The following is the reproduction of an interview with the General Secretary of United Kuki Liberation Front Pu David Haokip. Questions were sent on September 16, 2013. Answers were received on January 10, 2014. He has left the organisation some years back and is living a ‘normal’ life. But the ideas he has shared seems still relevant. And my original 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 is available in the public domain for reference.
Dr. Malem Ninghtouja
September 28, 2022.
Dear friend Dr. Malem,
I am sorry for taking so long time in replying your questionnaires. I hope you understand my position and the time that I could devoted to your need. Every time I try to concentrate on the job some urgent works arrives and even after completing the job one or the other unforeseen emergency works disturbed me so much and I could spare little time in fulfilling your job. However, I tried my best and finally able to dispatch you now. But I am afraid that there may be still mistakes, printing mistakes and halfway explanation or descriptions which may give you unclear picture. On top of this, due to having too many other eggs to fry, I could not consult many books and therefore the work may not be a highly standard one. Anyway, I hope you will feel free to kindly contact me whenever you need. Thanks, God bless you.
Gen. Secy. UKLF
Brief answers to your questionnaires
- Who are the Kukis?
Ans: It is a generic term which includes a number of tribes, sub-tribes and clans. The term Kuki is derived from the Baluch word meaning ‘nomadic’ or ‘wandered’. In Bengalis and Assamese word, the literal meaning of Kuki is wild hill tribe or people. In Bengali word the meaning of the term Kuki is hillmen or highlanders or hill tribes. Thus, they are a nation of hunters and warriors ruled as a nation by their principal hereditary chiefs or rajahs but divided into clans, each under its own head clans usually called chiefs.
Whatever may be the origin of the term Kuki, the fact remains that it denotes a particular group of people having more or less the same language, culture and tradition distinct from other communities. Indeed, the term Kuki had been applied to all the Non-Naga tribes of Manipur, Nagaland and Assam since the British rule in India. The term had been loosely applied to many hill tribes though some of them like the Luseis (Lushais) now Mizos, Hmars, Paites (Zomis) etc. had now adopted other names other than Kuki. The Nagas of Chandel district were also Kukis in the past but now they merged to Naga and became Nagas. Some writers called them old Kukis but they have become Nagas now.
- What constitute the homeland of the Kukis?
Ans: The Kukis homeland constituted a vast area of territory and they are scattered here and there in small numbers even outside their homeland. Here mentioned may be made of (1) Chin Hills and upper Chindwin in Burma, (2) Chittagong hills tracts in Bangladesh and (3) North Eastern states (Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Assam) of India. Thus, the Kukis lived in three sovereign countries, i.e., India, Burma and Bangladesh. Writers like Carey, Tuck, Col. Shakespeare, Robert Reid and William Shaw claimed that the Kukis, Chins and Lushais are entirely the same race.
Areas where Kukis are found – (1) Sadar, Khowai, Dharmanagar, Kailashasar, Kamalpur, Udaipur, and Amarpur sub divisions of Tripura state. (2) North Cachar District and Karbi Angling district in Assam state. (3) Kohima district, Khaibung areas, Kuki Dalong villages in Zeliang area and also Meluri areas and Dimapur town in Nagaland state. (4) Sylhet region in Bangla desh. (5) In all the 5 hill districts of Manipur and also some pockets in Imphal town.
- How would you call the Kukis as indigenous people?
Ans: The Kukis are the groups who have migrated to Manipur long ago from Burma side. The exact date of their migration and their names in those days are obscure. There is no early written records or books regarding the Kukis. Their history began to be written by some Europeans and few Indians only from the 19th century AD. They have been illiterate for centuries together and modern education began to dawn on them from the early part of the 20th century. This is the reason why they have scanty records/books in regard to their origins. This is the reason why some people out of their ignorance dubbed the Kukis as late entrants to Manipur. But the fact remain that they have been here for centuries together and they are very much indigenous people like other indigenous groups of the state.
- The constitution of SC/ST tribes’ list modification order of 1956, part X – Manipur – listed each Kuki clan as separate tribes. Was it in response to the demand by the clans? How far it divides the Kukis?
Ans: The constitution of SC/ST list (modification) order, 1956 had separated and divided the Kukis into a number of separate and distinct tribes which remain the source of farther divisions in the Kuki society. The process of division is continuing till today. It was partly in response to the demand of some clans but it was also the general tribe re-organization programme of the Central govt which became a dividing factor for the poor Kukis. Since they were separated into a number of separate tribes, they became more and more divided and the day is not far when all the recognized tribes and sub-tribes of the Kukis become separated and distinctive tribes in a real sense.
- The gazette of India Extraordinary, Part II – Section 1, New Delhi, 2003 in part X – Manipur- listed Any Kuki Tribes. Are you happy with this? Can this category contribute to the construction of one identity for the Kukis?
Ans: Many people including me are not happy because the arrangement will not serve its intended purpose. Now, the Kukis had been divided into many separate recognized tribes. Theoretically speaking, it is not bad but the actual result is one of confusion and will be of more confusion in future. Thus, it will not be useful for the construction of one identity for the Kukis. The arrangement is only an addition of one more tribe in the long list and will be a source of disintegration within some recognized tribes. The end result will be simply creating more confusion and farther disintegration.
- In what ways and to what extend British colonialism and Christianity contributed to the emergence of Kuki as a collective identity?
Ans: The British colonialism contributed to the emergence of the term ‘Kuki’ for the single identity or nomenclature of the Kuki nation since the term KUKI began to be used to denote the particular indigenous people mainly after the arrival of the British. The arrival of Christianity also partly contributed to the emergence of a collective identity but it is also partly a source of disintegration into a number of separate identities.
- To what extent the Kuki culture accommodate modernity? What are the changes and continuity? What are the cultural initiatives to promote common Kuki culture on the one hand and to defend from external influences on the other hand?
Ans: The Kuki culture accommodated modernity to great extent. Like in other societies, there are so many changes and continuity also. The arrival of Christianity and modern civilization had successfully penetrated deep into the custom and culture of the Kukis and had even replaced many of them. Today, the Kuki society is a highly Christianized society and this had made many of the old practices, way of life, believes, thoughts, mindset, etc. are completely removed and replaced by new ones which are in line with modernity. But some of the old practices like hereditary chief ship system (one man proprietorship of land) in the village administration remain unchanged even today although it is against democracy.
So far there are no concrete steps or official initiatives, except by some concerned individuals, to promote Kuki common culture. Of course, there are some steps taken up to defend the Kuki culture from external or unwanted influences particularly the westernized culture influences because westernization without modernization is a threat.
- When did the concepts of Kukiland/ Kukigam/ Zalen’gam emerge? Why did it emerge? To what extent you are working to fulfill it?
Ans: The concept of Kukiland/ Kuki state/ Kukigam emerged since the early part of 1960s. In 1964 the Kuki National Assembly (the then apex body of the Kukis) submitted a memorandum to the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, demanding a separate Kuki state covering the Kuki inhabited areas of Manipur. However, the present issues of Kuki state/ Kukiland/ Zalen’gam are of late emergence of the 1980s but are the continuation of the previous one.
The reasons for the emergence of Kuki state /Kukiland/ Kukigam are numerous. The open neglect of the Kukis by the government, the highly underdeveloped nature of the Kuki society and the increasing threat of their land being snatch by others are few main factors. Today, many Kuki youths including me are tirelessly working towards fulfilling this set goal, some by taking up arms, so that the authority pay heed to our genuine demand. The idea of Kuki state or Zalen’gam or Kukigam is all the bigger after the so call Naga-Kuki ethnic clash. During the ethnic clash the Nagas openly began to claim that all the hill areas of Manipur are their ancestral land and dubbed the Kukis as nomadic and newly emigrated groups. This compelled the Kukis to look for a mechanism to protect their land and their lives and the outcome is the emergence of so many underground groups.
- To what extent the Kuki self-governance is operative and functional in practical terms?
Ans: Practically speaking the Kuki self-governance is operative and functional to limited extent because of influences from external or new forces but it can be rejuvenated and revitalized so that it can operate and function effectively for all practical purposes. Indeed, in the past the Kuki society was governed very well by the well laid custom and culture inherited from the forefathers and no long and winding modern administrative mechanism was needed for the Kukis to govern themselves. In fact, the Kukis are the people who have special set of custom and culture which governed them well in the past and with little modifications here and there to meet the changing modern days the same can be a useful mechanism to govern them.
- What is your definition of nationhood? How do you define Kuki nation? How does a Kuki nation emerge without transforming the tribal political economy?
Ans: The Kukis comprised of many tribes, sub-tribes and clans having separate and distinct custom, culture, dialects, languages, looks, beliefs originating from the same ancestors and occupying areas of different locations and regions. Hence, literally speaking, they form a nation – the Kuki nation. Transforming tribal political economy is a must but the Kuki nation can emerge side by side with the transformation of the tribal socio-political and economy.
- Why did the Kuki National assembly formed in 1964 stopped from sovereignty demand for the Kukis and instead appealed for the recognition of Kuki state? Why is the Kuki state fail?
Ans: The Kuki National Assembly (KNA) knew well that directly starting with sovereignty demand is not possible and therefore its focal point was shifted to create a state each within Burma and India or to create a state by integrating the Kuki inhabited areas of both countries. Indeed, the Kukiland / Kukigam is now divided by the artificial international boundaries of Burma and India. Now the Kukis became citizens of two independent countries and their hope of creating a state, not to talk of sovereign state, is flying in the air. Lack of leadership and lack of sustain organization(s) to carry forward the movement for the purpose is the main reason for the failure of Kuki state.
- How far the church can play the role of uniting the Kukis?
Ans: Seemingly the church can play a big role in uniting the Kuki people. But in reality, the picture is quite a different story. Instead of uniting, the church is causing much disunity in the society since the emergence of so many denominations are creating so much disunity in the Kuki society not only in religious field but in social and political fields too. Today one can find hundreds of different denominations in the Kuki society and this has divided them to great extent.
- Why are so many social evils despite your presence in the Kuki areas?
Ans: Despite our presence and our active endeavor many social evils such as theft, narcotics, drugs, exploitation and smuggling of local resources continue because there are some people who are active and determine to make a fortune out of these dealings. Of course, we try our best but achievement side is not up to the mark so far. Not to talk of us, even very well-organized machineries of govt with enormous manpower and resources also could not achieve much success in this particular regard.
- Why did the Paite Kuki clash take place? And how is it being resolved?
Ans: The Paites and Kukis though they belong to the same family had a violent clash in 1997 – 1998. Here I should say that the ‘Paite kukis and the Thadou kukis clash’ it is more correct since they are Kukis only. Due to the reasons best known to them, the Paites apparently choose Zomi in place of Kuki for the nomenclature since recent time. Therefore, whatever is done by the Kukis or done in the name of the Kuki is not favored by them. Thus, enmity(ies) between the two (the Kukis and the Zomis) began to developed and built up slowly and that escalated into open rivalry eventually leading to open violent confrontation between the two groups.
The efforts of some peace-loving leaders from both the communities finally bear fruits and a peace accord was signed thereby terminating the clashes. Of course, the role of the state govt was also to be noted. However, despite the peace agreement and the return of peace and normalcy, the stain caused by the clash is hard to erase completely till today. In fact, the clash had shaken the very foundation of oneness of the Kuki society. Finally, peace agreement was signed between the two warring sides and peace and normalcy established again. However, one mistake committed while signing the peace accord was that the Kuki Inpi was a signatory which automatically means that Zomi was recognized.
- Why should the Kuki Naga clash take place? How is it resolved?
Ans: The Kuki – Naga communal clash (1992 -1996) remains one of the most horrific incidents in the history of both the two communities. The political movement launched by the Nagas to create a Naga sovereign state in India was the main reason for the communal clash between the two. Not to talk of other states, in Manipur, the proposed political map of the Nagas covered 4 districts out of the 5 hill districts of the state which was opposed by the Kukis since all the hill districts of Manipur are inhabited by both two communities.
Thus, the exclusive political movement of the Nagas was the chief cause of the said ethnic/communal clash between the two. In the mind of the Kukis, once the political aspiration of the Nagas became a reality, they (Kukis) will have no political future and would be subjugated by the Nagas politically and economically forever. This was the chief reason why the Kukis began to oppose the collection of Nagaland tax collected by the NSCN(IM) and this became the immediate cause of the clash.
Indeed, since the days of NNC, the Nagas received very little help and cooperation from the Kukis in their political struggle. This has angered them and they began to harass and even eliminated some selected Kuki chiefs and leaders. But their actions had forced the kukis to stay away from them more and more. In the eyes of the Kukis, the Naga movement was exclusively for the Nagas only and they (Kukis) have no part in it.
After more than 4 years of violent conflict, the two warring groups became exhausted mentally and physically and finally the bloody violent clashes came to an end by the middle of 1996 though formal or official peace agreement is yet to be signed till today. Of course, very recently, a Kuki-Naga peace and reconciliation programme was conducted at Chandel town on the 16th November 2013. But that was exclusively for the people of Chandel district only.
- What is your position on Sadar hills district demand?
Ans: As an honorable citizen of the state, I have no objection to the district demand owing to the fact that it is simply a demand for a district not exclusively for the Kukis or for the Nagas. All responsible and intelligent persons would support the Sadar hills district demand since it is for the good of all and bad for none. But if somebody opposes it, they oppose it out of seer jealousy and selfishness. In population wise the said district might be dominated by a particular community but the benefits of the district will be reaped by all who live within the district once it is a full-fledged district. Thus, all ought to support the issue.
- What is your position in the Kuki State Demand Committee?
Ans: Personally or individually I have no place or position in the Kuki State Demand Committee. Being a member of UPF currently, I have no part in the KSDC because the UPF demand is Autonomous Hills State for all the people living in the hill areas of the state which is slightly opposed to the KSDC. The UPF believed that a state exclusively for the Kukis or for the Nagas is not feasible in the present scenario of Manipur. If a united Manipur is not an option, then a division between the hills and valley should be the next best option but dividing on ethnic communal lines may not be a workable solution in practical purposes.
Lastly, the Kuki based underground groups signed SoO pact in favour of not disturbing the territorial integrity of the Manipur state and in view of this signature, demanding a full-fledged state for the Kukis is certainly to go against the written document which was signed in 2008 between the state govt., Centre and the Kuki underground groups.
- What did you contextualize the Moreh town tension of 2007 developed as a result of killing spree unleashed by UNLF and KNA? What is your position in that?
Ans: The killing spree unleashed by the United National Liberation Front and Kuki National Army in Moreh town in 2007 was uncalled for incident. Both the parties knew well that launching a reign of terror is not going to bring anything good to themselves and to the common people. But they did it with the hope of showing their muscle power of their fire-arms. It was simply a killing spree and nothing more nothing less. But the near communal tension flaring up between the Kukis and Meiteis due to that incident was very bad. Hence, I have no part and also no comment excepting no support to such incidents again in future where innocent blood are shed.
- What is your position on the demand of Khoibu to list them as separate tribe?
Ans: Previously the Khoibu tribe was part of Maring tribe. But the Khoibus are a distinct tribe with different dialect, custom and culture. If they wish to be separated from the Maring there is nothing wrong.
- Why would the Kukis prefer to list them as tribe?
Ans: In Indian context Kukis are a tribal group composed of many sub-tribes and clans with slight or small differences from one another. Since 1956 almost all the sub-tribes of the Kuki try their level best to be recognized as a separate tribe and today the list of recognized tribes among the Kukis is reaching 23. All these separate tribes used Kuki as a nomenclature so that all of them hang together as a nation. But some clans of the Kukis prefer not to be listed under the existing recognized tribes. Instead, they prefer to be recognized as Kuki. If this attempt succeeded the term Kuki will no longer be regarded as nomenclature for all the Kuki sub-tribes owing to the reason that only few clans will be known as Kuki and automatically the rest will not be covered. The end result would be disintegration. And the Kuki nation or nomenclature will be affected.
- How are the Kukis differed from other coexisting communities such as Meeteis and Nagas? Can’t these people live together harmoniously and how can it be possible?
Ans: In external physical appearance the Kukis, Meeteis and Nagas are similar. For the outsiders they all are alike. But in the field of custom, culture, dialect, and costume the Kukis are different from the other two communities. In spite of all these differences the Kukis can live harmoniously with the other two communities. They have been living harmoniously in all these many centuries. However, the political demand of the Nagas greatly affected the interest of the Kukis since both are living in the same hill areas. If the socio- economic and political interests of the Kukis are respected and safeguarded, then the Kukis can live harmoniously with others. However, the current situation tells a different story which is the reason why the Kukis started demanding separate state or autonomy to safeguard their socio-political interest. This does not mean that the Kukis hated other communities. But if their socio-political and economic interest is being hurt, they have every right to determine their own future.
- Under what circumstances the idea of United People’s Front came into being?
Ans: The Kuki based underground groups have no cordial relations among themselves since the beginning. In fact, they have had a long period of hatred and animosity sometime leading to violent clashes among themselves. The signing of suspension of operation (SoO) agreement with the Indian army in 2005 paved the way to unification but not a unification of all. The Kuki National Organization (KNO) tried its best to unify the scattered UG groups under its wing. Thus, those groups who chose to go against the KNO unification process started the idea of forming another umbrella organization and the outcome was the formation of UPF in 2006 in Aizawl.
- Is UPF a political party? Why have it taken up arms? Against whom?
Ans: UPF is not exactly a political party but it is a revolutionary party. As a revolutionary party they took up arms. They took up arms to protect their people against any adversaries and also to attract the attention of the government so that their political demand does not go unnoticed. If the government shows open negligent to their legitimate demand, they are well prepared to raise their arms against the government.
- Why have there so many armed wings of UPF?
Ans: The UPF itself is an armed organization. It has no separate armed wings. Many armed organizations with differing names come together and formed UPF. It is made up of many armed organizations this is how the UPF has so many armed wings.
- Can there be a common army under UPF? Where did the fund come from to maintaining the army?
Ans: There can be a common army under UPF if the UPF wanted to form. So far there is no decision or resolution to form a common army for the UPF. If a common army is formed, the fund will be coming mainly from the people themselves.
- What are the forms of political training? What is the basic ideology of UPF? How are the cadres developed?
Ans: We used to conduct seminars, workshops and political awareness campaigns for the people and also to the cadres of the organizations so as to inculcate patriotism and nationalism in the minds of the public. These are the main forms of political training.
The basic ideology of the UPF is to create an autonomous hill state which is a state within a state under article 244(A) of Indian constitution. This is in line with the SoO agreement signed in 2008 with the state and central governments. The arrangement will not disturb the existing territorial boundaries of Manipur state. It is like those existing autonomous councils or autonomous administration for the tribals in some other states like Assam, West Bengal etc.
Cadres for the organizations are obtained from the common people, mostly the youngsters, who are determined to serve the cause of the community. There is no forcible means of recruitment but all came on their own free will since everybody is aware that the political future is of the kuki is bleak.
- What are the main contentions between the UPF and the KNO?
Ans: There is no official contention(s) between the UPF and KNO except the two existing divergent political ideologies/ demands. These differences in political goals set them apart although there is no big contention between the two. However, a sort of competition (a cut throat competition) is the prevailing situation between them till today. This not so cordial relationship has weakened both the organizations. Before the signing of the SoO pact with govt the Kuki based underground groups were existing independently from one another and physical violent clashes among them were so frequent in the past. But today, peace and normalcy had return. But total or complete unification is yet to be achieved.
- What are the main contentions between UPF and other Naga based and Manipur based organizations?
Ans: Presently there is no contention(s) between the UPF and Naga or Manipur based other UG organizations. Now with the signing of the SoO pact with the govt., peace and normalcy return to the society. The occasional fighting among the UGs also came down drastically. However, due to one or the other reasons, there is lack of cooperation and mutual understanding among the various underground groups. But there is no official/open contention or conflict among the various armed groups. Of course, we the UKLF and UNLF had a period of conflict in the past. But that was before the signing of the SoO agreement and the formation of UPF. There had been four long months of fierce gun battles between UKLF and UNLF in the remote areas of Chandel district in 2003. The fight ended in stalemate with no group getting an upper hand over the other. But the incident let loose a high degree of suffering to the common people. With the peace initiatives of Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) and United Committee Manipur (UCM), the fighting was finally brought to an end. After that incident the all-out operation against the UGs under code name ‘Operation All Clear’ was started by Indian army which eventually flushed out the UNLF and other valley based UG groups who were operating in the remote hill areas of district.
- Why have the UPF stopped offensives against the govt? Why have it entered into SoO with the govt? what are the terms and conditions of SoO? How far these helped in achieving the goal of UPF? Why was SoO signed when your goal had not been fulfilled? How far can it contribute to your movement?
Ans: Even before signing the SoO pact with the govt. we have not taken out any big major operation or offensive against the govt. Because, we are not directly against the govt. Our focus is to create a state/ autonomous state for development purposes which is within the constitution of India. With the open invitation for table-talk from the govt we have decided to Sign SoO since we believed in talk/dialogue so that we achieve the goal without bloodshed.
The terms and conditions of the SoO is not so good for us since it was dictated by the govt. But the disunity among us made us very weak as a result of which we could not even push forward our terms and conditions. So far, the SoO seem to be not helping us much in achieving our goal. Now the govt is beginning to show its negligence to start dialogue with us.
It was a mistake on our part in signing the SoO because right from the start we are dictated upon and the SoO had made us weaker than before. Moreover, the time was not right for signing any type of peace agreement with the govt. So, it is really a mistake and a blunder. However, the disunity we had in our society forced us to sign the SoO when every one of us was quite unprepared.
The KNO/KNA was the first to sign the SoO with Indian army without consulting others. That was the chief factor why all of us signed. The KNO/KNA’s intention was to delete all others with the help of Indian army once others refuse to sign. So, we were under compulsion to enter into the SoO agreement.
Right now, the govt is neglecting us. Both the state and central govts are not serious on the issue. Even after 8 years since we first sign SoO pact in 2005 with Indian army, nothing is moving forward. So, we cannot say anything right now. It is difficult to conclude that the signing of the SoO can contribute to achieve our political movement.
- Kuki areas witness increasing militarization by the govt 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?
Ans: The situation told us very clearly that the armed movement is to be re-organized into a mass movement. This seems to be the best way to continue and be active in pursuing our political goal. Armed confrontation between various organizations and also between security forces and underground organizations has come down almost to zero now. The people heaved a sigh of relief since peace and security to life have returned. Now, proper/real reconciliation between the Kuki and Nagas is a must to forgive and forget the past violent clash. Then real peace and reconciliation should be implemented among the Kuki based UG groups since they also have a period of hatred and animosity in the past. Peace should also be maintained with the majority community –the Meiteis. For this, peace and reconciliations programmes should be organized and carried deep inside the masses so that love and affection will return to each and everybody. Seemingly, the kuki area had seen heavy militarization because of the presence of a large number of Indian security forces and the Kuki underground groups. but after signing the SoO agreement, there is no more violent conflict and confrontation and a resemblance of peace return to area already.
- The list killed and villages uprooted by NSCN-IM. Will you elaborate on retaliation from your side and the toll on the NSCN-IM and the Nagas?
Ans: With the help of newspapers and eye-witnesses a long list of Kukis killed and villages uprooted by NSCN-IM/Nagas was published by the KNO in the book called Zalen’gam. During the ethnic clash we the Kukis also retaliated whenever and wherever the need arose to protect the lives and properties of people. In the ensuing battles many Nagas both innocent and NSCN-IM cadres might have been killed. In some places villages and houses were burnt down and destroyed. But the Nagas are yet to publish the list of those killed and villages destroyed. We are not sure about the exact number of killed, maimed or houses destroyed. But one can be sure that at least a good number of Nagas have been killed and several houses burnt to ashes.
But one thing about the Kuki Naga clash was that the Kukis were quite unprepared when the violent clashes occurred. It was like a deadly strong wind storm blowing and passing without warning upon unknowing and helpless people. Hence, the amount of destruction and loss of lives would be naturally higher on the Kuki side. In fact, during those days, holding an automatic rifles or AK rifles is like a dream for the Kukis. They fought back the invading Naga army with their own hastily made fire-guns to protect and defend themselves. However, in the face of real fights/battles those hastily made guns and original automatic guns/AK rifles were nowhere near to compare with. Truly speaking those privately handmade guns were no match for the original sophisticated weapons used by the Naga army. So, it was an unequal fight. Somehow the Almighty God was so kind and merciful that the poor helpless Kukis were saved. Otherwise, they might have been eliminated on much larger scale.
In those days, only the KNA and KNF were the armed organizations for the Kukis. Both of them were in their initial formation stage with few cadres and lesser weapons and not to talk of protecting the people, they could not even protect themselves. Only in name sake they were mentioned but the real fight/defense was carried out by the common people. In almost every place, the Kuki Defence Force (KDF) was hastily formed but without weapons to fight back. With the help and protection from God we have been saved otherwise situation would be pathetic for the Kukis.
- What are the class backgrounds of the leadership in UPF?
Ans: The leadership in UPF is made up of mixture class backgrounds. Majority of them are from economically poor background but they are determined leaders. Educationally, some are educated but some are not. But none of them is an illiterate. All of them are well educated with the political environment all around. They have seen with their own eyes what was and is happening all around them.
- What according to you constitute the first and foremost enemy of the Kuki people? Who is your main enemy? How would you strategize to overcome it?
Ans: Disunity and economic backwardness are the first and foremost enemies of the Kuki people. On top of this, those people who wants them (Kukis) to be in that stage of life forever are also the enemies of the Kukis. Once these obstacles are removed the main enemies will be gone. This can be achieved once our political movement is fulfilled.
- What is the stage of Revolution at the present in relation to the movement your party is leading?
Ans: At present we are still in the initial phase of revolution. As a revolutionary organization we need to bring changes in several arenas of our society. Our society is still a backward-looking society to some extents. We need to change some basic things which are inherent with us since centuries. We need to make some modifications to some of our basic structure of our society so that true revolution can come. Now everybody is for political revolution but only political revolution can bring not much change in the society. Any way we are still in the initial stage of real revolution at present.
ON ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL QUESTIONS
- What constitute the predominant form of economic livelihood among the Kukis in Manipur?
Ans: Presently I have no official or accepted data in my hand but the marginal economy is the predominant form of economic life of the Kukis. Majority of the Kukis live in hill areas in villages with farming as their main occupation. Till today, the farming system is not yet modernized. Modern farming system is beyond their reach. They cultivate their land with the crudest tools. On top of this, most of them depend on jhuming cultivation which could hardly supply them food grains for a year. So, their means of livelihood is only subsistence.
- You have raised voices against imperialism and colonialism. What kind of political economy you would subscribe to in case the Zale’ngam is finally recognized by all?
Ans: (Cannot comment)
- What is your position towards the Sadar hills Demand raised by a section of the Kukis?
Ans: As far as Sadar hill demand goes, I have no objection because it was simply a demand for creation of one more district and there is no harm in creating one or more districts in the state if the people of the particular area want it. In Sadar hills majority of the people might be the Kukis but creation of a district is for all who live in the district and not for one particular community. It should not be looked with political color. Therefore, there is no point for somebody or the govt to treat the issue with politics. All should support Sadar Hill issue, this is my position since it is for the good of all.
- You said your party has got popular mandate? But many Kuki leaders are interested in electoral politics of Manipur. Many have got elected in the past and the present. Many Kukis are in the higher bureaucracy. How would you explain the seeming contradictions?
Ans: As we are still in the process. Some might be in government service sector. Some might be contesting the electoral politics of the state. And, some others might be doing other things. This is all about life. All of us cannot be in the sailors’ deck of the ship while travelling in a ship. Similarly, we have to be in different sectors. In a sailing ship some will be the sailors and some will be the passengers and some others will prepare snack/food for the passengers. In order to make the ship sailing different people have differing jobs. This is a way of life so is the Kukis. But, I am saying my party got the popular mandate of the people owing to the reason that we are demanding what is feasible and possible under the constitution. It is a genuine demand not harming anybody or any group in our state Manipur.
- There are many Kuki 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)?
Ans: There is no record of history terming both the Nagas and Kukis as traditional enemy. Of course, in ancient days during the heat hunting period of history, killings sometimes took place between the two. In those days people were uncivilized and they lived like wild animals. Killings in those days cannot be counted as something special today. Anybody who keeps on remembering and recollecting those days and trying to inculcate ill feelings against one community is against ethics of civilization. Many unwanted incidents might have happened in those days but those things cannot be used as a measuring rod today. For the last many centuries both the Kukis and Nagas live side by side happily. And, in many places intermingling of villages also existed, which is a proof of the nonexistence of hatred among them on communal line.
- 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?
Ans: Yes, many people in the hills not only the Kukis felled trees and smuggled out as a source of economy. This is true but in the absence of other livelihood sources we cannot completely stop them. Yes, it is a source of environmental destruction. But until and unless the government is able to form a proper, viable, efficient, usable, durable and people friendly forest policy, felling of trees or destruction of forest will continue and nothing can be done. For a poor man who has no proper source of livelihood, destroying forest for a living is unavoidable job. For him environmental destruction is nothing since his immediate livelihood is more important than anything else.
- What is your position on the ongoing Tipaimukh Dam construction?
Ans: There has been a hue and cry against the Tipaimukh Dam from some sections of the people of Manipur. But the govt is going ahead with its proposed plan. As far as my personal view is concerned, I do not support big or mega dam for a tiny state like Manipur. Particularly in a high seismic zone like the North eastern India, big dams are a constant source of danger for the people downstream. It might have benefited India as a whole in power supply but for the people of the state we are to be loser and not the gainer. Moreover, this day, big dam is not favoured everywhere all over the world.
- What is your position on the ongoing railway line construction to connect Manipur?
Ans: On the ongoing construction of railway line connecting Manipur with outside, I am in favour of it because it will remove the transport bottleneck and higher and bigger development may be achieved in our land lock state Manipur. The effects of the frequent bandhs and economic blockade on the two National Highways upon the people will become smaller once railway connection is completed.
- What is your position on the attempt to implement Manipur Land Revenue and Regulation Act?
Ans: Judging from the ground reality of the situation, I am not in favour of the application of Manipur Land Revenue and Regulation Act 1960 in the hill districts of Manipur. If this particular MLR & R Act is applied, it will have a serious and adverse impact upon the backward hill peoples of the state. Moreover, 99% of the hill people are not in favour of it and in the event of implementation of the said act, it could have big repercussion.
- What is your position on the recent statement of the Meetei Internatinational Forum under the leadership of RK Rajendro?
Ans: In regard to the recent statement of Meetei International Forum (IMF) under the leadership of RK Rajendro, I considered it a mad statement devoid of truth and sowing the seed of communal hatred in the Manipuri society as a whole. I considered organization like IMF is a big enemy of the Manipuri society as a whole since it will only heighten the already high degree of division of our society.
- What is your position on the recent demand for the inclusion of Meeteis in the ST list?
Ans: Theoretically speaking inclusion of Meeteis in the schedule tribe list sound good since it will bring everybody in equal position but that will create inequality in the society in reality because the Meeteis have been in general category for the last so many years and they have become higher than the tribals in all walks of life. Now if they are put in the same category with the tribals who are still very backward they (Meeteis) will occupy all the government service sectors from top to bottom and no more room will be left for the tribals. This will suppress the tribals forever.
- is your position on the Oil Exploration and Drilling process going on in Churachanpur, Tamenglong and Jiribam Areas
Ans: If oil is found in any part of India, the govt has the right and the authority to drill. But the locals should be given job opportunity and other necessary compensation and facilities while extracting the precious mineral.
- What is your position on the ADC in Manipur?
Ans: Presently the Autonomous District Council in Manipur is functioning without any degree of autonomy and if real autonomy is not given it is far better to be abolished. It has been kept dormant for more than 20 years because of no power and autonomy. The recent revival of it by O Ibobi govt has made some people happy but now it is functioning like a toothless lion devoid of power and function. Not only the people, even the ADC members themselves are quite unsatisfied now. The Nagas knowing fully the would be result, had disfavoured right from the start but due to the ignorant of the Kukis the ADC election was conducted. Now what the Nagas had feared the most become a reality.
- What is your position on the MNREGS in Manipur?
Ans: MNREGS in Manipur is a grand scheme which is good for a poor state like Manipur. It has good result in the state since its beginning. Though there are few complaints here and there for non-implementation of the scheme properly but the overall implementation and the overall result is amazing.
- What is your position on the PDS in Manipur?
Ans: PDS in Manipur is not functioning properly particularly in the hill areas due to the insincerity of the people in power and the people connected with it. But the valley areas are better served when compared with the hills. As a whole PDS is not up to the mark in the state.
- What is your position on the increasing trend of privatization of the education sector?
Ans: Increasing privatization of education is not a good option for poor state like Manipur where majority of the citizens are poor economically. If privatization is encouraged in education sector the poorer section of the society is certain to face bigger problem in pursuing higher education.
- What is your position on the increasing trend of recruitment in active services including police and VDF in Manipur?
Ans: Increasing recruitment in active services like police and VDF is good for a state like Manipur where govt sector is the biggest employer since private companies are almost nil. In other govt departments the intake capacity is limited but active services like police and VDF require more manpower particularly the youths. So, it can help in solving unemployment problem to some extent.
- What is the pattern of landholding rights among the Kukis?
Ans: The pattern of landholding among the Kukis is connected with the custom of hereditary chief ship system and not easy to change. In spite of small or slight changes the system remains largely unchanged even today. Of course, fragmentation of landholding took place in the Kuki society but the old system is still being followed. In the past the number of chiefs is not so large and their land holding were large. But today more and more new chiefs emerged leading to an increase in the number of chiefs and their landholding became smaller and smaller.
In the Kuki society the landholder or owner is only the chief and all the villagers are landless cultivators. That is why it is said that 99% of Kukis are landless. Thus, the landholding system of the Kukis and other communities are quite different. The villagers could freely cultivate the land and enjoy the produces free of cost as long as he or she lives in the village but the land still belonged to the chief. The villagers could not sell their land when they wanted to leave the village because the ownership of the land is always with the chief. This had made them (Kukis) look like nomadic because for them it is not difficult to shift from one village to another.
- What is your position on the constitution of act 1948 that was collectively drafted by representatives from Meitei, Kuki and others?
Ans: The Manipur constitution Act 1948 was drafted by the people through their representatives. But when the Manipur Maharaja signed the instrument of merger with India the constitution became obsolete and defunct. If that constitution can be revived now at least some problems we face today could be solved or minimized.
- I am told that there has been nexus between Kuki chiefs, exploiting contractors and corrupt political barons. The nexus had withheld developmental process, transparency and suspended democracy in strict sense of the term. What is your position on this?
Ans: Yes, there are many occasions where the Kuki chiefs and other corrupt contractors and political barons have open nexus and exploited the people and pocketed developmental funds for their selfish end. These naturally had negative impact and the end results are big disturbances in the flow of developmental process. The people are aware of all these. But in many cases, they are helpless because they have no assistance to redress their grievances since the people who are higher up in position have become the exploiters. If the supposed to be the defenders become the suppressors no remedy is readily available. We, as a revolutionary organization are against these unholy nexus and we also left no stone unturned to remove such things but achievement side is minimal due to various reasons.
- 44. 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 help in the Zale’ngam movement?
Ans: Since the last 10 or more years ago the emigration of Kuki students to other big cities in search of job opportunities started and now the trend is increasing year by year. In the absence of job opportunity in the state, educated youths/students are bound to go outside the state in search of jobs. However, this trend of emigration is not helping the Zalen’gam movement to any extend. Many of them even don’t have the time to look back and think for their people and the movement which is going on in the state. Many of them, since they are away from the touch of environment and atmosphere of the state, are less attracted to the current political issue back home.
- It is said that there has been increasing immigration of Burmese Kuki-Chin immigration in Manipur?
Ans: Regard the issue of Burmese Kuki-Chin migration to Manipur, there is no big threat. The apprehension is mostly invalid. Like in the case of many other states of India, there may be few and scatter migrations from Burma side to Manipur. But as far as my knowledge is concerned, the issue is very small and not big enough to create any kind of apprehension. Of course, some people belonging to mostly Kuki Chin groups were driven into Manipur in 1967 due to the Burmese official policy of transporting out of their country those people who have no valid citizenship. Except this, there is no more migration which is enough to make us apprehensive.
Here one thing about the Chin-Kuki groups is that they have been in this part of land (Manipur and the adjoining territory of Burma) for centuries together. It is their land and they have occupied and roam freely all around. But the modern international boundaries of Indo-Burma have separated them by force. This is a grave injustice done to them. Now some of them live in Burma side and some of them in Indian side and they have become one people with two nationalities. Even the same family members are separated. As an organization, we are very much concerned about population explosion but in the case of the Kuki-Chin issue, there is nothing to be apprehensive as of now.
- What is your position on June 2001 unrest in Manipur regarding the extension of Naga cease-fire?
Ans: Regard the June 2001 great unrest in Manipur due to Naga cease-fire extension, we the Kukis also raised our opposition and somehow the extension was withdrawn. But for the Kukis, it was a mistake to raise their voice against the Nagas because of the fact that at the time when the Kukis opposed the Naga movement the majority community (Meeteis) were sitting on the fence clapping their hands saying that the foolish hill tribals are fighting and killing one another. They (Meeteis) know nothing of the hidden agenda of the Naga separatist movement. The Naga political movement covered the entire hill areas of Manipur since the start and we the Kukis opposed it with tooth and nail. It became the main source of Kuki-Naga conflict of the 1992 -1996. At that time had the Meeteis also raised their voice against the Nagas, the infamous ethnic Kuki-Naga conflict could have been avoided. During the Naga-Kuki ethnic clash, I was a college student living in Imphal among the Meiteis and I remember many Meiteis clapping their hands and enjoying the show of violent conflict and killing among the hill peoples.
- There has been stiff resistance to any form of policy or steps that may threat 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?
Ans: There has been and there will be stiff resistance to any form of action or movement to disintegrate the territorial integrity of Manipur from the majority community (the Meeteis) on the one hand and there will also actions or movements trying to disintegrate it on the other hand too. The Naga under NSCN (IM) and the Kukis under KNO is trying its level best to disintegrate the existing territorial boundary of the state. Who is going to succeed or not will be decided by time. However, if the UPF demand is supported by all, then the issue could be address affectively with no adverse impact on anybody.
- What is your position on the ongoing demand for Iinner Line Permit System in Manipur?
Ans: We neither supported nor opposed the demand for the introduction of Inner Line Permit System in the state.
- What is your position on the ongoing demand for Naga Alternative Administrative Arrangement?
Ans: We neither support nor oppose the AA demand of the Manipur Nagas since they (Nagas) also have a reason to demand AA system.
- There is rumour saying that every Kuki clan flouted 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?
Ans: The rumor that every Kuki clan is flouting an armed group is partly true. It is true to some armed groups but not true to others. In fact, there are few organizations raised exclusively by a clan for that clan only but not all Kuki based organizations are clan based. Theoretically speaking the present trend of organizing armed groups in the Kuki society can be compared with warlordism but in practice it not comparable with true warlordism. If the trends continue unabated the situation could be similar to warlordism in future.
- Is there any formula under which the 38 communities co-existing in Manipur live together peacefully and interdependently under one administration?
Ans: There is very much a formula to co-exist all the communities of Manipur to live together peacefully. But since the last some years majority of the communities particularly the bigger ones have decided to choose separatism. In such a situation to live together peacefully under one administrative banner seem impossible as of now.
- What is your position on the issue of drug, illegal selling and addiction in Manipur?
Ans: As a revolutionary organization we are opposing the issue of drug smuggling, illegal selling and addiction in Manipur. But due to some reasons we could not wipe it out. Some armed organizations are also reportedly involved in drug smuggling and illegal selling of drugs and other illegal items for want of money. We cannot totally blame them as well since running or maintaining armed organizations is a costly project. Those armed groups who are doing illegal business are doing with the help of some politicians and men in uniform services. Of course, few have been caught but majority are beyond the touch of the law.
ON HUMAN RIGHTS
What is your position on the Armed Forces Special Power Act 1958?
Ans: The AFSPA, 1958, has been a controversial issue in the state for many years. But the government refuses to repeal it on the ground that once the act is removed lawlessness will increase manifold than the present. As leader of an armed organization, I oppose it. But from the view point of the government and many people from the civil sector, the draconian act is a necessity evil in the face of the current insurgency problems in the state. Some people also believe that once the said black law/Act is removed people from armed groups will be bold enough to activate their actions on the helpless common people to a much higher scale. This kind of apprehension holds valid since we have so many armed groups in the state and not all are genuine. Some are mainly for extortion of money and harassing people.
- How does your party dealt with issues of human rights in the areas under your operation? What area the forms of approach and issues raised to you by individuals or families to intervene into?
Ans: As a true revolutionary organization we are for the people and we usually pay high regards to the issues of human rights. We try our best to maintain peace in our operational areas. Whenever other armed groups serve warning or threaten or harass innocent people, we used to take prompt action so as not to let anybody suffer unnecessarily. Recently, Kuki National Liberation Front (KNLF) signed SoO pact with the government and they wanted to stay or build camp in Chandel district. But we opposed it because once two armed groups stay together in the same area, the ultimate outcome will be misunderstanding and animosity. In such a situation the common people will suffer as had happened many times in the past. The civil bodies of the district also voiced similar concern. There, the KNLF served threatening warnings to the social leaders but we quickly acted and eventually we managed to put zero to the warning served on the public leaders. We did this for maintaining peaceful atmosphere and safeguard human rights violations.
- How does the judicial function under the principle of your party? How far it works in tune with or parallel to the existing legal framework of the state?
Ans: As a revolutionary organization we have our own judicial system but not so similar to the legal framework of the state. We give high priority to judiciary because judiciary is one important leg of the organization. However, since we are still an armed organization, except the limited framework we have made for the organization, to have similar or parallel to the existing legal framework with the state govt is not possible. However, when the government’s justice delivery system is time consuming, ours is quick and effective. In the govt judicial system capital punishment is rare. For us, we have rules and regulations/laws or guidelines. Anybody who willfully disobey or break them are punished severely. At times capital punishment are awarded according to the severity the crime(s). For instance, one of the most serious crime for us is a cadre running away weapon/guns or running away after shooting or killing his friend(s). In such cases capital punishment is applied. In other cases, capital punishment is not the option. Varying degrees of punishment like heavy fine or administering ordeal/physical punishment/beating or shooting at the leg are usually applied.
- 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?
Ans: Increasing trend of sex-worker among the Kukis is seen after the Naga-Kuki clash due to the obvious reasons. Young widows with children left without husbands are likely to take up such business to keep their children and herself safe from hunger and starvation or extreme poverty. This is certain to happen in the society where widow upliftment or welfare measures are almost absent. Domestic violence is not higher among the Kukis than other communities. In our society we have village chief’s court which is the highest customary law court dealing with almost all kinds of cases arising or emerging in the society. Domestic violent is also within the ambit of village court. We have very well-set rules and laws to deal with in accordance with the degrees of the violence/crime. Therefore, as a revolutionary organization, we are not directly dealing with all these things except when we are being asked to do so. Our society has enough or competent authority to deal with them. In other words, to deal with sex-workers and the issues of increasing prostitution in our society, we have many student or youth and women bodies in every nook and corner. We support them.
- It is said that the Kukis are highly patriarchal and the chiefs are nominated along the male line. What is your view on it?
Ans: Yes, the Kuki society is highly a patriarchal society. Chiefs are normally selected/nominated (not elected) along the male line only. This is a Kuki customary law and nothing can be said on it until and unless major change or modification is affected in the Kuki customary law. Many educated including me are for modification or bringing in a major change. But till today, the old guards are still strong and active in our society and nothing noteworthy can be affected till date.
- What are your descriptions about and suggestion for on matters relating to the human rights conditions in Manipur?
Ans: Human rights condition in Manipur is not good. There are many instances of incidents relating to human rights violations. The types and kinds of violations are so many. Indeed, many of the human rights violation related cases are committed by both the state and non-state actors. The authority is blaming most cases of human rights violations on the insurgents but the involvement of security forces in human rights violations is also frequent. Due to the volatile situations, human rights violations in state are on the rise. Security forces including the state forces are having a field day whenever small incident(s) of lawlessness took place. In the name of enforcing law and order, they let loose a reign of terror upon the common and helpless people. On the other side too, the armed groups, though many of them claim themselves to be the protectors of the people, are becoming the real predators.
Some social organizations are also active in dictating their own terms on the people. For instance, the MEELAL, are seen erasing and blackening sign boards written in English or some other scripts. They did all these things in broad daylight without acknowledging the presence of the elected authority. They are given a free hand by the authority. Erasing or blackening sign boards hanging on your door step by someone without your will is also human rights violation. The MEELAL also burnt down the state central library where lakhs of books have been destroyed.
Some social bodies are powerful enough to impose economic blockade on the lifelines of the state for months together leading to high price of essential commodities in state thereby causing hardships to the people. All these are human rights violations in our Manipur state. But blame games are on the card of everyone and everybody seems to be blameless though the sufferings of the people are getting higher and higher day by day.
Again, dismantling or burning down of house(s) or chasing away inmates by a mob on the alleged involvement of a single inmate in a crime is reported in local dailies almost on a daily basis. Indeed, mob violence or mob justice become very frequent in Manipur. Anything or any action done or committed not in accordance with the law of the land is violation of human rights in a true sense of the term. Extortion of money, sending demand notes and serving warnings by some armed groups on some people are reported on daily basis. There are reported corruptions and snatching the shares of the common people by unscrupulous politicians and officers. Nothing is done against them though such actions are real human rights violations.
Extra-judicial killings are also reported every now and then in the hands of the security forces. The recent visit of the state by members of National Human Rights Commission was greeted with many complaint letters regarding fake encounter and extra-judicial killings and tortures perpetrated by state and central forces. So, in Manipur violations of human rights is perpetrated and supported by many people on many fronts. My suggestion is to inculcate human rights awareness to the public including the people in uniform and also allow full functioning of the Manipur State Human Rights Commission to deal with human rights violations.
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