attended both by the two tribal communities. From 1917 to 1928 all the Baptist Churches in Manipur were organised under the Manipur Christian Association (MCA). This was rechristened in 1928 as the Manipur Baptist Convention within which there were three associations, viz. North East Baptist Association (Tangkhuls and Kukis) Sadar Baptist Association (Tangkhuls and Kukis) and North-West Baptist Association (Zeliangrongs and Kukis) which were (initially) purely region-wise and never tribe-wise, consisting of members of both the Kuki and Naga communities of Manipur though one tribe tended to dominate in each. The NWBA had their first ever conference at Tujangwaichong in 1925.

However, the coming of World War II and subsequent Indian Independence brought a sea change in the life of the Manipur Churches. Tribalism emerged as an important factor and there became an increasing pressure for the formation of associations along tribal lines. As a result, a division came between the two communities at the Annual Standing Committee of the NWBA prompted by the feeling that the successors of Dr. Crozier favoured the Nagas of the NWBA which alienated the Kukis. Further, the missionary Rev.J.S. Andersonwas regarded as their missionary by the Kukis and was strongly resented by the Zeliangrongs within the NWBA. Thus, in spite the reconciliation efforts made by Anderson, Pakho Kuki and Seikholet Singson (Kuki), the final division took place and each formed their own associations.[29] According toDowns, the first to form a tribal association were the Kukis of NWBA, followed by the Tangkhuls under Manipur Baptist Association No.4, and other tribes such as Komrem, Chiru, Mao etc. as MBA No.7 and 8 respectively.Downs observed: “Their (Kukis) feeling that his successors favoured the Nagas of the North West Association was surely one of the factors leading to the formation of a separate association following the second World War”.

Downspointed out two events of the early years that are remembered by the Kuki (Baptist) Christians as having disrupted their development. The first was the school strike at Kangpokpi in 1924 and the subsequent closure for one year where most of the students were Kukis. Due to high-handedness of the then headmaster who was a Meitei, the students demanded his resignation. When the missionaries did not succumb to their demands, the students were the sufferers but that generated ill-feeling among the members of the tribe. The second was the resignation of  Dr. Crozier from the mission in 1932.[30] His departure was interpreted as a victory for the anti-Kuki forces associated with Pettigrew which made something of a traumatic experience for the Kukis.[31] Could it be that the ethnic conflict between the Naga-Kuki in Manipur in the 1990’s as the explosion of the accumulated unequal treatment and partiality practiced during that time?

V.  Mission(aries) vis-a-vis colonialists ruining local culture and traditions

As happened in many societies, the coming of the British colonialist-vis-à-vis mission has ruined the rich local cultures and tradition of the Kuki tribals. While there are very many positive impacts of the western-cultured Christianity vis-a-vis colonialism, it is not without problem whatsoever. This may be explained from political, social, economic and religious factors. Politically, it brought a wider nation-state political dimension which contributed to the erosion of traditional customary laws and norms.[32]

In the socio-cultural aspect, it is felt that the spread of the gospel was accompanied by a certain unhealthy individualism that is insensitive to Tomngaina principles expressed in social concern and justice. Also, though Christianity helped the tribals to cope with the process of modernization, it is at the same time, one of the factors responsible for the alienation of Kuki tribals from their culture.[33] Moreover, Kuki culture still has its roots in the customs and practices of marriage, inheritance and land ownership. Yet with the process of globalization, a significant shift is taking place in the perception of tribal culture. The Western-cultured Christianity has wiped out a whole way of life, erasing centuries of tradition, customs and wisdom. It has caused people to hold their own religion in contempt and look westwards to an alien culture. Modernity has brought in a new form of culture. People no longer sing traditional songs or dance since they are considered to be primitive and belong to an uncultured way of life.[34] Economically, it is followed by westernization in almost all areas such as dress, food, technology, medical etc., which are not only new but also foreign. As such it has destroyed their spirit of self-dependence as it has to look always for support from the west or elsewhere to sustain their newfound culture in all respects and thus suffered from economic exploitation and deterioration.

Whatever the colonialists failed to erase in the political, social and economic realm, the missionaries picked up and seemed to make sure that all that are left of the Kuki culture are ruined through the newfound religion. They did this through their otherworldly theological perspectives. The missionaries’ strong insistence on personal conversion unduly enhanced the value of humanity above creation. They perceived the salvation of human as the central theme of Christian mission and theology. Many evangelicals recognized God’s revelation only in the word of God and not in the total creation of God.[35] This theology undermined the land-centered tribal religion, culture and ethics. Also, the salvific work of Christ is viewed from the anthropo-centric perspective. It was God who loved His people, not the world, that, He incarnated in Jesus Christ to save and give power to the helpless. This understanding indirectly supports the view that regards nature without any religious significance. It promoted dualism between the spiritual and the material, heaven and earth, giving so little importance to the thing of this material word or even regarding it as evil.[36]

Also, the belief that this world is not our home and is perishable led to the question “why should we take care of it?” In this way the tribal Christians (including Kukis) were slowly alienated from their soil-centered worldview through the introduction of evangelical theology.[37] Moreover, the Evangelicals came with the strong belief that God is self-sufficient and transcendent from the physical world, causing tribals to perceive a God apart from the soil; and strong belief on ‘the second coming of Christ’ thinking that this world is coming to an end, all materials will be destroyed, but only those who believe in Christ will be saved eternally.

On the whole, it failed to meet the deepest needs of the tribal people. The Gospel that missionaries brought during the 18th and 19th centuries was otherworldly, anthropocentric and detached from the soil. It was a spirituality mainly centred on humanity and their salvation. Acceptance of new faith was understood as rejection of the traditional festivals, songs, dances, sacrifices; the western norm of Christianity was condemned as evil and thus abandoned many valid traditional values. Thus the soil-centred spirituality of the tribal people was gradually replaced by western oriented values that ruined the local cultures and traditions.

VI. Mission(aries) vis-a-vis colonialists responsible for a nation’s downfall

The colonial British came to Manipur and started their occupation of the Kuki territory in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1850, there was the first clash between the British and the Kukis in Assamand Chittagong Hill Tracts (of the present Bangladesh) which was recorded by Col. E.B. Elly in “The Great Kuki Invasion of 1860s”.[38] The British’s effort to occupy and subjugate the land continued into the following decades. It was firmly resisted by the Kukis at all stages which climaxed in the First war ofIndependence of the Kukis (1917-19) during World War I. This was known in various captions such as “Kuki Rebellion” by the British, “Thadou-Gaal” by the Thadous, “Zou Gaal” by the Zous, “Khongzai Laal” (War of the Hill Tribes in Meitei) by the Meiteis, “Anglo-Kuki War” by others, etc. Whatever it may be called, it was the war of the oppressed in general and the ‘Kukis’ “War ofIndependence” in particular.

It began when the British wanted to send labour Corps to Francewhere the battle was fierciest. As mentioned earlier, Indiaand some other countries being under their domain, they asked for labour corps to help them. In Manipur they asked the permission of the Maharajah, a puppet under the British. Accordingly, a meeting of the Tribal chiefs was convened where all, except a handful Kuki Christians and Nagas of Manipur, the Kuki tribes as a whole did not agree to this demand which led to more than two years full-scale war. The argument given by the Kukis was that ‘this was not their war and that they (Kukis) had no intention of cooperating with an administration that had treated them unjustly’. Moreover, it was not their (Kuki) custom to provide young people to serve a government that had not conquered them in battle. [39]

There were differences of opinions among scholars on the cause of this war. According to Lal Dena, the Corps served as an occasion rather than the cause of the uprising. This was similarly expressed by Bhadra Gautam when he noted that the recruitment of the labour Corps which is said to be the ostensible cause for the uprising did have an important role, in so far as it ignited all the accumulated grievances of the Kukis. But other causes of the revolt go back for some years, the labour Corps recruitment decided the timing of the outbreak. For Z.Z. Lien, this was the most serious and wearisome war fomented by the Kuki   chiefs of Manipur in defiance of heavy taxation, forced labour, etc. by the government.[40] Khaikhotinthang, a Thadou writer, added that the whitemen’s laws created in the minds of the Thadous (a clan among Kukis) that the British were exploiters and so they reacted violently against the British rule in 1917.[41]  These are all true and yet there were also other reasons. Paokhohang Haokip sums up the cause of the rebellion as: “Love of freedom, possession of arms, efficient organisation, bold leadership, and patriotism.”[42] The cause of the war was summed up byDowns:

The discontent that finally erupted in the Kuki Rebellion (war of Independence)… (where) some 1,195 guns were collected from (them. This)…therefore worked severe hardships on the people – and wounded their pride. A house tax, the imposition of British law, an alleged discrimination in the matter of government jobs were also deeply resented. However, the immediate cause of the rebellion was the effort made by the Rajah to enlist – by force if necessary – Kukis for the labour Corps that was being raised in aid of the war efforts.[43]

The war lasted for about three years but in the end the ill-equipped Kukis with traditional weaponry were overpowered by the mighty British force with superior arms and unending flow of war materials and armed personnels. Downsaptly describes that the rebels (freedom fighters) were finally defeated but not easily. It took more than 5,000 armed personnels and 2 long years to suppress them.[44] The effect of war was tragic on both sides of the warring parties and hundreds of riflemen killed and wounded. And it was said that the number of deaths due to diseases were more than those killed on both parties. On the Kuki side, about 86 villages were destroyed, 1195 guns confiscated, 112 villages submitted to the British, 15 villages were deserted by the people.[45] However, the figures of persons dead or killed were not known. Being an agrarian community and unable to engage in cultivation under the circumstances made it increasingly difficult to sustain the war efforts. Therefore, in 1919 the chiefs decided to conclude the war in a honourable fashion befitting their culture: they voluntarily courted imprisonment and served out their respective terms with dignity. The general people were scattered and many were put to concentration camps.[46] To make matters worst, their land was divided into two: The British India and British Burma.

During the World War II (1942 – 45), their hopes of recovering their lands and lost prestige were briefly revived when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army (INA) along with the Japanese advance reached Manipur. The Kukis took active part in the war efforts of Netaji. There are more than 150 living Kuki INA pensioners to bear testimony to the efforts to throw out the British. The Kuki Inn (House) at Imphal, constructed with sanction form the Government of India, is itself a commemoration and a monument for the struggle for freedom against British imperialism. However, with the defeat of the Axis powers, the Kukis had to again face the wrath of the British rulers. This was a great setback for the Kukis as a nation.

Moreover, as in the 1840’s and 1860s, the First Kukis’ War of Independence (1917-19), and again in their Second War of Independence (1942-45), the Kukis had been a constant thorn in the sight of the British and, therefore, it seemed logical on their part to dismantle the sovereignty of Kuki land, scattering under various administrations. Moreover, it also saw the partition ofEast BengalintoBangladeshwhich now has divided the Kuki people politically into three different countries such asIndia,BangladeshandMyanmar. InIndia, the fate of their land was left to the Manipur Raja even after they leftIndiawhich did not augur well for them. Thus, the Kukis are disintegrated till today. The Central and State governments have dutifully followed the legacy of ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British colonialists which has been effective and lasting.

Like their fellow tribals in other parts of the North-East, they have now become more politically conscious and socially sensitive. The New Constitution of India ensures the right to equal opportunity for all citizens, along with other fundamental rights with special provisions to safeguard the interest of weaker sections such as the Tribals and other Backward classes. Thus, in accordance with the notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India published in the Extra-Ordinary Gazette of India, there are 29 recognised tribes in Manipur.[47] But not a group designated as “Kuki” as listed there. In such a case no tribe could be referred officially as “Kuki” in neither Manipur nor the nomenclatures “Kuki” is recognised for all practical purposes.[48]

The main factors leading to their ‘extinction’ according to T.S. Gangte, are both political and social. It was first and foremost political because the class composition of the Kukis and their political organisations were so independent of each other that the Kukis were obsessed with the idea of inter-clan rivalries, being helped and fomented by the designing political organisations especially after Independence. As a consequence, despite their being one and the same, clan rivalries for supremacy over each other strained their relationship. It was also social, because according to their culture and tradition, the social system of the Kukis was so segmentary that every individual was made consciously aware that he or she belonged to a particular clan or sub-clan.[49] Thus, their failure to free themselves from such idiosyncracy became a fertile breeding ground for discontentment, competition, jealousy, hatred, factionalism, etc. which was reflected in their aspiration to get recognition in the list of the scheduled Tribes in Manipur.[50]

Another external factor that contributed to the disunity and disintegration among the various Kuki tribes is the fruit of mission work among the so-called Old Kukis such as Anal, Moyon, Monsang, Lamkang, Maring, etc. by fellow tribal Christians. However, while making the communities Christians, the missionaries belonging to other tribes also baptized the said communities into their Naga political movement. Therefore, it is said that culturally, these communities belong to the Kuki fold while politically they are Nagas.[51]


We have seen how the combination of mission and power could change the status quo. In the case of the Kukis in question, the combined effort of mission and power was used to bring the Christian gospel and establish Christian Church among them. In the first place, mission(aries) have colonialist mind/attitude toward other missionaries and misused power to stop other missions working among the same community and even punish them which is against Christ teaching. Secondly, mission(aries) acted as active agents of the Empire in serving as recruiting officer for the labour corps and also medical officers during the empire’s tirade against the Kukis. Thirdly, mission(aries) are God’s agents and not supposed to take part in the state’s effort to punish any community within their domain whatever be the case. Fourthly, mission(aries) also exacerbate ethnic divide among converts due to their practice of favoritism among the different communities in the state. Rather, missionaries are supposed to bring healing and reconciliation to those who were at loggerheads. Fifthly, mission(aries) vis-a-vis colonialists ruining local culture and traditions. Rather, missionaries should plant the gospel rooted in the tribal culture. Last, but not the least, mission(aries) are responsible for a nation’s downfall through cooperating with a colonial government that was bent on suppressing a community (the Kukis) by all their available means when the latter challenge them by their non-cooperation during the drive for labour corps. The result of all these was the destruction and disintegration of the Kukis as a nation in all their aspects of life having no hope of immediate succor. The article has surveyed the state of Christianity among the Kuki Tribals in north east India. It is thus believed that the combined force of mission and power has been one of the key factors for the dire socio-politico condition of the people today.



* M. Thongkhosei Haokip teaches History of Christianity at the Academy of Integrated Christian Studies (AICS), Aizawl, Mizoram.

1 World Missionary Conference 1910: The History and Records of the Conference,Edinburgh andLondon: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier;New York,Chicago andToronto: Fleming H. Revell, 315.

[2] The study group will recognise that mission is practised in a world shaped by various forms of power: spiritual, political, military, financial and international; raising issues of culture change, human rights, ecological sustainability and inequalities in the production, distribution and consumption of resources. It will consider tensions and asymmetries resulting from the exercise of power and how these affect the sharing and communication of the Gospel message and life. It will assess the function of both power and weakness in our understanding and practice of Christian mission. (D. Balia, & K. Kim, Witnessing to Christ today, (Edinburgh 2010 Vol.II), Regnum,Oxford, 264)

3 D. Balia, & K. Kim, Witnessing to Christ today, 4.

4 NP Rakung, Reader, in The Telegraph,17 January 1994, Letter to the Editor, Imphal, Manipur.

5 RC Majumdar & N. Bhattasa1i, (fifth revised edition), History of India (Dacca: Shyam Chandra Dutta, 1930), 6-7.

6 Rev. William Pettigrew was born in Edinburgh, Scotlandon Jan.5th 1869 in an English family. He got his higher education at Livingstone College, London. He belonged to the Church of England (Anglican) but later felt (that) his infant baptism to be inadequate and therefore received believers/adult baptism while working as a missionary in Dhaka as a missionary under The Arthington Aborigenes Mission. However, he remained as Anglican and a missionary under the same mission till he was forced to resign and join the Baptist Church at Sibsagar in 1896. He was ordained to the ministry in 1897 and was married to Alice Gorehome of Brighton, England in November 13 of the same year (See Downs, Mighty Works of God, 75; Elungkiebe Zeliang, Pioneer Missionaries of North East India: Selected Missionaries. Vol. I. (Jorhat: Eastern Theological College, 2003), 111.

7 Watkin R. Roberts was born in 1886 at Caernervon. He was converted by R.A.Torrey’s sermons but continued to work as a quarry man. The 1904 revival made a still deeper impression on him and he decided to serve overseas. He was a close friend of Dr. Peter Fraser who was his senior by some years. Roberts apparently came to Mizoram at Fraser’s expense and with the intention of helping him in his work. He was a Presbyterian and organized the Churches he later established on Presbyterian principles but without any denominational attachment (See J. Meirion Llyod, History of the Church in Mizoram: Harvest in the Hills (Aizawl: Synod Publication Board, 1991), 157-8.

8 L. Jayeseelan, The Impact of Missionary Movement in Manipur (New Delhi: Scholars Publishing House, 1996), 85.

9 Lal Dena, Christian Missions and colonialism: A Study of Missionary Movement in North East India with Particular Reference to Manipur and Lushai Hills, 1894-1947. Shillong: Vendrame Institute, 1988, 51. He quoted A.G. Mc Call, Superintendent of North Lushai Hills’ reports to the Welsh Mission, Aizawl 20th February, 1937.

10 D. Khaizalian, Thang Thupha Kalchawi (The Gospel Onward Movement), Churachandpur: Author, 1982,87.

11 Khaizalian, Thang Thupha Kalchawi, 88.

12 Khaizalian, Thang Thupha Kalchawi, 87-89.

13 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 167.

14 K.M. Singh, History of the Christian Mission in Manipur and Other Neighbouring States (New Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1991), 188.

15 Dena, Christian Missions and colonialism, 50-51.

16 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 79-80.

17 Dena, Christian Missions and colonialism, 39.

18 Dena, Christian Missions and colonialism, 39.

19 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 170.

20 Dena, Christian Missions and colonialism, 39.

21 Dena, Christian Missions and colonialism, 40.

22 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 160.

23 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 157.

24  Dena, Christian Missions and colonialism, 39.

25 Downs, History of Christianity in India, Vol. V, Part 5: North East India in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Bangalore: Church History Association ofIndia, 2002), 110.

26  Downs, The Mighty Works of God,110.

27 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 40.

28 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 157.

29 KBC Thusim, 10.

30 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 172.

31 Downs, The Mighty Works of God,173.

32 A. Wati Longchar, “Gospel and Culture: A Tribal Perspective,” in National Consultation on Gospel and Culture (Bangalore: 1996).

33 K. Thanzauva, Theology of Community: Tribal Theology in the Making (Aizawl: Mizo Theological Conference, 1997), 85.

34 “Gospel and Tribal Culture: Naga Perspective,” in Good News for NorthEast India: A Theological Reader, ed. Renthy Keitzeer (Guwahati: Christian Literature Centre, 1995), 164.

35 Longchar, “Gospel and Culture: A Tribal Perspective,” 5.

36 Longchar, “Gospel and Culture: A Tribal Perspective,” 5.

37 Longchar, “Gospel and Culture: A Tribal Perspective,” 5.

38 Elly, Military Report on the Chin Lushai country, 34.

39 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 169.

40 Z.Z. Lien, The U-Now People (Churachandpur: L & R. Printing Press, 1981), 37.

41 Khaikhotinthang Kipgen, The Thadou Kukis (Imphal : Swaraj Printing Press, 1982), 49.

42 Paokhohang Haokip, “Causes of the Kuki Rebellion 1917-20 Freedom Loving Kukis Sentinel of Manipur” in Souvenir: 85th Anniversary Day Celebration of the Kuki Rebellion 2002 (Imphal: The Kuki Inpi Manipur), 14-16.

43 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 168.

44 Downs, The Mighty Works of God, 169.

45 T. Kipgen, “Impact of the Kuki Rebellion on the Manipur Administration” in Souvenir: 85th Anniversary Day Celebration of the Kuki Rebellion 2002 (Imphal: The Kuki Inpi Manipur), 17-19.

46 Kipgen, “Impact of the Kuki Rebellion on the Manipur Administration”, 19.

47 Gangte, The Kukis of Manipur, 25.

48 Gangte, The Kukis of Manipur, 25.

49 Gangte, The Kukis of Manipur, 26.

50 Gangte, The Kukis of Manipur, 26.

51 D. Letkhojam Haokip, “Understanding the Historical Background of the Kuki and Naga Relations,” The Orient Vision, Vol. VI, Issue 1 & 2, 2009, 22-28.

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