Monday, December 14, 2020

How Merry Will This Christmas Be?


Outlook India (Click here)

As December punches the clock and the cold winds in the night kiss our cheeks, the arrival of Christmas season with its profound memories is impossible to not notice; it is in the air. Amid the euphoric feeling, one cannot turn a blind eye to the prevailing reality which questions the mind ‘how merry will Christmas 2020 be?’

'How are we going to celebrate Christmas this year?' I'd asked my better half, sounding a bit worried. Our wedding anniversary and birthdays in 2020 had all fallen in the lockdown period and my already celebration-deprived calendar reflects nothing to cheer for, except Christmas. I guess the case is not exclusive to me.

When there have been months of lockdown and the restrictive unlock process is a work-in-progress, the odds of finding a person with an unaffected plan is highly improbable. Nevertheless, December has been a sliver of hope that helps many to accept missed-celebrations with a consolation that, ‘at least we have Christmas.’

'We will worship the Lord and give thanks to him on Christmas Day,' replied my wife nonchalantly. She added that one's spiritual health should not be affected by physical health. While I am in complete agreement with the aforementioned 'spiritual health', I could not help but remind her that I need to dance and sing merrily in a group, which is obviously not guaranteed as of now. To that, she replied by reminding me of how many festivals like Eid, Diwali, Durga Puja, etc. have been affected and requested me to accept the 'new normal' as many other people from different faiths did.

Post-Christianity, for the tribal in general and my community— Kuki, in particular— Christmas is considered the biggest festival among all the cultural, social, and religious festivals. The celebration includes, after the worship services, an interesting item called 'Lengkhom' which translates as 'get-together'. This get-together mostly involves singing lenkhom-laa (get-together hymns and choruses) and dancing in lam-kol (Group dance). One of the song goes as: ‘Aw lunglhai sel in naosen leng penni hin, kipah in sao te cham leh lung olna’, which loosely translates as 'be gracious on this birthday of the King; let us sing with joy for peace and tranquillity’.

There are many such Christmas songs, the meaning of which underscores how the celebration is rightfully valued. Surely, the once fun-loving community, who then engaged in Chon, Kut and Som-len, etc. has now discontinued most of its traditional merry-making activities and Christmas is, therefore, one such occasion every household, rich or poor, and every individual whether from the village or the city looks up to with different hopes and excitement.

Personally, I have countless memories attached to Christmas. Even now, the advent of Christmas month brings an unexplainable joy in my heart. In days gone by, January to November was considered a “waiting phase” and the arrival of December month would be greeted with oodles of zest. We’d sing our hearts out in Christmas carols, so much so, that our throats, hurt by the extreme singing, would take days to recover. Tea sipped with straws in between the songs during “Lengkhom” (Get-together) had the taste better than the best beverage in the best restaurant. The atmosphere, the laughs, funs and bonhomie were blissful, to say the least. The only spoiler was the ticking clock that didn’t have the emotional consideration and seemed to run at the speed of lightning. How we then wished the clock to stand still! We literally had a merry Christmas. We celebrated in the best possible way we could, to make us happy.

The pandemic in 2020 has catastrophic consequences, but it is the determination to sail through the storms, the hope to have better times again that keeps at least our minds safe from being infected by the Virus. And with the possibility of a Christmas celebration in 2020 without 'Lengkhom' looming large now, it appears what most people had hoped for is to vanish in thin air.

However, this is not to project the stakes to an artificial high and thereby vouch for the celebration perhaps even to the extent of ignoring all guidelines and health directives. The intent is to highlight what the celebration of Christmas really meant to many people like me. Still, all that matters is the undeniable truth that we are faced with something all too different and tough—both mentally and physically. Irrespective of how well-intended is our endeavour, we cannot take the luxury of risking our health and that of others. The commitment will take more than normal talks of accepting the new normal. To understand what we might have to lose to gain our health, which transcends everything. Unthinkable as it may sound and appear, we will have to imagine Christmas without mass gatherings.

On the bright side, vaccines will soon be within reach of the common men, and ignoring the conspiracy surrounding the news that the Virus' second wave is a scam manufactured to boost the sales of vaccines, we have reasons to be optimistic about the days to come. But, till those doses reach us, we will be far better off concentrating on covering our faces in masks than coveting masses to face.

'All these years, you have celebrated Christmas just the way you wanted. Now, should there be any eventuality that Christmas is not celebrated in Church with the masses, why not take that as an opportunity to reach out to Him and seek His happiness; after all, it is His Birthday and a silent fellowship with Him on a silent night is a precious opportunity nobody can lockdown,' said the mother of my two children as we end the discussion that unlocks my realm of thoughts to a new outlook.

I realised it is not the masses that are important in Christmas but Christ and the mass (a service in His memory) that deserve our priority and it is not a big deal to mask our face, as long as we do not mask our hearts. Merry Christmas 2020 to all!

This Christmas, do not let COVID-19 dampen your spirits


December has been a hope that helps many to accept missed-celebrations with a consolation that, at least we have Christmas

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Chavang Kut: A Beautiful Festival Of Peace And Unity

Chavang Kut: A Beautiful Festival Of Peace And Unity
A thadou-Kuki couple kids in traditional attires

The onset of autumn heralds the arrival of a much-awaited festival- Chavang Kut for the Chin-Kuki-Mizo community (CHIKIM) of Northeast India. Kut, as a festival has different types -- while it is the most prominent Kut in Manipur, Chapchar Kut is widely celebrated in Mizoram and Mim Kut in Nagaland (among the CHIKIMs). Chapchar Kut is celebrated in March/April to mark the completion of jhum cultivation. Mim Kut, which is a post-harvest festival of “mim” (Maize) crop is celebrated in January. Another post-harvest festival is Pawl Kut, which is widely celebrated in Mizoram during the month of December.

Celebrated on the November 1 every year, Chavang Kut is a post-harvest festival of the CHIKIM community and is one of the biggest festivals in Manipur. There is neither any hard and fast rule nor any written set of practices meant to be followed, as in how to celebrate Kut. But cultural dances of the various tribes of CHIKIMs and traditional-dress display remains the core theme of the festival. In the earlier days, people drank rice beer, danced in "Lamkol" and sang "Lakoila/Pu-la Pa-la". Festivals in those days were exuberant in their own special ways which involved activities that engaged the young and old alike. While the younger ones would compete in games like “Kangchoi” (Spinning Top), the male adults would fight for the coveted “strongest man of the village/area” title. A major part of those rituals is continued for the present generation to remember their roots and to retain and promote their traditional and cultural values. However, to fine-tune to the changing times and to accommodate women's participation as well as to acknowledge the message of women empowerment, present-day celebrations of Chavang Kut have added features such as the Miss Kut contest.

 Concerns have been raised by a few people on Chavang Kut celebration and the inclusion of beauty contest ---- Miss Kut in particular ---- with the allegation that the particular event being held at night attracts only the evil elements of the society and as such the contest should be discontinued. This issue could very well be resolved by scheduling the programmes during day and an additional day may be added, if needed. Another argument raised by critics of “Miss Kut” is the alleged over-importance accorded to the beauty contest, which according to them has diluted the festival of its true connotation- to celebrate one’s culture and tradition. This is similar to the allegation made by a few people on cricket being the reason for the degradation of other games in India and eventually the nation’s poor performance in the Olympics. Unlike in sports where different games are played on different grounds, Chavang Kut programmes are held in one location. As a result, a person interested only in beauty contests, western music, and dances will still have to necessarily witness other cultural items displayed during the event; the intention of propagating traditional values among the participants is thus achieved. Also, important is to ponder over the fact that- if competition among men in the earlier days for the strongest man title was generally acceptable, why is the competition of women today for the ‘most beautiful' be a concern for anyone.

 Kut is the celebration of a beautiful and culturally rich festival. It should be celebrated with true intent and spirit: Let traditional attires be celebrated. Let folk songs and dances be celebrated. And why not celebrate the beauty of our sisters and daughters? It is a generally accepted opinion that there exists a tremendous scope for improvement; various exciting traditional items (E.g. Games) could be included and competitions may be held with lucrative prizes arranged for the winners. Similarly, the event could be used for showcasing talents and to promote the best talents for their participation in higher platforms. The point is ----- one should be open to discussions and changes, keeping the core theme of the festival intact though. But that should neither be interpreted nor construed as a license to spearhead a crusade for the withdrawal of Miss Kut contest. The intent is in fact the opposite. Why? Firstly, it is only beautiful to celebrate beauty. Secondly, believe it or not, it is the USP of the festival. I for one feel immensely proud in picking up a newspaper with front page image of Miss Kut beauty pageants and I do not find that erotic or uncultured. It is only beautiful!

 While many are busy trying to globalize their festivals, some people are still intoxicated by primordial thoughts of banning beauty in the guise of preserving culture. The true concern rather should be to invest the minds and thoughts in the initiative of adding more meaningful and exciting items (both traditional and contemporary) to the events. It is worth remembering that festivals, among many things, are one of the biggest factors that could play a major role in knitting the torn fabrics of peace and communal harmony in the state and region. While there might be, as different communities, conflicting interests on many issues, one cannot deny the fact about a small yet significant presence of a practice wherein a few people belonging to the Meitei community attend Kut and Christmas, and the Kukis and Manipur Nagas participate in “Thabal Chongba” during Yaoshang. It is all too pleasing to imagine a situation when, the festivals at least the cultural ones if not the religious festivals, integrate different cultures of different communities- A bamboo dance of the Chin Kuki Mizo community being performed on Lui NgaiNi ( One of the biggest festivals of Manipur Nagas), a Zeliangrong beauty participating in Miss Kut contest, and Thang Ta Dance being performed in Chavang Kut andGaan-Ngai. "Chingmee-Tammee amatani" (People from the Hills and Valley are but one) should not just be a slogan found in occasional write-ups; it should be practiced. There are various ways of practicing it; the festivals, which have so far remained as one of the very few reasons for people of different ethnicities to come together, could be further improvised to serve as a significant tool to spread the message of Love, Peace and Unity in Diversity in the state, region and beyond.

 Chavang Kut Chibai to all! Li-Li-Li Ho-Ho-Ho

(T S Haokip is a freelance writer and author of the book 'Hilly Dreams')

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Snakes and Bats eaters: Ten misconceptions about North East India

 Outlook India

Representational image. (Outlook)

Situated in the nook corner of the country, North East India is a region gravely misunderstood by many, including its own countrymen. The different physical appearances, food habits, and cultures only added to the mysteries surrounding them and their place of origin.
Discrimination against North Eastern people is an unending concern faced frequently by Northeasterners outside the region. Is it because of the lack of knowledge about the region, which in that case will be an admission of the failure of our education system or the degradation of moral values amongst people who nurture the pathetic idea of deriving pleasure by rebuking people or is it an intended indulgence, brought about to humiliate the NE people? It could be both.
Anyway, in the light of the Union Home Minister, Shri Amit Shah's recent remark that 'NorthEast can become the tourism, industry, IT and organic farming hub' and considering the renewed interests in the region, let us look at 10 of the most common misconceptions about North East India and it's people.

1. Hindus are minorities 
One of the most common mistakes people from outside NorthEast India have about the region is that Christianity is the most followed religion of the region. Well, of the 8 states, only 3 states, namely- Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram have predominantly Christian populations. Assam, Tripura and Manipur have majority of its populace following Hinduism . Taking into account the total population of the region, Hinduism is the most followed religion of the region. As per Census 2011, of the 448 Lakhs people, only 78 lakhs i.e 17.4% of the population practices Christianity. 

2. People speak the same language
'Why are you both not speaking in your language?' asked a friend from Hyderabad, on noticing the conversation in English language I had with a friend from Nagaland, during our college days. Even after reminding him that we belong to different states, he seemed to doubt the fact that there are different languages spoken by NE people. As a matter of fact, as many as 200 plus languages are spoken in the region as per 1971 census report.

3. Treehouse are common
It is the general perception of many people in mainland India that Tree-houses are common in the region, thanks to National Geographic's documentaries on tribals. To be honest, I have travelled all the states of North East India and I am yet to find any tree-house inhabitant. But for reasons, the explanation of which they themselves don’t know, I have been asked by many about tree-house in NE. Sometimes I wished I lived in a treehouse just to provide consolatory answers to the many curious minds.

4. Chinese (Mandarin) is a common language
Not just the surprise with the existence of different languages, many friends from outside the region have this false belief that North East People speak Chinese(Mandarin). As a matter of fact, no languages spoken by the people from the region have any similar words with the Chinese language. And the majority of the population speak one language, their own tribal dialects, and are struggling to learn the common language of their concerned states. Arunachal Pradesh, which is the only state that shares its border with China has HINDI as the common language of the state.

5. Chowmein is the staple food
This will feature in anybody’s list of misconceptions about North East India. Most NE people residing outside the region will at least once be asked this uncomfortable question of 'You all eat Chow and Momo for lunch and dinner, right?' While there are a few people who'd use chow and Momo as a favourite word to discriminate against people from NE, there are people who genuinely think 'Chinese foods' are the staple food of Northeasterners. In reality, the appearance of Momo in the table of NE people is preceded by the launch of MAGGI.

6. It is snowing everywhere
'It must be snowing all the year-round there. Right?' is a question I myself have encountered many a time. There are only a few places in Sikkim, Arunachal and Nagaland which experienced snowfall- in winter only. Many people in Assam, Tripura, and Mizoram are reeling under intense heat waves during summers, forget about snowing. Majority of people in the region, including myself, have not witnessed a snowfall till date. 

7. North East is a single state
There may be a cultural and historical reason as to why people from the NE are labelled as 'He/She is from North East' instead of saying the particular state one belongs to. In fact, people from the region too stopped naming their states when asked where they are from. 'I am from North East India' is a common introductory phrase. All these while, some people genuinely thought North East India is a single state- Assam. 'I am from Manipur,' I said to one of the almost hundred guys I'd encountered in different places, who’d asked me where I came from. 'Excuse me, ' he said. 'Oh! North-East India,' I corrected myself. 'Ah! Assam, North East,' he corrected himself and smiled. I didn't want to corrupt his knowledge of Indian geography by telling him about the existence of 8 states, including Sikkim in North East India.

8. Non-patriotic or Chinese sympathizers
'Why don't India just give the whole of North East India to China if the people there so desire?' argued a friend who must have gained his knowledge about North East from one of his relatives who heard North East India for the first and last time during the 60s. I didn't lose the opportunity to narrate the significance of NE India strategically for India and how a foreign base in the North East could pose a grave threat to India's security. Also, despite media reports of a few militants being trained in China during the 60s, the people of the region have no love-lost with the Chinese but are patriotic Indians. The sacrifices made by North Eastern people in the borders of Kashmir, Ladakh, and Tawang, which I thought were acknowledged by all Indians, were tediously explained to him. To my surprise, he was surprised. Later, I'd later learned that he was not alone who harboured those erroneous viewpoints.

9. Snakes and Bats eaters
Post the pandemic, there are silent thoughts expressed loudly about foods taken by the North East people. Taking a cue from Wuhan China, many people feel the NorthEast people share the same food habit and therefore accountable for the origin of COVID-19. Here again, while the allegation is made by a few people with the sole intent to rebuke their NE Brethren, there are people who genuinely bought the story so much so, that at a time when the Region had only a handful COVID-19 positive cases, many Northeasterners in the cities were forcibly distanced by people as possible carriers of the virus. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with the food habits of people, I can say with certainty that more than 90 percent, if not more, of Northeasterners, will never consume a bat. And no market or restaurant is selling 'snakes' or 'bats' alive or cooked.

10. Militants are everywhere targeting non-Northeasterners 
How safe is North East India? must be a question everyone asked not just themselves but 'Google' too, before planning a visit to the region. There are people who believe that militants roam scot-free and routinely hunt the mainlanders. Contrary to the beliefs, the region has improved a lot compared to those days between the 70s and the 90s. Most of the militant organizations are engaged in political dialogue with the Government and except for a few isolated areas, North East India today is not just a beautiful place but a peaceful place to visit. The region has attracted many tourists, even foreigners in recent years.
There are various other misconceptions about NE and its people. One being- 'they are all good singers and play musical instruments well'. While that may not be totally right, the assumption didn't gave a wrong impression that could harm the image of the region.  Another one is that 'All North East people are shy, innocent and soft-spoken'. Many more can be added. We will however not dwell on the validity of these thoughts. The idea is only to debunk a few misconceptions that people have about NE and the people and to humbly present the facts which our Indian Geography classes have evidently failed to educate us in our schooling days. North-East India, with its beautiful landscapes comprising- 'The Scotland of the East' and 'Switzerland of India', etc.  is endowed with a much more beautiful gift- its people with diverse culture and traditions that exemplify the true spirit of unity in diversity. Perhaps, that is one thing about North East India, which most people have in their minds and one which they got it right.

Monday, September 21, 2020

North East Today September 2020 Special Report


The infamous ethnic cleansing of Kuki Tribes

This is why quota within quota for NorthEast STs makes sense

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Examination results of 2019, witnessed a particular ST community outside the North-Eastern region grabbing nearly 40% of the total seats reserved for STs. This is not the first instance and not the only type of examination dominated by this particular community; SSC, IBPS, and Railway exams- the largest recruiter for government and public sector enterprises, have seen similar outcomes. The founding fathers of our constitution having felt the genuine need for equality in terms of employment and opportunities apart from political representation, envisaged a provision in the constitution for the State to reserve seats for certain sections of the society who were underprivileged, backward and cut out from social, political and economic developments not just under the British Raj but for centuries prior to that as well. While many argued that the idea of positive discrimination is against equality, it is in practice an initiative to ensure equality on a larger scale.

One of the means of representation in legislation is a geographically earmarked constituency and as such this measure has met its intended purpose. However, in the case of job opportunities, there is a systematic flaw; it does not guarantee equitable opportunities to all and many ST communities are yet to taste the fruit of reservation.

Performance scene in 2019-2020

The number of successful ST candidates from North East India, who cleared the exam last year is a dismal figure of four. Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram, which have a predominantly tribal population secured a “nil” outcome. While Nagaland and Tripura are contented with one successful candidate each, Manipur -where 40 % of the state population belongs to the ST community, had a zero success rate with no ST candidate clearing the exam. The sum of all the tribal communities from North East India clearing the UPSC exam in 2019 was less than 20% of those qualified candidates from a single tribal community outside the North East-- The Meenas. Since long, the said community has occupied the majority share of tribal vacancies in various recruitment process. Nevertheless, it is not the aforementioned community’s fault; the system itself has inherent flaws.

Peculiar concerns of the tribal community in North East

The promise for equality enshrined in Article 15 and 16 of the Indian constitution, which ensures that the socially, historically and currently underprivileged groups are well represented in politics, jobs, and education cannot be said to be successful unless the North East tribals are represented adequately in the system. The argument is all the more valid when one considers the rising cases of new communities being added to the ST list while the piece of cake to be shared remains the same. This situation worsens when a more advantageous community is added to the ST list, making it tougher for the other backward communities alraedy present in the list, to avail equal opportunity, thereby defeating the whole purpose of reservation. And this is precisely the case today.

The people of North East India, especially the tribals have faced innumerable social stigmas and continue to do so even after 70 years of independence. Development is still a far cry in most areas where issues as basic as education, housing, electricity, and all-weather roads are yet to make their mark. While representation in legislation exists, the lack of North Eastern tribals in the top executive echelon, where policies are drafted could be one factor for the region continuing to find itself alienated from the boons of development.

Creamy-layer concept among tribals?

Some people have mooted the idea of introducing creamy layers among the STs in the same manner and fashion as was done among the Other Backward Class (OBCs). The move, while it may be feasible for mainland tribals, will not be feasible for the North East tribals. This is because most of the individuals who can be grouped under the creamy layer category in the North East tribal community, are first-generation achievers. For these individuals the responsibilities that are entrusted to them are magnanimous while their dependents are vast- sometimes an entire village. If their ward(s) are excluded from the opportunity of availing the ST reservation, the odds of that family returning to the same situation from where their parents emerged- all in a span of one generation, is very high. It is therefore not advisable to cream them out, at least for now.

Argument of efforts

Amid the trending discussion on the performance of the North East tribals in UPSC exams, some voices have opined that “ it is efforts that matter,” and that the lack of it displayed by the community is what has resulted in their dismal performance so far. The argument might partially hold for many non-serious contenders. However, that does not justify the underlying concerns as to why despite rendering in their 100 percent, many people from the underprivileged ST communities will never succeed when they are judged with the same yardstick as those in a better position since many generations. Arguments like this have failed to consider the conditions to which tribals were subjugated to for centuries; most importantly, it is an indirect justification to do away with reservation altogether, ignoring the fundamental cause and concerns which first necessitated an affirmative action of equality in the first place.

The percentage of opportunity

The manner in which, 7.5 % of vacancies are reserved for the scheduled tribes, at least 20% of the ST seats should be reserved for the North East STs. This will ensure at the least, that the benefits of reservation are not reaped by a single affluent community – just because they happen to fall under the ST umbrella. The intention here is not to be mistaken with advocating for a rigid solution but rather exploring possibilities to ensure that the whole purpose of reservation is not defeated as is possible in the present system.

Tatkal solution

Reservation within reservation seems to be the only feasible option to ensure that our goal of uplifting the tribal people is achieved in its intended manner. The present system only presents a picture of the mere fulfilment of a statute, i.e. the existence of a scheme for the upliftment of tribal people by way of providing special opportunity in jobs and recruitment. Serious concerns like the unmistakable disproportionate division of shares, where the majority of it is benefited by only a section or a particular community have been overlooked by our policy-makers as well as those implementing it. Reservation is a magnificent tool to draw the gap, which is only widening, between the tribal people and other general communities. If we truly believe in our commitment to uplift the tribal people, the reservation policy for STs with regards to the North East tribals has to be relooked.

(The writer is a freelance writer and author of the book Hilly Dreams.)


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Demand for Self Administration (Naga Peace Accord and the Kukis) The Statesman 7th September 2020

How Naga Peace Accord Will Impact Ongoing Talks With Kukis (Naga Peace Accord and the Kukis)


#OutlookIndia September 3, 2020

As the Naga Peace Accord enters its final stage, the fate of other ongoing talks, especially the Tripartite Suspension of Operations with the Kuki militants, has become a topic of interest.

A NSCN(IM) cadre carries a child with a Naga flag at Viswema village south of Kohima
AP FIle 

The Naga Peace Talks, after going past the October 31, 2019 deadline set by the government, recently witnessed renewed efforts from most stakeholders to clinch the final deal signed between the Naga rebels and the Centre on August 3, 2018.

Amid talks to finalise the agreement, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)- IM, in a scathing attack on the interlocutor, N Ravi, issued a statement, accusing him of branding the Naga issue as just a ‘law and order' problem. Interestingly, the Naga National Political Group (NNPG) and a few other groups maintained silence as far as allegation on the interlocutor is concerned. It is worth mentioning that earlier in January 2020, NNPG and KNO (Kuki National Organisation), in a first of its kind between the two communities, signed an agreement to work closely towards resolving differences and respecting each other’s history and culture. As the Naga Peace Accord enters its final stage, the fate of other ongoing talks, especially the Tripartite Suspension of Operations with the Kuki militants, has become a topic of interest for many people.

Kuki Apex Body's Memorandum To Prime Minister

The Kuki Inpi Manipur, the apex body of Kuki community, in its memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister on the Independence Day this year, urged him to seriously consider simultaneous settlement of Kuki and Naga aspirations for self-governance within the Union of India in order to rule out imminent adverse repercussions of a settlement between the Centre and the NSCN-IM that affects Kuki-inhabited areas.

Also Read: The Naga Path: Search For The Healing Touch

Even as it reminded the government of NSCN IM's "genocidal" activities against the Kukis in the 1990s, it categorically said that they would not accept any agreement if it involves Kuki inhabited areas, especially the five districts -- Churachandpur, Pherzawl, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal, and Chandel -- where they are in majority. While clarifying their stand that they believed in peaceful coexistence by resolving to welcome a peaceful solution for any community, KIM requested the government to expedite talks with Kuki groups and resolve the long-pending issue in the best interest of peace and development in the region.

Significance Of ‘Sahnit Ni’

September 13, 1993, was not just any day for the people of Manipur as more than 100 people belonging to the Kuki community were mercilessly butchered. Since then, Kukis all around the world observe the day as Sahnitni or Kuki Black Day. From 1992 to 1996, more than a thousand lives of the Kuki community were lost to what they alleged was the handiwork masterminded by Th. Muivah to grab the lands and lives of the Kukis for its Greater Nagaland dreams. The NSCN-IM on the other hand alleged that it was the Kukis who started the clash and that there are equal victims on both sides. In 2018, a monolith in memory of those Kukis killed in the conflict was erected and a prayer organised under the aegis of Kuki Inpi Churachandpur.

The Kukis are now of the view that they have lost way too much blood in defence of their land -- at the hands of the British, security forces, NSCN IMs and to internal clashes.

Victims of Communal Violence Even in 2020

Chassad village, which has an important place in the history of Kukis, where Anglo-Kuki war hero Pu Pache hailed from, was burnt down to ashes in March 2020 by its neighbouring villagers of Kamjong and Sampui. The reason behind the arson was said to be a land-dispute, which dated back to decades-old misunderstandings. According to Kamjong villagers, Chassad villagers were protesting against the burning down of two huts by Sampui villagers by blocking roads and burning an under construction petrol-pump. The protest turned into a clash which eventually led to the arson of Chassad Village. However, Doungul Lelen, a villager of Chassad, claimed that it was not only because of the protest that led to the arson, but “we have been repeatedly threatened by the NSCN-IM to pay taxes or leave the area.”

“The issue of land disputes and inter-village feuds are just a ploy to frustrate us and cover up their real intention to stake claim to the Chassad as part of their land. We have all necessary land records and copies of court rulings but they have guns,” added Doungul. The NSCN-IM refuted the claims stating that it was just an inter-village clash.

The Historical Basis of Kuki Demands

The Anglo-Kuki war, also recorded as the Kuki Rebellion or Kuki Uprising, in 1917-1919 was fought by the Kukis to protect their ancestral land and freedom. It was one of the most defining moments in the history of the Kukis -- one which makes them hold their head high with pride even today. It was proof that the Kukis lived independently and were ready to face any force, including the Britishers at the peak of their power. Unfortunately today, the once heroic people are tagged as refugees in their own land, the land they have shed their blood and sweat for.

While there exists Nagaland for the Nagas, Mizoram for the Mizos, Meghalaya for the Khasis, Jaintias, and Garos, the Kukis have been denied their right for self-determination for decades now. With almost all the communities in the Northeast having their own different levels of autonomy and self-administration, it is the Kukis who, despite their rightful demands, have been sidelined for quite a while now. It was because of this very reason that several Kukis took to arms to grab the attention of the Central Government.

Also Read: North-East's Special Powers Hang By A Thread, Will It Go The Jammu & Kashmir Way?

A hundred years ago, the British with all their might subjugated the Kukis but what they didn't realise was that it was the Kukis who had actually won the war. They might have lost the fight but they fulfilled their sworn commitment to protect their land against anyone. History itself was their biggest win. Today, their bravery and valour in defending their land, which is now part of India, should duly be acknowledged so that the very feeling of alienation and subjugation they fought against is not delivered by a free, democratic and republic nation.

Constitutional Ambit Versus Separate Constitution

The Kuki militants first took up arms to demand sovereignty. Later on, with the agreement to hold talks with the Government of India, KNO and UPF -- the two umbrella organisations of the Kukis -- acceded to drop sovereignty demand. Though the move was not received well by many people initially, the message of the need for a solution within the ambit of the Indian constitution finally convinced the people. The Manipur government on the other hand was hell-bent on any talks that would involve the discussion affecting the integrity of the state. Eventually, the idea of the Territorial Council on the lines of Bodoland Territorial Council was agreed upon to be discussed. For the Kukis, while the demand for Territorial Council was a huge climbdown, several rounds of talks thereafter failed to bring any amicable solution.

In stark contrast to what the Kukis demand, NSCN-IM's chairman on Independence Day speech this year said that separate Constitution and flag were non-negotiable “as the Nagas,” according to him, “already have one and it is up to the Government to recognise it or not.”

Its other demand of integrating the Naga inhabited areas had received oppositions from all the neighbouring states including Assam, Arunachal, and Manipur. In Manipur, 18 youths lost their lives during protest against the inclusion of the State in the ceasefire area in 2001.

Also notable is the press statement on August 28, 2020, by the United Committee of Manipur, a conglomerate of various valley-based CSOs, which strongly asserted that the people of Manipur will not accept the Naga Peace Agreement if it affects the integrity and identity of Manipur. It is unthinkable the consequences that could befall the region, in the unlikely event of the Centre acceding to the demand of integration theory.

Interestingly, many Nagaland-based organisations like NNPGs are not vocal about the integration theory but more focused on the completion of the Naga Peace Accord and the return of normalcy in Nagaland. The idea of integration is now viewed by many as an attempt by the Manipur Naga community in general and the Tangkhul Tribe, to which Th. Muivah belongs to, in particular, to have a larger share and voice in the social and political scene of Nagaland.

Holistic Solution -- The Only Way Forward

Militancy issues in the Northeast have been a stumbling block for the prevalence of peace and development. While Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, and Meghalaya have by and large overcome the issue, the states of Manipur, Nagaland, and parts of Assam are still far from resolving militancy issues. As such, any proposal for a peace accord is a welcome move that will not only usher in peace in the region but also the much needed economic progress. The Naga issue deserves an amicable solution at the earliest. The Government of India, insofar as its handling of the militancy issues are concerned, deserves applause. It is the sincere hope of the people of the entire Northeast region that militancy issues of not just the Nagas but others, including the Kukis, are resolved once and for all by involving all stakeholders concerned. For a stable, secure and strong India requires a stable Northeast India.

(The writer is the author of the book Hilly Dream - The Story of Aboi. Views expressed are personal.)

Militancy woes resurface

  The Statesman Churachandpur, a district in   Manipur became  a  central  topic  of  discussion  overnight  on  the  1 3th November, so muc...

Popular Posts