TODAY -

Reinterpreting the Anglo-Kuki War, 1917-1920

Prof Lal Dena *

98th Anniversary of Anglo-Kuki war at Kuki Inn, Imphal :: 19 December 2015
98th Anniversary of Anglo-Kuki war at Kuki Inn, Imphal on 19 December 2015 :: Pix - DIPR



(A speech on the occasion of the 99th anniversary of the Anglo-Kuki War, 1917-1920 at Kuki Inn, Imphal on 19th December, 2016)

The Anglo-Kuki War, 1917-1920 was an epoch-making event not only of the history of Manipur but also of modern Indian history. Recently it has become a subject of serious research among academicians and scholars of different disciplines. But what has been so far sidetracked is its national and international character. The very fact that Great Britain, the then mightiest colonial power, had taken three long years to suppress the movement shows that it was an anti-imperialistic liberation movement of great magnitude.

In all the British documents both in India and London, the colonial authorities recorded the war as 'Kuki Rebellion" and the Kukis as 'rebels'. The colonial mindset was full of racial prejudice. They looked down upon the subject people and called them 'savage, wild, barbarian, uncivilized, headhunter' and what not. Different opinions were expressed on the nature and character of the war.

What was actually the war about? For what was the war fought? What was the ideological force behind it?. RK Sanahal Singh in his Manipur Itihas, (1947) called it 'Hao lal' meaning 'tribal uprising' while other Meitei scholars called it 'Khongjai lal' (Khongjai war). Dr SMAW Chisti preferred to call the war as 'Kuki Uprising' whereas Dr N Joykumar Singh in his book 'Colonialism to Democracy: A History of Manipur, 1819-1937' saw it as a 'social movement'.

Late Kaikhotinthang Kipgen and Thomson Kipgen called the war as the 'Thadou War of Independence'. Falling on line with them, Dr Margaret Sitlhou also titled her thesis as 'Thadou War and its impact on the society, 1917-1919. This is a narrow way of looking at history. No doubt, some prominent Thadou chiefs formed a powerful section of the leadership of the movement. But one cannot at the same time ignore the participation of other chiefs.

More than twenty Haokip chiefs held several rounds of meetings to declare war against the British. The Vaipheis under the leadership of Paokhulen, chief of Bongbal Khulen and Pabol, chief of Sita, joined hands with Pache Haokip, chief of Chasad right from the outbreak of the struggle against the British. (Priyadarsini M Gangte, 2013:12). The Zous of the Manhlun Manchongs also set a very exemplary conduct in resisting the British forces commanded by Ostrehan and Cosgrave at Hiangtam Fort on 19 March, 1918. (PM Gangte, 2013:27). This clearly shows that the war was not a one tribe-led war.

According to local oral sources, the war was also known as Zo Gal (Zo War). Late TS Gangte in his book 'Anglo-Kuki Relationship from 1849 to 1937 and Other Essays' edited by PM Gangte, and PS Haokip in his 'Zalen Gam: 'The Kuki Nation' have described the Anglo-Kuki War as the first Kuki War of independence which is the most appropriate term as a key to understanding the real character of the movement.

What had unified the Kukis living in different parts of Myanmar and those Kukis spreading in different parts of North East India and Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh? It was the sense of belongingness to one nation which bound them together. This was, in modern terminology, Kuki nationalism. This was the underlying ideological factor which constituted the long-standing cause of the movement. Of course, the concept of Kuki nationalism was an embryonic stage at that period of time. After a careful scrutiny of facts, it may therefore rightly be contended that the Anglo-Kuki war of 1917-1920 was the first and major Kuki national liberation movement which formed, directly or indirectly, an integral part of Indian freedom movement.

Analysing the rise and growth of Kuki nationalism, Dr Joseph Suantak in "Chin+Kuki+Zo: Genesis and Exodus", New Delhi, 2012 (pp 225-227), has contended that Kuki nationalism was a pre-British colonialism phenomenon and it "runs in the veins of Chin+Kuki+Zos from birth and survives with existence of chiefdoms or villages.

Interestingly, Dr Suantak has divided the rise of Kuki nationalism into three phases: pre-colonial period, colonial period and post-colonial period. In the past before the coming of the British, Kuki villages were fragmented into independent chiefdoms or something like village republics. The chiefs were the monarchs of all they surveyed and they never tolerated any interference from outside. Dr Suantak has further argued that the concept of nationalism at that stage was in one sense 'village' or 'chiefdom-based.

Chiefdom was the binding factor that promoted the feeling of oneness. To quote him, "The name of their chief or their glorious village became their national identity or nationality that promoted solidarity and the feeling of oneness" and has concluded that "the elements of nationalism were already rooted in their socio-cultural life which can fairly be termed as proto-nationalism." (Joseph Suantak, 2012:227-228)., Therefore it has been rightly contended that, according to Kukiland (KNF), factors which helped in the formation of the spirit of nationalism were in existence among the Kukis prior to their encounter with British.

The second phase of Kuki nationalism, according to Joseph Suantak, can be traced to the period in which the Kukis came into contact with the British. By holding the same view, Kukiland (KNF Publication), 2012 again contends that any organized Kuki movement which manifested in the form of attacks and counter attacks on the British began from 1777 AD (Kukiland, 2012:69). Seilen Haokip, spokesman of KNO also strongly holds the view that "Kuki nationalism demonstrably opposed British colonialists' interference in Kuki territory, which began in 1777, during the time of Warren Hastings, governor-general of India". (Seilen Haokip; Rhetorics of Kuki Nationalism: A Treatise,, 2010:22).

Regarding the third phase of Kuki nationalism in post-colonial era, both Dr Joseph Suantak and Seilen Haokip have painted a very gloomy picture because Kuki's historical opposition of colonialism fell short of realizing an honourable political status for the people. The socio-political condition of the Kukis in post-independent era was extremely vulnerable.

Where feelings of Kuki nationalism ceased to exist, according to Seilen, clannishness prevailed. As a result, clan-centrism has been deduced as an internal cause which gravely affected Kuki unity and created conditions for the collective status of the identity to decline. With the introduction scheduled system resulting in the recognition of every tribe by the Indian constitution as separate tribe, tribe-based nationality had emerged and simultaneously the process of dekukization had started.

In my earlier paper "Nationality Formation: The Case of Kuki" which was first published in 'Kuki Society, Past, Present and Future' published by the Kuki Research Forum (2011) of which I was a patron member, I listed the basic tenets of nationalism such as common name or common nomenclature, myth of common ancestry, shared historical memories (events and celebration, heroes or other common experiences), common culture, defined by language or religion or customs, link with a geographical homeland, and a sense of common cause or solidarity among the members of the ethnic group.

By possessing all these basic ingredients of nationalism, I argued that Kuki people were in the on-going process of nationality formation and my conclusion was that more liberal and accommodating Kuki leadership could be a rallying point for more effective re-unification of all the erstwhile Old Kukis and New Kukis..

As mentioned before, another historical issue which merits further research and reinterpretation was the connection between the extremist nationalist movement in Bengal and the Kuki liberation movement of 1917. Bengali nationalist organizations from Sylhet and Cachar sent their emissaries to the Kuki chiefs of the southern clans encouraging them to resist the high-handed methods of British colonial rulers.

The Bengali revolutionary nationalists resented the partition of Bengal in 1911 and as a result intensified the freedom struggle against the British. Therefore, Kuki people's liberation movement in this part of the country in 1917 can be seen as an extension of the nationalist freedom struggle of the country. Definitely, the Anglo-Kuki war of 1917- 1919 cannot be studied in isolation and must therefore be juxtaposed to other popular anti-colonial freedom movements of the country.

From what has been indicated above, we can safely conclude that the Kuki people wherever they live today have a strong historical foundation and that, in the words of Rev Dr Jangkholam Haokip, "should dispel all false ideas and rebuild the spirit of progressive nationalism and transforming identity for peace in the region".

No doubt, the movement failed but the nationalistic feeling which prompted the unified mass-based struggle in 1917-1920 still lives on and so we are here today to commemorate the 99th anniversary year of the GREAT ANGLO-KUKI WAR, 1917-1920 which is the FIRST AND MAJOR KUKI NATIONAL LIBERATION MOVEMENT.

(A speech on the occasion of the 99th anniversary of the Anglo-Kuki War, 1917-1920 at Kuki Inn, Imphal on 19th December, 2016)


* Prof Lal Dena wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 09, 2017 (Later corrected for a typo in the year ) .


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Aerial view from Chingmeirong : Gallery
  • Governor's Taekwondo Cup: Gallery
  • Entrepreneurship in the context of Manipur
  • Face scrubs to avoid dirt this summer
  • Ah, me - Now Happy, Now Sad :: Poem
  • Rio assures of co-existence with neighbours
  • Nandeshwore- President, Manipur, RJSP
  • 'PDA Govt is functioning smoothly'
  • SC voices displeasure at defence ministry
  • Manipur NPF differs with Shurho over BJP
  • Khangkhui Cave, Ukhrul #2: Gallery
  • Chhungthianhoih, Agui :: eMing
  • Identity crisis : @Somorendra Lecture
  • Reflection on Tour of Dubai & Abu Dhabi #2
  • Khangminashi - II : Report
  • Globalization & its impact on our culture
  • District Demand 2011-2018 :: Timeline
  • Dishonouring the Constitution of India
  • From EVM to floor test Onus on BJP
  • Curtain Raising- Sangai Fest 2017: Gallery
  • 4th MCA Plate Tournament : Gallery
  • International Nurses Week #1
  • Story of Silence : @Somorendra Lecture
  • Apiculture (bee-keeping) #2
  • Khangminashi - II : Invitation at Thoubal
  • IBSD-ILS Centre set up in Bhubaneswar
  • Of 3 Ws - Beware
  • Forming the Govt : Office of Governor
  • Lainingthou Lai Lam thopka #2 : Gallery
  • Manipur Fight League Season 1 : Gallery
  • Prison Diary of Lamyanba NK Sanajaoba #3
  • Rights of indigenous people & merger
  • Manipur's tryst for a native Chief Secretary
  • Marxji, Modiji & Birenji
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Reasoning without disparities
  • Regulate movement of auto rickshaws
  • Healing Touch: A case of still to outreach
  • Re-visiting Khangkhui caves in Ukhrul
  • Sandrembi Cheishra :: Book Review
  • Homecoming & Other Stories :: Review
  • Kuki-Zomi Insurgency in Manipur #2
  • Cry of a Dying River - 29 :: Poem
  • Shija Hospitals MOU for RBSK Nagaland
  • Are we waiting for the "Go-dot"
  • Understanding with KSO : Reaching to all
  • NNC observes 67th Naga plebiscite anniv
  • Event on martial art ends
  • Garlic Festival @ Ukhrul #3 : Gallery
  • Dr. Cesarczyk drizzled harmonics in the rain
  • Tlanglhungbung Leikol - Tourist destination
  • Manipulative skill pays in usurping power
  • Khonzel TV : New Manipuri Streaming TV
  • Naturopathy as career option
  • Free Eye Camp at Wangoo
  • Khongjom Day: OK to observe on Apr 23, but
  • Outside Manipur after Class XII
  • TRAU Vs Langsning FC : Gallery
  • Ngasepam Nalini : State Akademi Award
  • Construction of Ima Keithel
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Dreaming :: Poem
  • Test for dengue fever
  • Home Coming & other Stories : Book [upd]
  • Eco Tourism as alternative to Timber Trade
  • Go to Village - boon .. but a scourge for PRI
  • Citizenship Bill ... on basis of religion!
  • Gardening @Ema Keithel #2: Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #2: Gallery
  • Course in Book Publishing at IGNTU, Kpi
  • Reflection on Tour of Dubai & Abu Dhabi #1
  • Gurudev :: Poem
  • Counseling to Delhi University Aspirants
  • Poumai Purul Hiimai Paoki #1 : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Apiculture (bee-keeping) #1
  • Entrepreneur find ways to recycle plastic
  • Social impacts of Mapithel dam
  • Cyber crime defined: The Bhopal case
  • Timber banned but no ban on firewood
  • Traffic chaos : Regulate not ban entry !
  • Cheiraoba Thabal by LGBTQ #2 : Gallery
  • Culturals @Shirui Lily Fest : Gallery
  • Kuki-Zomi Insurgency in Manipur #1
  • Civil Service as a career option
  • The plight of education in Manipur
  • Appeal to Stop Oil Exploration
  • TechExpo at IIT Guwahati
  • Awaiting- a light at end of the tunnel
  • Wanted : Responses not reactions
  • Kabo Valley: A brief history
  • 'Autonomous Naga council'- a major hurdle
  • Cry of a Dying River - 28 :: Poem
  • Admission :: SAIRAM college at Patsoi
  • Khangminashi :: Lecture series at KKT
  • CASO conducted at Mantripukhri
  • PRI & the Mission- "Go to Village"
  • Final pact likely soon : Stand of CSOs
  • Pakhangba Cheng Hongba #2 : Gallery
  • Steelheart @ Shirock , Ukhrul #3 : Gallery
  • The Killing Fields - 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • A village "wall" a destruction for others
  • Thank you Mangaal Rural...
  • Lack of proper investigation- minor girl case
  • Nagaland Cong shelved plans to contest LS
  • Employment drive through Afforestation
  • Bid to attract the brightest
  • A. Halim Chowdhury: A Profile
  • Gardening @Ema Keithel #1: Gallery
  • Occupational hazards of journalists
  • Election: The greatest weapon of the people
  • Community Gardening in memory of Belinda
  • Politicians need a thorough headbanging
  • Beauty essentials for your holiday
  • NPF will not attend meeting..
  • A view on "Go to Village" Mission
  • Littering Shirui peak after Lily Fest
  • Polo ground & institute in Manipur
  • Khangkhui Cave, Ukhrul #1: Gallery
  • Dance competition @MANFETE #2 : Gallery
  • Bracing for monsoon madness
  • When I'm sick :: Poem
  • 1949: Story of India's Takover of Manipur
  • You can't defile a Judge like that
  • Legal provisions for misusing Social Media
  • Bill for non-local: Need to learn from 2015
  • Heart OPD Camp at Youth Club Brahmapur
  • Flood in Imphal [06 May ] : Gallery
  • Gudui Ngai @ Ragailong : Gallery
  • Ode to Inle (in Myanmar) #2
  • AFSPA Repeal from Meghalaya, Arunachal
  • Reclamation of eutrophicated water bodies
  • Hey smartphone! Free me from your spell
  • Job Positions at VITSOFTS, Canchipur
  • Lainingthou Lai Lam thopka #1 : Gallery
  • Phumdigi Tantha Dance Drama : Synopsis
  • Speaker List at Seminar on Atomic Energy
  • The making of village republics
  • The Sunset Blues :: Poem
  • Rio for development on eastern corridor
  • Welcomes decision on mini hornbills
  • Good show only from Imphal
  • 'ZB (AMN) President creating confusion'
  • Zeme Nagas aggrieved at 'non-inclusion'
  • Class XII Exam Toppers : Gallery
  • Prison Diary of Lamyanba NK Sanajaoba #1
  • Communal Harmony in a Multicultural ..
  • Community Gardening Event at Ema Keithel
  • Usurped Domain
  • Fruit stalls : Who gave them the license ?
  • 60 best social media practices
  • Pakhangba Cheng Hongba #1 : Gallery
  • Class XII Result : Science Toppers
  • Class XII Result : Arts Toppers
  • Class XII Result : Commerce Toppers
  • HSE Result 2018 : District Wise
  • HSE Result 2018 : Highest Marks
  • HSE Result 2018 : Science Stream
  • HSE Result 2018 : Arts Stream
  • HSE Result 2018 : Commerce Stream
  • Scholarship for Civil Aspirants : Gallery
  • The Streets Of Imphal
  • Civil Aspirants Scholarship Announcement
  • Vandalizing of fruit seller- protecting identity
  • Free Heart OPD Camp at Manipur University
  • Go to Village Mission: Another first for Govt
  • Khongjom Day - April 23 #2 : Gallery
  • 16 out of 18 clears IIT/JEE Mains
  • RIST Talk-36 : Enchanting Light of Firefly
  • Cry of a Dying River - 27 :: Poem
  • World Veterinary Day - 2018
  • Halt oil exploration work in Manipur
  • Snakebites and Uniformed Saviours
  • SRDP funds: NDPP calls for investigation
  • National PR Day at Guwahati
  • The only way towards salvation
  • Haudonggi Lamchat :: Funga Wari
  • Mukada: Eroding Festival of Kharam Tribe
  • Steelheart @ Shirock , Ukhrul #2 : Gallery
  • 'Go To Village mission' launched at Yaiskul
  • Quality assurance management as career
  • Test for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
  • UCM, MPP making clear their stand
  • Kh Sanjita & Saikhom Mirabai :: Gallery
  • May Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • How India Restrain NE Extremist Outfits
  • Liangmai disassociate from Zeliangrong #2
  • Climbing the Shirui Hills #1 : Gallery
  • NE Guide to Thailand : Gallery
  • Prof N Irabanta : Doyen of Aerobiology
  • Paintings @Imphal Art Camp : Gallery
  • Opening: Shirui Lily Festival : Gallery
  • Floral tributes to PLA members #3 : Gallery
  • Ode to Inle (in Myanmar) #1
  • Steelheart @ Shirock , Ukhrul #1 : Gallery
  • TRAU Vs Bengaluru FC #2 : Gallery
  • 'HUN' Thadou Cultural Festival #2 : Gallery
  • Khongjom Day - April 23 #1 : Gallery
  • Northeast Indian Guide to Thailand
  • Teinem Luira Phanit #2: Gallery
  • Naorem Kalimohon Singh : A Profile
  • Cheiraoba @ Kolkata : Gallery
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa [14 Apr] : Gallery
  • Md Awaysh Khan: Mr. India : Gallery
  • Mahesh Thounaojam #2 : eRang Photos
  • Mnipur Ima :: Seireng
  • Tributes to Khelen Thokchom : Gallery
  • Sanakhya Ebotombi Haorokcham: Biography
  • PM Narendra Modi @Imphal #2 : Gallery
  • Enakta Leiringei (Film) #2 :: eRang
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
  • Recipients of Akademi Awards for 2014
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS