The following is the reproduction of an interview held in April 2013. Questions were sent on March 23, 2013 and answers were received on April 17, 2013. The intention was to interview insurgent leaders of Manipur for a book project. Unfortunately, many organisations did not respond. As a result, the book project could not be fulfilled. There are very few who have responded. Since more than nine years had lapsed, there is no hope of any further response. Therefore, I have decided to publish the interviews online so that it remains in the public domain for reference.
Dr. Malem Ninghtouja
September 28, 2022.
ON PARTY & IDEOLOGY
The Kuki National Organisation was formed in 1988. Its political ideology is underpinned with self-determination for the Kuki people, as was in the days preceding the colonialists’ advent in the early part of the twentieth-century.
- How would you call the Kukis as indigenous people?
The Pooyas, the original script of the Meitei people of Manipur state that ‘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 A.D. (NP Rakung, Reader, in The Telegraph, 17 January 1994, Letter to the Editor, Imphal, Manipur). By this account (given the fact that there are no other contemporaneous known script other than the Pooyas in the region), it is self-evident that Kukis existed before the stated date, i.e. 33 AD. A history of over two millennia is sufficient to ascertain indignity by any standard. Latterly, Sir George Abraham Grierson (1851-1941), Superintendent of the Linguistic Survey of India records Kuki country (Tibeto-Burman Family: Specimens of the Kuki-Chin and Burma Groups, (1904) Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. 111, Pt.111, Published by Office of the Superintendent, Government Printing, India, Calcutta). The Maharajas of Tripura, including the present Maharaja, Pradyot Bikram Kishore Manikya Deb Burman, affirms the royal lineage’s Kuki identity.
2, According to you the Constitution Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Lists (Modification) Order, 1956, Part X – Manipur’ listed each Kuki clan as separate tribes. Was it in response to the demand by clans that wanted separate Identity? How far it gave divisions among the Kukis?
Identification of the numerous Kuki clans as ‘tribes’ was a result of socio-political condition owing to clan chauvinism. Based on common ethnicity, Kukis may be classified as a ‘tribe,’ not separate ‘tribes’. Each of the ‘tribes’ listed are composed of mixed sub-clans. In reality, they are groups, not ‘tribes.’ 22 of the 29 Kukis listed in the Constitution Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Lists (Modification) Order, 1956, Part X – Manipur, belong to ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ as mentioned in the Constitution Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 1951 (barring Tangkhul, Mao, Kabui, Angami, Sema, Purum and Kacha Naga).
- The Gazette of India Extraordinary, Part II – Section I, New Delhi, January 8, 2003 (p 6), (f) in Part X. – Manipur, – listed any ‘Any Kuki Tribes’. How far can this list contribute to construction of one identity for the Kukis?
Positive changes initiated by Kuki National Organisation’s inclusive ideology (opposed to formerly clan-centric dominated socio-political scenario), based on the principle of federalism, is drawing, e.g., ‘Old Kukis’ of Chandel district to return to their roots. The United Minority Liberation Army and Pakan Re-unification Army, respectively led by Maring-Khoibu and Anal, whose members represent all the ‘Old Kukis’, i.e., Aimol, Anal, Maring, Lamkang, Chothe, Chiru, Moyon, Monshang and Mongmi is proof of growing Kuki unity. Re-introduction of ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ in 2003 paves the way to Kuki unity and dispels clannishness, the single foremost cause of fragmentation and disunity.
- In what ways British colonialism and Christianity contribute in some way to the emergence of Kuki as a collective identity?
(On this question, please bear with me on a slightly extended response)
On British colonialism:
British colonialism and Christianity, rather than contribute to the ‘emergence of Kuki as a collective identity’, created the condition to weaken the Kukis and, thereby, destabilise and eventually disintegrate, i.e., the state of affairs experienced for the last sixty-odd years, which KNO is in the process of reversing positively. Kuki chieftains, who ruled the entire hills of present-day Manipur, the Peren district in present-day Nagaland, Barak Valley & North Cachar Hills of Assam as well as and the Upper Chindwin & Kale Kabow Valley, Thangdut, and Chin Hills in present-day Myanmar (Burma) were deprived of their independence by the colonialists, following the Kuki Rising, 1917-1919. (Burma and Assam Frontier, ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC), British Library, London).
The following is an excerpt from Kuki Movement in Process; An Outline (for Manmasi Year Book Volume II, by S Haokip, January 2013):
A culmination of resistance to British rule is manifest in the ‘Kuki Rising, 1917-1919’. The tenacity to preserve Kuki independence and its territorial integrity is echoed in the words of General Tintong, chief of Laijang, who fired his flintlock at the rafters and severed a mithun’s tail in a traditional declaration of war at the Jampi Conclave of March 1917:
Brethren, lend me your ears: From today, from this very moment, I declare that we are at war with the British. May the bullets from my gun and the severing of the mithun’s tail stand testimony to my vow that I would fight to the last of my bullets, even if I should have to fight alone!
The people present at the conclave spontaneously responded to his call and declared, ‘at all cost we will fight to preserve our independence and protect our land, culture and custom.’
Prominent leaders of the Kuki Rising includes the chiefs of Aisan in present-day Nagaland, Chassad in today’s Ukhrul district, Laijang (now changed to Tamenglong), Jampi (now in Tamenglong district), Lawnpi (now part of Chandel district), those in present-day Northwest Burma in Kabaw valley, Sukte country, the Thongdut State and parts of the Somra Tracts, and to the south bordering the Tiddim area of Chin Hills among Zou.
Of the event, the Chief Commissioner of Assam in the Political Department remarked,
The “Kuki rising, 1917-1919”, which is the most formidable with which Assam has been faced for at least a generation…the rebel villages held nearly 40,000 men, women and children interspersed… over some 6,000 square miles of rugged hills surrounding the Manipur valley and extending to the Somra Tract and the Thaungdut State in Burma.
Ray, a scholar or, for example, a British official, Col Shakespear, view the war as simply a violent reaction against recruitment attempts to the Labour Corps. According to Gangte, it is a cumulative offensive leading to ‘The Anglo-Kuki War’, ‘…the Chassad and Ukha Haokips fought to protect ‘their land from being annexed by the alien power.’
After 1919, Government adopted administrative measures to keep the Kuki people suppressed. Prominent Kuki areas were brought the under civil authority. The first Sub-Divisional Offices were opened at Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Churachandpur, which are now the hill districts in Manipur. These new posts successfully achieved two planned objectives: a) ‘containment’ of Kuki activities to prevent another rising and b) ensure Naga domination especially in Ukhrul and Tamenglong sub-divisions. Prison terms served by the leaders in order of hierarchy. 
Christianity introduced Western education, which was opposed by many chieftains, particularly the Haokips because of the concern that their traditional ways would be compromised, leading to decline of social and moral integrity. This apprehension proved true, albeit not because of education, but religion (the teachers were mostly missionaries). Amongst Kukis, those recruited in the Labour Corps to fight in France, were mainly converts to Christianity. When WWI ended in France in 1918 and they returned home, their kith and kin were steeped in war with the British. For instance, the chief of Kanjang and chief of Songdo were Christian converts and in good terms with the British. They persuaded the chief of Sangnao, a relative to surrender. Consequently, Sangnao village was spared from being destroyed by the British. However, the Government levied a penalty of five mithuns, six guns, one dahpi (gong) and one thousand rupees. Offended by the levy, the chief of Sangnao said of his brethren, with whom he had fought the British:
U le nao vin Solkar douuh hite eitin,
Sum-minthang kavan mang kalha tai.
Our brothers asked us to join hands against the Government.
But alas, this has cost me dearly.
This drew a rather poignant reply from the chief of Taloulong, another relative, but not a convert to Christianity, who continued fighting:
Sum minthang le navan mang nachanle,
Kei toi kamkei hoija vaitham hitai mo?
If you lament the loss of your worldly wealth,
What of my sons, who gave their lives fighting, like young leopards?
- To what extent the Kuki culture accommodates modernity? What are the changes and continuity? What are cultural initiatives to promote common Kuki culture on the one hand and to defend from external influences on the other hand?
Modernity in the sense of education and its benefits has been fully embraced by the Kukis. As a result, a relatively high proportion of Kukis have succeeded in the Union Public Service Commission examinations, unlike people with their own state, such as Nagaland, Mizoram or Meghalaya, who get absorbed in state services. Apart from this notable change, cultural traits, such traditional chieftainship, bride price, inheritance law, custom of Sating (the younger giving meat from the spine portion the elder in the lineage) remain unchanged (for more details on Kuki culture see www.kukination.net and www.zalengam.org. 1st November is a state holiday in Manipur on account of Kut, a post-harvest festival celebrated by ‘Any Kuki Tribe”. Participation at Kut includes all Kukis listed from A-Z.
- When did the concept of Zale’n-gam emerge?
Zale’n-gam literally means the Land of Freedom, signifying the age-old self-rule of the Kuki people from time immemorial over their territories. The term per se was coined by me as I took over the reign of the KNO/KNA. The concept is as old as the Kuki Culture, but the association came about in recent decades.
- To what extent the Government of Zale’n-gam is operative and functional in practical terms? How far it differs or inherits pre-British Kuki tribal polity? Does the functional aspect differ from clan (tribe) to clan? Since when did it start functioning? How is the government formed? What are the structures of it? How far does it collaborate with the existing State system? How far it confronts with the existing State system?
The Government of Zale’n-gam is based on democratic and federalist principles, structured in the pattern of the United States of America. The president is the political head, as well as the Supreme Commander of the Kuki Army. The hierarchy or Cabinet has representatives from each of the clans and groups comprising Kukis. Each of the seventeen-armed groups that share the KNO umbrella – which also represent the entire Kuki people – is a Cabinet member.
KNO does not collaborate with the state Government or the Central Government. Therefore, it is not a part of the state or central system. With a view to establishing self-determination for the Kukis within the Constitution of India, KNO, first signed Suspension of Operations with Union Defence Ministry, represented by the Indian Army in 2005. In 2008, KNO signed a tripartite SoO with Government of India and the state Government of Manipur.
- Tribe and nation are considered separate stages of social formation. What is your definition of nationhood? How do you define a Kuki nation? How did a Kuki nation emerge without transforming the tribal political economy?
One of the meanings of nation is people. Tribe is a concept introduced by the British and reinforced in independent India. That Kukis are a people, i.e., a nation remains constant. Therefore, Kuki nationhood is defined by its history, predating the advent of the British. In regard to definition as a nation, only disrupted in status by the colonialists and reinforced by Government in post-Independent India, efforts for continuity are being made by KNO, i.e. for self-determination, as in the past.
Transformation of ‘tribal political economy’ of the Kuki people will runs its own course with self-determination. For example, following Mizoram’s change in its political status from a district in former Assam to Territorial Council, in the process the institution of chieftainship was discontinued. ‘When the politics is right, it benefits everybody’, said a young and emerging politician, whose name shall not be disclosed presently. Today, huge dividends of good and non-partisan politics are evident in the state of Mizoram. Apart from peace, a prerequisite for political stability and development, one witnesses a full socio-economic-political transformation – from a ‘tribal political economy’ to a thriving modern and democratic political economy in Mizoram.
- You have frequently used the political terms tribe, nation and ethnic nationalities. Will you kindly elaborate on these terms and the purpose of using these terms?
‘Tribe’ is referred to in the context of the Constitution’s Tribe recognition; ‘nation’, in reference to the preceding question, i.e., Q 8; ‘ethnic nationalities’ refers to both ‘tribe’ and ‘nation.’ For instance, there are more than three peoples in the present state of Manipur, namely Kuki, Naga and Meitei.
- Why did the Kuki National Assembly formed in 1946, stopped demanding sovereignty for the Kukis, and instead appealed for the recognition of Kuki states; one each in Burma and India if India and Burma want to integrate parts of Kuki territory within their respective nations? What are the material dynamics responsible for the failure to create Kuki states?
Sovereignty is an ideal that needs to be supported by adequate resources in order to attain sustainability. The Kuki National Assembly perhaps realized this gap between idealism and pragmatic and sustainable national political status of the Kukis within present-day India. The most important missing dynamics for realization of Kuki states out of Kuki territories within post-colonial India and Burma is the lack of unified political will and KNO is facilitating the unification of political will of the Kukis.
- How far the church can play role in uniting the Kukis?
The Church, in an ideal setting, is the agency of love, truth and compassion. These could play a strong cementing role amongst any community convicted in the gospel and living according to these principles.
- Why do social evils such as narcotics, theft, exploitation and smuggling of local natural resources continue despite your active presence in the Kuki areas?
The presence of KNO is relatively from recent times and with scarce resources. This is the question that needs to be addressed to those in authority under the existing state system. Also, human greed and want cannot be checked through politics, and no state can totally eliminate these criminal tendencies from society. The Manipur state has failed and these activities thrive. Once KNO wrests total control of governance in Kuki state, these activities, which are harmful to state and society will be effectively checked and minimized.
- Why did the Paite-Kuki Clash (1997 – 1998) take place? And how is it being resolved? Does it exemplify the paradox of Kuki oneness prescribed by you?
There was no Paite-Kuki clash. It was the creation of the biased media and the machinations of divisive political forces from without which painted that picture. Yes, there was civil disturbance between Paite speaking Kukis and Thadou speaking Kukis in Churachandpur district, caused mainly by underlying economic disparity, fanned by enemies of Kuki people to escalate further, using state power.
- What is your position on the demand of the Khoibu to list them as separate tribe?
While there is no rational need, if the Khoibu community aspire to be listed as a tribe, they should not be denied that right. After all, ‘tribe’ is part of the present system.
- Why would the Kukis prefer to list them as tribe? Is it something to do with middle and upper classes interest to get more fund, prerogatives, and employment in the name of the entire community?
For a tribal community, identity is paramount. Funds, employment and economic benefits are all down the list of priorities. People should be given those things which figured high on their priority as a community. Once Zale’n-gam is realized, the need for such separate listing of communities will be obviated by opportunities outnumbering the supply of the needy.
- Is KNO a political party? Why have it taken up arms? Against whom? Why have there so many armed wings of KNO such as Kuki National Army, Kuki National Front (Military Council), Kuki National Front (Zogam), United Socialist Revolutionary Army, Zomi Revolutionary Front, United Komrem Revolutionary Army, Zou Defence Volunteers, Hmar National Army, Kuki Liberation Army (KNO), United Minorities Liberation Front and Pakan Re-unification Army (both Old Kuki), Kuki Revolutionary Army, Kuki Revolutionary Army (Unification), Kuki Liberation Army (KLO), Hmar People’s Conference (Democratic), and Kuki National Front (Samuel). Can there by a single army under the common banner of KNO? Where did the fund come from to raise and maintain the army?
KNO is the revolutionary government of the Kuki people. It has taken up arms because the aspirations of the Kuki people to get their rights recognized under the existing state system, expressed in peaceful and civilized forms, have been utterly neglected. It is not against any particular authority that KNO took up arms. It is to assert Kuki political rights and restore the same. Whichever authority that may venture to forcibly oppose these core rights and aspirations of the Kukis would face the muzzle of Kuki Army.
- What are the forms of political training? What is the basic ideology of KNO? Is on- month political training sufficient to ideological disciplining of the cadres?
In the beginning, there was no established system of political training for the cadres, primarily because it was more of an impromptu response to a situation of insecurity that KNA leaders organized a few young men around the idea of getting arms training from Kachin rebels to protect Kuki people and territory from injustice. Later on, after I assumed charge, we gave shape to the inherent right of the Kuki people to govern their own affairs in their land, and the cadres recruited thereafter mostly come from youth already having that conviction.
- In Burma, KNO had resorted to violent means against the Military Junta from 1991 and 1999, mainly targeting patrol parties and steamers along the river Chindwin. Why have the KNO stopped the offensive or the militant path? What have it achieved from the violent path?
The initial offensive against the military regime was aimed at weakening the military. But we realized most other ethnic armies have ceased hostilities around then and our singular efforts are not likely to impact on the strength of the Junta. Also, after cross consultations with other minority ethnic leaders, we decided to let the military die its inevitable death after which our rights can be addressed with the imminent democratic regime. At the same time, the political developments on the Indian side of Kuki territories assumed urgency with the NSCN-IM laying claim over Kuki territories and resorting to genocide of Kuki people. So, the KNA had to prioritize.
- According to you, KNO is active in the entire Kuki areas in India and Myanmar, viz, Sagaing Division in Burma, Chandel, Ukhrul, Sadar Hills, Churachandpur districts of Manipur and parts of Assam. But these areas witness increasing militarization by the government on the one hand and functioning of other underground militant organizations on the other hand. How do you overcome these contested situations and continue to be still active? What are the forms of reconciliation and confrontation in these areas?
Aggressions and contestations over ownership of land are reasons that necessitate continued armed movement. However, KNO is guided by principle and rationale that seeks to respect others and hopes reciprocity will follow. Therefore, in Manipur it seeks statehood comprising not all Kuki lands, as in the pre-British period, but only Chandel, Churachandpur, Sadar Hills and Kuki villages in Ukhrul, Senapati and Tamenglong districts.
Regarding militarization, Suspension of Operations was signed with the Indian Army in 2005, followed by a tripartite SoO with Government of India and the state Government of Manipur in 2008. KNO does not seek to integrate all Kuki inhabited areas of Assam, Tripura, and Nagaland. KNO seeks to avail due political status and facilities for the Kukis in each of these states.
Concerning militant organisations, the fact that KNO does not step on anybody’s toes, ought to prove that it stands for peaceful co-existence with all its neighbours. Whether we like it or not, Kuki, Naga and Meitei will always be neighbours. Mutual respect for one another’s identity and territory is the basis for co-existence.
- KNO have published list of Kukis killed and villages uprooted by NSCN-IM. Will you elaborate on retaliation from your side and the toll on the NSCN-IM and Nagas?
KNO have not retaliated the NSCN-IM genocidal aggression on Kuki land and people. Any casualty on the NSCN-IM and Nagas are largely limited to those resulting from the defensive action of the Kuki Army and Kuki civilian volunteers standing guard in village security posts. There might have been one or two instances where enraged civilians retaliated. But those are minimal
- Why have you signed SoO with the government when your goal had not been fulfilled? How are the compulsions of signing the SoO? How far can it politically contribute to your movement?
SoO has been signed to achieve our political goal through peaceful means, i.e., dialogue. Arrangement for political dialogue is in process. There is no compulsion for signing SoO. It is a means to an end.
The peace dividend of SoO is self-evident in the Kuki hills. Prior to SoO, violence and killings and public disturbances was literally a daily occurrence. However, such positive change was not appreciated by the state Government. Rather than look at the bigger picture, the state cabinet took a myopic view and made a unilateral decision against the spirit of the tripartite arrangement and pushed for a three-month extension of SoO in 2012. SoO for one year in 2005 and from 2008 is a tripartite agreement. One year or three months is not the issue: any decision should be a tripartite agreement, not unilaterally taken.
The state cabinet’s immature rationale for a three-month extension was that SoO did not serve any purpose as violations continue, e.g., cadres continue to extort money. According to Government norms, stipend for cadres was set at Rs 3000 per month per cadre, provided by the Centre from a non-lapsable fund. This meagre amount is not paid regularly by the state Government (four-five months non-payment is frequent), which is a grievous violation. The state Government points fingers at KNO for petty violation of SoO ground rules, but chooses to ignore massive corruption in its state machinery, causing extreme hardship to the public.
That KNO is under no compulsion is evident in the fact that the organisation declined to extend the last SoO extension in December 2012, on account of the state Government’s unacceptable unilateral decision to extend for three months.
- The other Kuki umbrella organization such as UPF says that they will demand for more facility within the existing boundary of Manipur. What is your comment on it?
I believe in the right of every people to determine their own needs and give those unto themselves by governing their own affairs, rather than petitioning proven miserly masters for increased allowances.
- What are the class backgrounds of the leadership in the KNO?
The beauty of Kuki society is the absence of class. Egalitarianism is inherent in the Kuki psyche. Those in ‘authority’ are actually servants in traditional Kuki society. So, the only class background of the KNO leadership that can be ascribed is of nationalists.
- What according you constitute the first and foremost enemy of the Kuki people? Who is your main enemy? How would you strategise to overcome it?
Poverty constitutes the first and foremost enemy of the Kuki Nation, deprived and discriminated as the land and people had been for more than seven decades now. Anybody who seeks to and work towards denying Kuki people their rights would be our main enemy. Justice will help our unity as a people to overcome such enemies.
- What is the Stage of Revolution at the present in relation to the movement your party is leading?
KNO presently prioritizes on political revolution. Social and economic revolution will follow.
ON ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL QUESTION
- What constitute the predominant form of economic livelihood among the Kukis in Manipur? Do you have any data on it?
The inspiring tragedy is the subsistence form of economic livelihood the Kuki people are today forced into by a state system dominated and dictated by a majority with insatiable greed. About 80% of Kuki population thrives on subsistence economy. This is sheer human right violation afflicted by the uncaring and discriminating state.
- You have raised voices against imperialism and colonialism. What kind of political economy you would subscribe to in case the Zale’n-gam is finally recognized by all?
The interplay between economics, law and politics in Zale’n-gam will not subscribe to any of the prevalent internationally current models. It will be based on a fine balance of individual and community rights over property and a consensual democratic polity where the concept of power will be replaced by a concept of obligation guided by a code of service. The government will facilitate both individual and community development in all spheres of life by creating opportunities and prioritizing resources.
- What is your position towards the Sadar Hill demand raised by a section of the Kukis?
The question demanding a district within the present state of Manipur is now passé. The denial of Sadar Hills to Kuki, people even after it has been enacted in law stands testimony to the kind of state that Manipur has been and strives to perpetuate. In my scheme of things, Sadar Hills is a component of the Kuki State and districts would be formed within Kuki state on consideration of welfare of the Kuki people.
- You have said that your party has got popular mandate? However, many Kuki political leaders are interested in the electoral politics of Manipur. Many have got elected in the past and in the present. Many Kukis are in the higher bureaucracy, judiciary and other government service sectors. How would you explain the seeming contradictions?
Indians in the service of the British Raj also shared the innermost desire for Indians to govern their own affairs. Prior to the recognition of Kuki rights, Kuki government is still unable to provide the needs of every Kuki, forcing some to seek gainful employment. There is no contradiction.
- There are many Kuki villages and Naga villages living very close to one another peacefully and interdependently. There are also many places that witness mixture in terms of community composition. How would you explain it against the inter-community dichotomy theory propounded in some of your works (e.g., holistic approach of looking into Nagas and Kukis as traditional enemy)?
It is not healthy to assume, and it is especially dangerous when scholars like yourself begin to assume without verifying the premises. I don’t share your so-called holistic approach of traditional enmity between Kuki and Naga People. While Kuki nationality is intrinsic and based on strong cultural and social bonds, Naga identity is a primarily political construct of recent history, which is devoid of any cultural and social fibre. Kuki people and the various tribes that come under the Naga political banner in recent decades lived in perfect harmony under Kuki Chieftains. Political developments of the past few decades have now necessitated a clear definition of rights to ensure the resuscitation of friendly mutual co-existence between neighbours engendered by mutual respect and dignity of life.
- It is being informed that lots of timbers and forests are being felled by the Kukis to smuggle out as a source of economy. Some people say it causes environmental destructions. What is your view on it?
Kuki people have for generations managed their environment with exemplary sustainability. They have every right to use the resources of their land to improve their economy. Any unsustainable exploitation of natural resources happening today is through the exploitative machinations of the rich outsiders, who are motivated by greed for resources of Kuki land without concern for its people. Kuki government will check such exploitation and revive Kuki traditional conservation and management practices to protect and sustain the environment.
- What is your position on the on-going Tipaimukh Dam construction?
Infrastructure developments, which fail to address the needs of local populations are exploitative and shall not be encouraged. While development is welcome, it must benefit the local population and obtain their informed consent.
- What is your position on the on-going railway line construction to connect Manipur?
This is also an infrastructure development initiative and must meet the criterion prescribed in the context of the above question on Tipaimukh dam to be worthy of praise.
- What is your position on the attempt to implement Manipur Land Revenue and Regulation Act 1960 in the hill districts?
Manipur Land Revenue and Regulation Act 1960 in the hill districts is categorically unacceptable. Our political and economic rights have already been denied for the past sixty-odd years. Implementation of MLR Act 1960 will deprive our people of our natural resources, for which purpose surreptitious attempts have been made by the state government to implement the Act. The land revenue and regulation in Kuki territories have to be legislated in Kuki State Assembly.
- What is your position on the recent statement of the Meetei International Forum under the leadership of RK Rajendro?
Sensible sections within the Meitei community have already commented and shown the IMF its place. The days of brute force of the numerous are over, and civilization have progressed to a stage of defined rights and mutually dignified co-existence.
- What is your position on the Oil Exploration and Drilling process going on in Churachanpur, Tamenglong and Jiribam Areas?
Kindly see my reply to your question numbers 32 and 33.
- What is your position on the Autonomous District Council in Manipur?
It is a negation of the constitutional rationale for creation of Autonomous District Councils. The original Act had a representative of the centre as administrator of the Act to ensure protection of the tribals from the dominant community. In 1972, that rationale was negated when the role of administrator of the Act was transferred from the LG (Lieutenant Governor) to the State Government to be formed out of a legislature that has 40 representatives of the dominant community in an Assembly of 60. So, the abuse of it is no surprise to any discerning political observer.
- What is your position on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Manipur?
It is something that a welfare state should operate at some stage, but with defined outcomes and set timeframes. It is no substitute to capacity building through quality education and creation of jobs and opportunities in the long run.
- What is your position on the Public Distribution System in Manipur?
Do you mean the Public Deprivation System operated by the state government?
- What is your position on the increasing trend of privatization of the education sector?
Opportunity to get quality education should be fundamental to the rights given by the state. Privatization is a product of state failure. While it serves the gap, the gross commercialization is a concern that the failed-state may like to address.
- What is your position on the increasing trend of recruitment in the Active services including police and VDF in Manipur?
It is yet another symptom of a failed-state where governance has gone to the dogs.
- What is the pattern of landholding rights among the Kukis? Is it changing over the years? Is their trend of landholding fragmentation and the growth of marginal landholders? Will you describe?
The Chiefs of each village is a trustee of the common land, and living spaces are provided to individuals free of cost. Limited fragmentation is visible in cases where Chiefs with large holdings split the trusteeship to responsible heirs. There are also deviant developments, which contribute to fragmentation of community land.
- What is your position on the Manipur Constitution Act 1948 that was collectively drafted by representatives from Meetei, Naga, Kuki and others?
In 1949, Kukis opposed merger of Manipur with the Indian Union because Kuki territory, which was independent would have been included by virtue both valley and hills being administered by the British colonialists. Presumably, the Manipur Constitution Act 1948 was drafted in expectation of fair governance. However, experience of the past sixty-odd years has proven ethnic-based majoritarian rule has belied expectations.
- There has been increasing trend of emigration of Kuki students and job seekers from amongst Kukis in Manipur to other metropolitan cities. What is your observation on it? How far this trend of emigration helps in the Zale’n-gam movement?
The discrimination and deprivation meted out by the state government have rendered many of my people emigrate to different parts of the world. The anguish of such a development is one of the factors behind my dedication to resurrect Kuki lebensraum, and it will continue to fuel the movement.
- It is said that there has been increasing immigration of Burmese Kuki-Chin immigrants in Manipur. The apprehension is that these are influx and would contribute to population explosion in near future? Do you promote such immigration? What is your view on this apprehension? What steps your party would plan to do in case there is population explosion due to immigrants?
There is no Kuki-Chin immigration happening as per my understanding of politics. Kuki country has been fairly well defined by Grierson, a colonial writer, and internal migration within a country is not treated as immigration under international law.
- What is your position on the June 2001 unrest in Manipur regarding extension of ceasefire between Government of India and National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM)?
The sacrifice of innocent lives on the altar of jingoism? Theoretically, ‘ceasefire’ should not have boundary issues, but ground rules must be in place. The June 2001 unrest is a result of two misguided concepts: a) boundary being set as a criterion, b) the Meitei majority population of Manipur wanting to impose its will upon Nagas.
- What is your position on the on-going trend of observing 18 June in the Imphal Valley?
The June 18 episode and its observation reveals clear distinctions of the three major communities of Manipur, Naga, Meitei, and Kukis. A practicable tripartite political solution that ensures each community receives its due share is essential to establish peaceful coexistence and communal harmony.
- There has been stiff resistance to any form of policy or steps that may threaten the existing territorial integrity of Manipur? How would you address this issue convincingly in order that the demand of your party is also equally addressed?
Insisting on integrity of non-integral political or territorial entities is an exercise in futility; it is an outright imposition. We have tried it out for about seven decades, and we have all seen the wisdom in good neighbourly relations, based on defined rights rather than bullying by the dominant population within a wishful integrated entity.
- What is your position on the on-going demand for introduction of Inner Line Permit system in Manipur?
Meiteis have the right to decide if they want to welcome the rest of the world in their land. As for Kuki territories, we are open to guests in our homeland. Self-isolation is not the way forward in an increasingly interdependent global world.
- What is your position on the on-going demand for Naga Alternative Administrative Arrangement?
Naga people have every right to stand up for their rights as long as it does not impinge on others’ rights.
- There is rumour that every Kuki clan floated an armed group? If it is true then does it explains a situation similar to what is being called warlordism or what is the positive aspect of this trend?
Some armed groups are ascribed a clan tag, looking at one or two of the leaders. I don’t believe there is any need for a clan army. The KNO seeks to integrate Kuki forces and resources for resurrecting Kuki polity to its rightful glory.
- Is there any formula under which the 38 (or above) communities co-existing in Manipur live together peacefully and interdependently under one administrative banner?
You tell me! Is one administrative unit more important than peaceful co-existence of neighbouring communities with clearly defined rights? Which do you think is more sustainable, especially in the given backdrop of the dominant community consistently trying to leverage their strength of numbers in a scramble for resources and opportunities?
ON HUMAN RIGHTS
- What is your position on the issue of drug smuggling, illegal selling and addiction in Manipur?
Failed-states can only be a mute spectator, Manipur being a case in point. Drug Smuggling and the black markets are symptoms of total absence of an economic policy, while drug addiction is a symptom of desperation among the youth of a state where governance had withered.
- What is your position on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958?
It is a draconian manifestation of the Indian Government’s lack of interest and courage to settle the rights of people of the geopolitically important region.
- How does your party deal with issues of human rights in the areas under your operation? What are the forms of approach and issues raised to you by individuals or families to intervene into?
The human rights issue the KNO seeks to address is the denial of political, and therefore, attendant human rights of dignified living to the Kuki people. There is no greater violation of Human rights.
- How does the judiciary function under the principle of your party? How far it works in tune with or in parallel to the existing legal framework of the State?
Kuki system of justice is founded on the principle of conciliation, not punishment. The world of justice needs a leaf out of Kuki justice principle and judicial philosophy.
- What is your comment on the alleged increase in the number of sex workers and domestic violence among the Kukis? How do you plan to resolve it?
Sex workers, hotel boys and rickshaw pullers did not exist in Kuki society. They began in the aftermath of the Kuki genocide led by NSCN (IM) from 1992-1997. Deprived and displaced families from over 350 villages uprooted had to find ways and means to survive. These people have not received any form of rehabilitation under the state Government. This is yet another reminder that we need to look after our own; nobody else will. Kuki state addressing the economic and social needs of the Kukis is the solution. Such social regression is a product of a discriminating and depriving government.
- It is said that the Kukis are highly patriarchal and the chiefs are nominated along male line. What is your view on it?
Kuki chieftainship is hereditary. It is patriarchal, however, there are exceptions. There have been notable female Kuki chieftains.
- What are your descriptions about and suggestion for on matters relating to the human rights condition in Manipur?
When the state itself discriminates between people on ethnic and other lines, how do you expect the condition of Human rights to be in such a state?
Life experience about the movement you are leading
Life lived in devotion to one’s conviction, I feel, is the best possible life experience a person can have. Secondly, a life dedicated to love is unquestionably most satisfying. My love for my people and the future generations of Kuki people had convicted me to dedicate my life to the service of securing Kuki people’s rights. It is very humbling to have been given the huge responsibility and my fervent prayer has been and will continue to be that the Almighty, without whose will I would not have held this responsibility, bless my humble and sincere efforts to fruition for my people.
So far as the movement is concerned, I would say there has been great progress over all. The KNO manifesto today represents and gives form to the core political aspirations of the Kuki people and our endeavour to resurrect Zale’n-gam has echoed all through Kuki territories, giving fresh hope and dreams to our people. The KNO-led movement has been largely successful in uniting the political will and in setting a common political goal for the people. Now, you may ask as to why the UPF projects a different set of political demands from that of the KNO to counter my claim of KNO having united and giving shape to Kuki people’s political aspirations. I can tell you that the UPF is not against the core political aspirations of the Kuki people represented by KNO. They merely lack the strength of political conviction within KNO and therefore adopt a pacifist stand in the guise of pragmatism. They will be the happiest lot once the core political rights of the Kuki people as represented in the KNO are secured for our people. They merely fail to see that politics at its core is about rights, about self-governance, about setting one’s own development goals in tune with one’s own needs and not merely about development packages granted by some oppressive authority. Nevertheless, their issues are very much within the ambit of Kuki rights as represented in the KNO movement.
With warm regards,
Kuki National Organisation
Name: PS Haokip
Name of the Party: Kuki National Organisation
Military Rank (if any): President and Supreme Commander
Brief Personal Profile: Graduate in Political Science
AGE: Mid fifties
Date / Place: 17 April 2013 / Churachandpur, Manipur
 Burma and Assam Frontier, ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC), British Library, London.
 Translated from JC Higgin’s letter No 1243, 7 November 1917, addressed to the Chief Secretary of Assam.
 Burma and Assam Frontier, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC), British Library, London, Resolution on the Late Kuki Rising, Extract from the Proceedings of the Chief Commissioner of Assam in the Political Department, NO. 8856 P. dated the 27 September 1920.
 Ray, AK (1990), Authority and Legitimacy: A Study of the Thadou-Kukis in Manipur, Renaissance Publishing House, Delhi.
 Shakespear, LW Col (1977) (1929)), History of the Assam Rifles, Firma KLM Pvt Ltd., Calcutta.
 Gangte, TS (1993), The Kukis of Manipur, Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi.
 Gangte, TS, (1980, 12-18), ‘Anglo-Kuki Relation from 1849-1937’, Churachandpur, Manipur, 1980.
 Political Proceedings, Oct. 1920, No. 13: Extract from the Proceedings of the Chief Commissioner, Assam, in the Political Department Number 8856 p, September 1920.
 Gangte, (Op cit 1993, 10)
 Warrants dated 8th December 1919, Delhi, signed by R.E. Holland, Secretary of the Government of India in the Foreign and Political Department, the following Chiefs were put in Sadiya Jail: 1. Chengjapao, Chief of Aishan, 2. Khotinthang (or Khilkung), Chief of Jampi, 3. Pachei alias Hlukhomang [Lhukhomang], Chief of Chassad, 4. Pakang, Chief of Hinglep [Henglep], 5. Tintong, Chief of Laiyong [Laijang], 6. Ngulkhup, Chief of Mombi [Lonpi], 7. Leothang, Chief of Gobok, 8. Heljashon, Chief of Loibol, 9. Mangkhoon [Manglun], Chief of Tingkhai [Source: ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’ (Ibid.). According to Haokip, PS (1998, pp 166-167], the ‘Kuki leaders of Western Zale’n-gam’ imprisoned at Sadiya Jail are: 1. Pu Chengjapao Doungel, Chief of Aisan was in prison for 4 years because he is the Pipa (Head of the Kukis), 2. Pu Lhukhomang Haokip, alias Pache Chief of Chassad, was in prison for 3 years, 3. Pu Tintong Haokip, Chief of Laijang was in prison for 3 years, 4. Pu Enjakhup Kholhou, Chief of Thenjang was in prison for 3 years, 5. Pu Khotinthang Sitlhou, alias Kilkhong Chief of Jampi, was in prison for 3 years, 6. Pu Pakang Haokip, Chief of Henglep was in prison for 3 years, 7. Pu Heljashon, Chief of Loiboi, was in prison for 3 years, 8. Pu Mangkho-on Haokip, Chief of Tingkai was in prison for 3 years, 9. Pu Ngulkhup, Chief of Mombi (Lonpi) was in prison for 3 years, 10. Pu Leothang, Chief of Goboh was in prison for 3 years, and 11. Pu Lunkholal Sitlhou, Chief of Chongjang was in prison for 3 years. [Source: Ibid.] The Kuki leaders of Eastern Zale’n-gam imprisoned in Taungyi Jail in Burma are: 1. Pu Kamjahen Haokip, Chief of Phailenjang was in prison for 3 years, 2. Pu Letkhothang, Chief of Khotuh was in prison for 3 years, 3. Pu Semkholun Haokip, chief of Phaishat was in prison for 3 years, 4. Pu Vumngul Kipgen, Chief of Tujang was in prison for 3 years, 5. Pu Tukih Lupheng, Chief of Tonglhang was in prison for 3 years, 6. Pu Songkhopao Haokip, Chief of Twisom was in prison for 3 years, 7. Pu Holkhopao Kipgen, chief of Molvailup, was in prison for 3 years, 8. Pu Letjahao Chongloi, Chief of Khomunnom was in prison for 3 years, 9. Pu Kondem Baite, Chief of Sadih was in prison for 3 years, 10. Pu Jalhun Haokip, Chief of Molvom was in prison for 3 years, 11. Pu Tongkholun Haokip, Chief of Phailenjang was in prison for 3 years.
The Government also adopted administrative measures to keep the Kuki suppressed. The Kuki areas were brought under civil authority (Political Proceedings, Oct. 1920, No. 13: Extract from the Proceedings of the chief Commissioner, Assam, in the Political Department Number 8856 p, dated Sept. 1920). The first Sub-Divisional Offices were opened at Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Churachandpur [which are now hill districts in Manipur]. These new administrative posts successfully achieved two planned objectives: a) ‘containment’ of Kuki activities to prevent another rising (Gangte, 1993, p. 10), and b) ensure Naga domination especially in Ukhrul and Tamenglong sub-divisions.
 Newspaper clippings included in the file of ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’ (Ibid.), (rough page mark: 577-578)’, under 3. New India, of the 5th March, states: The Chin Hills rebellion, see [References above: 762]
 Aimol, Anal, Lhungdim, Baite, Chiru, Changsen, Chongloi, Chothe, Doungel, Gangte, Guite, Haokip, Hangshing, Hmar, Kipgen, Kharan, Khoibu, Koirao, Koireng, Kom, Lamkang, Lunkim, Lupheng, Lupho, Mate, Maring, Mayon, Misao, Mongmi, Monsang, Paite, Purum Ralte, Simte, Sukte, Tarao, Thadou, Thangal, Thangeo, Tuboi, Vaiphei and Zou.
The writer is an independent researcher, Ph. D. in History from the University of Delhi and a former fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla
1 thought on “The Idea of a Sovereign Zalen’gam: An Interview of Pu PS Haokip, President and Supreme Commander, Kuki National Organisation”
It’s crystal clear and well defined questionnaire and the anwers thereof, thanks for making known to public concern.
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