Dissecting the strength of Kukis in the Manipur violence – A perspective
- Part 1 -

Soubam Nongpoknganba *

The 3rd of May is the beginning of a dark period in the modern history of Manipur with the outbreak of clash which I prefer to call as a low level war between the Meitei and the Kuki. The Kuki in this war has become so formidable that the Meitei could not even think of counter offensive except for defense of their positions which they have established in the areas bordering the hills.

But what makes the Kuki so formidable that they can attack and kill the Meitei at will despite the presence of such a huge Government security forces is something that will awe any peace loving person in the country. But one thing is quite clear that the Kuki had planned for such an attack on the Meitei for long and obviously with such plan they must have gathered and stockpiled weapons and other resources to be used against the Meitei.

The theory of the Kuki having preplanned and premeditated is solidified with the naked media blitzkrieg and onslaught which they have unleashed on the Meitei from day one of this low level war itself. The ability of the Kuki to file a petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on the second day of the fight with such minute detail, the mass absence of such huge number of Kuki residents in Imphal including students, ordinary office goers, etc. from before 3rd of May, the ability to bring out books, pamphlets, etc. on the clash demonizing Meitei in no time only indicate to the fact that the raid on the Meitei was pre-planned and they had already structured the way to fight.

And their narrative which they have beautifully and so strategically coined as “tribal narrative” has flooded not only the social media but also the regular media including print and TV channels across the country and the world; so much so that even the US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti “Reacted On Manipur Violence” with a fine line leaning in favour of the Kuki. The US even triggered a row by not only offering to help India on Manipur but also by dispatching top human rights officials to New Delhi.

In a way the Kuki have been able to internationalize the issue with “tribal narrative”, which narrative squarely goes like this –“the innocent and helpless minority Christian tribal have been bad- Page 2 of 9-ly violated, maimed and slaughtered by the radical majority Hindu Meitei.”

Having said so, I am not attributing the success of Kuki in internationalizing the issue by their media blitzkrieg alone, certainly there are other contributing factors in the form of their submitting memorandum to different international organisations and organizing rallies, etc. in different places in the world in the shortest possible time. To cut the story short, it is simply put, their pre-planning of the invasion on Meitei was one of the pillars of the strength of Kuki in the present clash.

Another pillar of their strength is that they are all Christians and so they have full support from Christians not only from this country but also from around the world. Being Christians, they have been able to mop up support from all Christians from this country and beyond. The whole Christian Community in the country has spoken of “unabated human rights violation and discrimination of Minority Christian Kuki by majority Hindu Meitei” whereas the fact is otherwise.

The Meitei constitute only 44% of Manipur’s total population as per 2011 census out of which more than 2 lakh Meiteis are Christians. As per reports, Hindu and Christian constitute 41.39% and 41.29% respectively of Manipur’s population.

Hence the so claimed discrimination by Majority Hindu Meitei of “non Hindu” minority Christians does not arise at all. Again while the killing and destruction has been initiated by Kuki themselves burning their own so-called Anglo-Kuki War gate and blaming the Meitei for it, just like what the Germans did to Poland to execute the September campaign in 1939 heralding the WW II, the world has blamed the Meitei, all but for a reason; the hate of Hindu-centric BJP Government.

As a matter of fact, the support which the Kuki receive being Christians from the US and from the European Union too in the form of adoption of a resolution by the European Parliament on 13th July 2023 calling on Indian authorities to take “all necessary” measures to stop the violence in Manipur and protect religious minorities, especially Christians are without an iota of doubt received because they are Christians.

Quite amazingly, the resolution was brought forth by not one but five Parliamentary factions which account for around 80% of the total Members in the 705-member Parliament and the resolution very specifically says that intolerance towards religious and belief minorities, including Christians, contributes to the violence.

And the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom mischievously called the clash as between the State’s majority Hindu Meitei community and the Christian Kuki (Page 3 of 9) population. Such is the strength of the Kuki by being Christians. Here also plays the game of “Crown Colony” of the British.

The British as they left India, have germinated the concept that North East India with its tribal population should not be ruled by far off Delhi, rather, it should remain as colony of the Crown like Singapore, Hong Kong (till 1987), Gibraltar, Bermuda, et. al. and to this end, conversion of the tribal mass were carried out. Christian Missionary Project like Joshua Project is in full throttle in the State. An American University has even conducted research on how to convert the Meitei to Christianity. This is how things are going on in the State.

This concept of Crown Colony otherwise known as Coupland theory without any doubt has also played great role in strengthening the Christian Kuki in the present clash. Another pillar of Kuki’s strength which is just icing on the cake is that the Kukis are also considered as one of the lost tribes of Israel viz., Bnei Manashe and they claim decent from Manasseh, son of Joseph.

In fact the Kuki founded the first Jewish organisation in North East India namely Manipur Jewish Organization (later renamed the United Jews Organization, NEI) on 31st May 1972. As a matter of fact, many of them had gone and settled in Israel and many of them have even joined the Israeli Army. It is even rumored that some of these Kuki Israeli soldiers are directly involved in devising war strategies sitting in an undisclosed place somewhere in Kuki/Mizo dominated areas of Barak Valley.

It is also reported by the Times of Israel that the Kukis are receiving tens of thousands of dollars in aid rolling in from Shavei Israel and Degel Menashe of Israel. The same newspaper also carried a news item under the banner “India’s Bnei Menashe community in crisis as Manipur rocked by ethnic violence” and it quoted that 1 Jewish victim had been killed, over 1,000 displaced, and 2 synagogues burned as houses and businesses of the minority Kuki tribe are razed while demonising the Meiteis all throughout.

It further went on to say that Scheduled Tribe status which Meitei is demanding is traditionally reserved for minority tribes such as the Kukis. Another Israeli broadsheet newspaper, the Jerusalem Post carried another news item yet demonizing Meitei in the same manner as Times of Israel. Such is their strength that they can reach anywhere as being Christian and/or Jews.

So being situated, the victim Meitei has been demonized by the world and left behind to die in the parching heat. Yet another strength booster for the Kuki is that they are listed as Tribe in the Schedule of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) order, 1950 which Page 4 of 9 makes them impregnable while Meitei being a tribe is not listed under the order of 1950.

Though it is another issue why Meitei being a tribe is not listed or should be listed, the fact is that several tribal communities who fall or may fall in the group of Kuki are listed separately and individually in the list and yet quite surprisingly and perhaps against the Constitutional provision, the Presidential order, 1950 lists, “Any other Kuki tribe” in the schedule.

This makes even any Kuki coming from Myanmar a Scheduled Tribe in India. Certainly this inclusion needs to be reviewed and question has been raised on the issue of this blanket inclusion too but so far no conclusion has been reached. Needless to say, a Scheduled Tribe is conferred with so many benefits and privileges with a huge protection under the Indian Constitution and statutes.

This enables the Kuki to reach the place where Meitei cannot reach as the latter remain unlisted while being a tribe though of course the Kuki has questioned and challenged the demand for inclusion of Meitei in the Schedule on various grounds, one of the grounds being that the Meitei being majority has the “political power” and this distinguishes the Meitei from other communities including Kuki.

Yes there cannot be any denial that the number of elected Meitei representatives in the State legislature outnumber the elected representatives of other communities but this cannot be a reason for denial of giving Constitutional and statutory protection to the Meitei as tribal as in the case of Mizoram, the Mizos far outnumber the elected representatives of other communities in Mizoram like Mara or Chakma and still the Mizos are Scheduled Tribe.

Be that as it may the issue is as the Kukis are in the Scheduled Tribe list whereas the Meiteis are not, the bureaucratic power in the State of Manipur is literally in the hands of Kuki. And somebody has rightly said that India is ruled not by politicians but by bureaucrats.

Given such situation, and given the fact that the bureaucrats as distinct from politicians, are not accountable directly to the public in the Indian set up, the Kukis really run the show in the State of Manipur with impunity. Another accepted feature of Indian bureaucracy is that though the politicians as legislators theoretically frame the policies and programs of governance, they have to rely for such framing on the bureaucrats without whose inputs such policies and program cannot be framed and further the implementation of such “politically framed” policies and programs are always handled by bureaucrats.

This being the Indian bureaucratic feature, the Kukis actually govern the State of Manipur, and with their “nationalistic” approach, other communities including Meitei are sidelined in most cases. This argument certainly looks far fetched as the political bosses can always block such “nationalistic” act by the Kukis.

(To be continued......)

* Soubam Nongpoknganba (LLM President, Indigenous Development Mission) wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on 01 February 2024

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