TODAY -

Coup of 2021 not the only push factor : The impact on Naga lands
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: June 21, 2024 -



The military coup in the early part of 2021 and the intense battle for turf that followed shortly later between the Junta and the armed ethnic groups that come under the National Unity Government (NUG) boosted the number of immigrants into the North East region of India, particularly Manipur but to understand the influx into the region only through the prism of the coup and the civil war that has followed would be missing the trees for the woods.

Influx from across the border has no time frame though major incidents in the neighbouring country may be cited as examples.

The influx should be understood over the decades and one just has to take a look at the number of new settlements that have come up as well as the invasion in the Reserved and Protected Forests, the most recent example being the eviction drive at K Songjang village in Churachandpur Khoupum Protected Forest in February 2023.

This was just two months before Manipur went up in flames on May 3, 2023.

No one has answered where the evicted folks at K Songjang have proceeded to and no one, least of all the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum, has deemed it fit to answer from where the people evicted from K Songjang had come from.

It was with a reason why the BJP led Government at Imphal had deemed it proper to lay down the minimum number of households in a settlement to be notified as a recognised village in the Government’s scheme of things and this should be seen and understood in the context of the number of villages that seem to spring up overnight and so Manipur saw Kuki villages with only four/five or 10 houses coming up in every nook and cranny of the hills.

The gradual but sharp jump in the number of population of the Kuki community down the decades is another pointer to the facts that comes to mind.

The push factor in neighbouring Myanmar has been there for decades while the pull factor of India, in particularly the North East region, is great and this is a trend that has been in vogue for decades.

The Nagas of Manipur, particularly the Tangkhuls, bore the brunt of the gradual arrival of the Kukis then known as Khongjais, to their land and The Sangai Express has detailed some of the events in the column Yenning-Hoi Polloi and Mundanity in the earlier days of the ethnic clash.

This column appears on the Sunday edition of this newspaper and many of such articles would have opened the eyes and minds of the readers to the arrival of the Khongjais to the soil of Manipur.

Refugees-this is the term used not by anyone but by a certain Mr Haokip, a Paolienlal Haokip in his write up in the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies back on May 23, 2002.

Not the first time that The Sangai Express is referring to this article and this wouldn’t be the last either for here is a Kuki himself who has used the term refugees from Myanmar to refer to the Kukis who had entered Manipur.

In the said article, Mr Haokip wrote that when the Burmese Government under Ne Win launched their programme of Burmanization in 1967, entire Kuki villages were served evacuation notices requiring them to leave their homes within 48 hours.

In the aftermath of the evacuation notice some 20,000 Kukis were driven into the State of Manipur. This was in 1967 and one wonders where the odd 20,000 Kukis would be today.

Did they return to their homeplace or did they stay permanently here and in the process got enlisted in the electoral roll and get included in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India ?

The same thing happened in 1988, said Mr Haokip who went on to add that some of the refugees took to arms and drugs smuggling, which was a ‘get-rich-quick’ formula.

All fall in line with the call to chuck out illegal immigrants and the vast poppy plantations in the hills and the War on Drugs campaign launched by the State Government.

Connecting the dots and understanding what was written back in 2002 with the current situation in Manipur should not be too hard and the disturbing point is the call for a Separate Administration which has come with a Kukiland Map.

One wonders what the Nagas, the other indigenous group of people, would say, especially in the backdrop of the fact that at least four NSCN (IM) cadres have been killed by the Kuki National Army (Burma) in the last few days.

This is where the common interests of the two indigenous folks of the land should be acknowledged and acted upon accordingly.



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