Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Kuki statehood demand activists at a demonstration at Jantar Mantar New Delhi

Demand for a Separate Kuki State Can Lead to Violent Ethnic Conflicts in Manipur

While Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren is said to have been working hard at his level best since his frist term to bring oneness of all the ethnic groups of Manipur and live in coexistence peacefully, the demand for creation of a Kuki state by carving out of present day Manipur appears gaining momentum as the Kuki State Demand Committee (KSDC) has joined hands with the National Federation of New States (NFNS).

The NFNS, a pan-India body representing regions demanding separate and smaller states, was started by late Union Minister George Fernandes, when he was the NDA convener in 1999 and Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power. Leaders like P. A. Sangma, Shibu Soren, Ajit Singh and Amar Singh have been associated with the NFNS. Dr. Munish Tamang of National President of the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh from Gorkhalnd, Darjeeling is the present president of NFNS.

The NFNS includes Kukiland, Bodoland, Garoland, Gorkhaland, Tipraland, Bundelkhand, Vidarbha, Dima Hasao, Khasi & Jaintia, and Karbi-Anglong etc. Telangana and Ladakh which are now state and union territory were also in the NFNS.

However, not surprisingly, the Frontier Nagaland group was not among the new state demanding groups which staged the two-day Sit-in-Protest.

The Kuki State Demand Committee has joined the two day Sit-in-Protest by new state demanding groups from different states of India under the umbrella of National Federation for News (NFNS) held on December 14 and 15 at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding creation of new state in accordance with the Constitution of India, Kukiland Media reports.

Notably, the Kuki State Demand Committee said that the Kupi people of Manipur are presently facing an existential threat from the dominant Meitei community and “Meitei dominated” Manipur State government.

The report said, as per the Kuki State Demand Committee, the Kuki people of Manipur is, as it was always, presently facing an existential threat from the dominant Meitei community.

“We have been consistently appealing to the Government of India that the Kuki people in the state of Manipur have been suffering from existential threat under the NSCN (IM) in which we had lost more than 300 villages and more than 1.5 lac people uprooted from them who are still struggling for life in different parts of the Northeast region,” the KSDC said.

Despite the fact that the Meiteis saved the Kukis from the Naga’s onslaught during the Naga-Kuki violent ethnic clash from 1992 to 1997 and gave them shelter and foods, the Chief Minister Wahengbam Nipamcha’s Manipur Government ended the Naga-Kuki turned Kuki-Paite violent ethnic clash 1997-98 in September 1998; the Kuki State Demand Committe said that the Meiteis have joined hands with the Nagas to exterminate the Kukis from Manipur.

“Now the Nagas have been joined hands by the dominant Meitei community of the valley to exterminate the Kuki population from Manipur state altogether,” the KSDC said as reported by the Kukiland Media.

Further the Kuki State Demand Committee, on the basis of the statements of some Meitei organisations, said that the Meiteis called the Kuki people of Manipur as “refugees” and “foreigners” from Myanmar as if the orgsnisations are the sole representatives of the Meiteis. The KSDC also alleged the Meiteis of starting a mass hate campaign against them with the sole objective of expelling them from their lands in Manipur.

“Based on the concocted history, the Meiteis, like the Nagas earlier, called the Kuki people of Manipur as “refugees” and “foreigners” from Myanmar and started a mass hate campaign against them with the sole objective of expelling them from their lands in Manipur. The Meiteis also declared the Kuki people as “non-indigenous peoples” of Manipur with the sole objective of claiming their land as the Meitei’s ancestral land,” the KSDC said.

Sequel to such declaration, the Meiteis also demanded from central government for the deletion of the names of Kuki-Chin tribes from the list of Scheduled Tribes (ST) in India. On the other hand, they also demanded a Scheduled Tribes (ST) status for the “Meitei/Meetei” people, the report added.

Further, the KSDC said the Meiteis also attempted to erase the glorious history of the Kuki people in Northeast India as the freedom fighters’ community. They insisted the Meitei dominated government to erase all the existing memorials of their freedom movements in the state against colonialism, saying that, Kukis had never fought the British. The last of its kind to erase the history of the Kukis in Manipur was their recent demand for the removal of a “Centenary Gate” erected by the Kuki Inpi Manipur’s Anglo-Kuki War Commemoration Committee to commemorate the hundred years of the Anglo-Kuki War 1917-1919, at Leisang, Churachandpur District and Eviction at Kangchup Chiru Village Kangpokpi District, the report added.

“The “Meitei dominated” Manipur state government was helpless but to take the aspirations of the dominant Meitei community to its nirvana. Instead of suppressing the ongoing hate campaign against the Kuki community by the dominant Meitei organisations, the incessant hate speeches against them were floated across the local dailies and social network platforms right under its nose. It leads to a situation in which the government of the day is seemingly secretly supporting the ongoing hate speeches against the Kukis in the state. Kukis seem to have become a “problem” for the government. Hundreds of their villages in the hills have been recently declared as “illegal” and “encroacher” to the various Forest Reserves and Wild Life Sanctuaries located in the Kuki dominated hills of the state.” the KSDC said.

The KSDC is not happy with the State Government’s declaration of some hills as ahistorical sites. “Some of the hills within the Kuki dominated hill areas were also recently declared as important historical sites under the state’s Manipur Ancient and Historical Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1976. If the state government actual design is not clearly known, such policies were against the wish and consent of the tribal people in the hills,” the KSDC said.

The KSDC said all the above recent developments in the state of Manipur have led the tribal people in the state in general and the Kukis in particular in constant state of embodied fear and ontological insecurity. It is a situation of existential question which have threaten the life and properties of the young and the old. Such a situation only demanded for the Kuki people a separate administrative arrangement such as State under the constitution of India. There is no better justification for the Kukis to have their own state than living under existential fear under the “dominant Meitei people”.

“We are particularly apprehensive of the clear and present danger situation as such situation preceded the infamous massacre of the Kukis in the 1990s by the Naga insurgents. Until and unless the central government came for the rescue the very being of the Kukis in Manipur is under an existential threat from the dominant communities in the state. This is the prayer we had also to all the like minded organisations in NFNS that our only survival on this earth is to remain secure under our own administrative and political safeguards,” Kuki State Demand Committee added.

Now, in the emerging present context of Manipur where different ethnic groups have been living together for centuries, the demand for a Kuki State challenges the very existence and continuity of Manipur which was once Asiatic power besides the Naga integration question.

Consequently, three pertinent questions arise – How will the government both the State and Union respond to the Kuki State demand? What response will the Meiteis give politically? Are conditions created and activated to make dismember of Manipur inevitable?

Nevertheless, if the Govenrment doesn’t check the activities which may lead to communal hatred and promote exclusivist agenda, and ethno-politics in the multi-ethnic State of Manipur; and take up politically wise actions in time, the emerging situation may become a flashpoint for violent ethnic conflict, which may later on lead to dismember Manipur.

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