Ethnic conversions in Manipur (India)

Published on August 12, 2004

By Thangjamang Haokip

August 13, 2004: Small and backward tribes of Chandel district in Manipur like the Anals, Lamkangs and Marings were brainwashed into accepting the Naga political identity through religious proselytization, fabrication of fraudulent genealogical lineage history, economic and political enticements and even brutal coercion by the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN).These methods of ethnic conversions clearly violate the fundamental spirit of multi-cultural Indian secular democracy. They also contravene the natural law of justice and the well established norms of civilization.

Remarkably, leaders and members belonging to these small and politically weak tribes who refused to be converted into “Nagas” were forced to dig their own graves and brutally shot dead. H.T.Thungam, a prominent leader of these small tribes and a former Member of Parliament was shot dead by the NSCN in what may be construed as a clear act of intimidation.

Through subtle brainwashing and religious propaganda, the NSCN (I-M) has finally succeeded in making the younger generations of these tribes as strong supporters of the Naga secessionist movement in the name of ”Nagaland for Christ”. Apparently the motive behind these ethnic conversions is the territorial usurpation of the areas inhabited by the Nagaised tribes. In this backdrop it is therefore not surprising that the NSCN (I-M) includes Chandel district within the ambit of its demand for “Nagalim” or Greater Nagaland. The predominantly Non-Naga inhabitants of the district are up in arms against the terming of Chandel as a “Naga inhabited area” for purpose of Naga territorial unification.

There is a clear need to focus on this hitherto unexplored dimension of the Naga problem as it is apparently fraught with dangerous implications and far-reaching consequences for the life of multi-cultural Indian democracy which thrives on the unique principle of UNITY IN DIVERSITY.

North Campus, Delhi University, New Delhi


Kukis are the aboriginal inhabitants of the entire Manipur Hills including the areas ceded to the erstwhile Naga Hills by the British colonial administration. Kuki chiefs reigned supreme over the historical territories of Manipur stretching up to Kohima and the Somra Hill Tract in present day Nagaland in the north and the entire expanse of the Trans-Chindwin valley in the east, an area measuring up to two lakh square kilometers.

Nagas, whose original homeland is in the erstwhile Naga Hills migrated to the Manipur Hills before and during the days of the British Raj. KUKI chiefs allowed them to dwell and farm portions of their lands, albeit temporarily on humanitarian grounds by payment of an annual LAMPAN, a symbolic Land Use Tax. However, taking advantage of the benevolence of the Kuki chiefs, the Naga settlers began to encroach the lands of the Kukis by claiming the lands on which they were temporarily permitted to dwell and farm as their own.

The British Raj enunciated the classic rot and Stick doctrine in its approach to the ‘Sentinels of Indian Nationalism in the North  Eastern Frontiers’ on to the martial Kuki race, an Asiatic power known as the one hand and their loyal Naga subjects on the other. The colonial administration rewarded the Nagas for their unstinted loyalty to the British Queen by conceding their appetite for LEBENSRAUM. Large areas of the Kuki inhabited Manipur Hills were carved out to be integrated with what was then the newly created Naga Hills District. This caused the alteration of Manipur’s boundary from the original, historically legitimate and internationally recognized BODDHACHANDRA-LORD RIPON LINE to the present day British drawn line between Manipur and the State of Nagaland.

The freedom loving nationalistic Kukis under the leadership of their Chieftains stood up against the might of the British imperialism on five major occasions. As a direct consequence thereof, the British pursued vindictive policy o f subjugation against the Kuki. The illegal Naga settlers in the Manipur Hills were patronized and encouraged to massively encroach on the ancestral lands of the Kukis in the administrative sectors of Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Senapati (Mao-Maram).Headquarters of British administrative units were also located at un-authorized dwelling clusters of illegal Naga settlers

After the exit of the British from the political scene of North East India, the Naga settlers in a bid to fortify their claims over the encroached territories started to take up hostile activities against the Indian state on the one hand and the aboriginal Kuki inhabitants on the other. During the five decades of Naga hostility encompassing ruthless ethnic genocides, the Naga secessionists have effectively reduced the aboriginal Kukis into a minority within their own ancestral homeland, particularly in Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Senapati(mao-Maram) where Kukis now constitute less than 40% of the total population.

The process of ethnic cleansing campaign against the Kukis entailed terror tactics involving crimes against humanity in blatant violation of established human traditions and international norms. The baseless claims of Naga militants (NSCN-IM) over the encroached territories of the Kukis in the administrative divisions of Ukhrul,Tamenglong and  Senapati(Mao-Maram) is an ANATHEMA.

Alienating Kuki aboriginals from their ancestral habitat in these three sectors will play havoc with their eco-systems, leading to a perpetuation of their multi-faceted agony, continuing illiteracy, hunger, and deaths due to poverty induced diseases. The demand for a Greater or Southern Nagaland by carving out parts of the Kuki Ancestral Homeland in the Upper Manipur Hills therefore challenges the Right to Survival of the peace-loving Kuki aboriginals. The creation of Greater or Southern Nagaland will further dispossess them of whatever lands they still have with them. Kuki aboriginals will be CULTURALLY and POLITICALLY annihilated under a Naga political dispensation.

Conceding the secessionist Nagas’ wholly unreasonable demand for a Greater or Southern Nagaland will signal THE BEGGINNING OF THE END AND THE END OF SURVIVAL FOR THE ABORIGINAL KUKIS OF THE MANIPUR HILLS. Kukis reduced to minority in their own territories now live simultaneously at the edge of both hunger and anger. The brutal genocide perpetrated against them by the secessionist Nagas (NSCN-IM) resulted in over 900 of them being killed, 350 of their villages destroyed and more than 50,000 of them being displaced. Conceding the demand for Greater or Southern Nagaland will put them into the peril of TOTAL ANNIHILATION.