Kuki, Naga, Thadou …
Kuki chizy thati;
Kuki History Achôbie tlâpipazy ( Titles)
1. Rhetorics of Kuki Nationalism ……… By Seilen Haokip
2. The Chin-Kuki-Ethnic Dilemma: Search for an Appropriate Identity ……. By Chawnglienthang Changsan
3.. The People: Kuki/Chin/Zo …….. By Vei Kho Ning
4. Ethno-political relations between Kukis and Meiteis …… By George T. Haokip
5. A case study of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo (CHIKIM) …….. By Priyadarshni M Gangte
Rhetorics of Kuki Nationalism
By Seilen Haokip
Identity is such a simple notion it is hard to see why it gives rise to such baffling problems: Bertrand Russell
Kuki identity and nationalism are discussed in their heyday context, as well as in the phase when they virtually became a relic of the past. British colonialism, which spurred Kuki nationalism, was also an ‘external factor’ that led to its decline, following the division of Kuki territory and subjugation of the people. The situation became worse after efforts to restore their freedom in WWII by joining the Indian National Army and collaborating with the Imperial Japanese Army failed, when the Axis powers lost to the Allied groups.
Authority of the chieftains had considerably declined and there was no cohesive agency to harness the reigns of the Kuki community. The absence of visionary leadership and lack of acknowledgement by the Government of India concerning Kuki’s historical opposition to colonialism fell short of realising an honourable political status for the people. Consequently, the socio-political condition of the Kukis in the post-independent era was extremely vulnerable. The existing circumstances prompted clannishness to assert itself to the detriment of the entire community.
Where feelings of Kuki nationalism ceased to exist, clannishness prevailed. Accordingly, 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. Some examples are, objection to candidacy for nomination of a hill minister in 1947 because of representation from a lesser population, and the unsavoury remarks of Shaw and other discriminatory comments suggesting superiority of one clan over another. Tribe recognition in 1956 on a segmented basis, following removal of ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ and recognition of Thadou, a sub-clan from amongst a group speaking the same dialect, led to contestations with proponents of Kuki. It is important to clarify that this group of Kuki relates specifically to those who speak the same dialect opposed to recognition of the sub-clan in question.
This section of Kukis is distinct from the larger Kuki of antiquity, which represents the ethnic whole. Further division within this group quarrelling over genealogy and clashes of a section of them with Hmar in 1960s and latterly with Paites or Zomi in 1997 made things go from bad to worse. As a result, the last decade witnessed intense cases of fratricide, which seriously disturbed the public from leading a normal life. Development has been minimal and the economic condition of the people utterly deplorable. Such state of affairs has also made it difficult to pose a unified an effective deterrent to discourage aggressions on our lands and people by neighbouring communities. Till date human casualties of indiscriminate explosive devices planted in our lands by valley-based insurgents totals 44 (Please see Annexure 1). Kuki National Organisation signed the Deed of Commitment with Geneva Call on total ban of 9 August, in the Alabama Room, in the City Hall of Geneva, Switzerland.It is fair to profess that a good deal of introspection and reflexive analysis has led to this bare conclusion.
In all fairness, positive aspects of the identity are also being highlighted. Kuki image, once tarnished, is in the process of being mended through efforts of social bodies, revolutionary organisations and individuals. An objective assessment of the identity is therefore paramount.
As an apologist for the Kuki identity, the following line of reasoning is put forward for the public’s consideration:
First of all, Kuki acknowledges the identity Mizo as representing sections of our ethnic group. Identifying as Mizo in Mizoram is an accepted norm. Whether this will be reciprocated by Mizo once there is political settlement for Kuki is yet to be seen. In the backdrop of ‘Kuki country’ delineated by Grierson (1904), Mizoram covers a considerable portion of the land mass. The map of the Mizo National Front movement also identifies a significant part of land in the name of Kuki (see map in Annexure 3). The late Demkhoseh Gangte, the leader representing the Kukis in the MNF, was able to lead the first and only successful MNF mission to China in 1974 because of Kuki habitats established en route. Grierson and MNF both highlight the historical importance in regard to territory and people in the name of Kuki.
Secondly, in the context of India, the people are uniformly recognised under ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ in Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, and in Nagaland simply as Kuki. Re-introduction of ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ in Manipur in 2003 reunited the Kukis with their brethren in the other Northeast states. Hmar is recognised separately in these states, too, but there is no denial that they are ethnically Kuki. Paite, too, for example, recognised as a tribe in Mizoram, also identifies as Mizo. In Tripura, Paite is recognised as Kuki, but in Manipur they espouse Zomi as an identity. Zomi National council is a political party in Myanmar, but it does not have legal standing in India because it is not a recognised tribe, which makes it politically inexpedient. Zo is considered the ethnic people’s progenitor, and mi refers to citizens. Therefore, Zomi would mean ‘Zo people’. Zofest, a cultural event in which the various ethnic groups participate, has been held annually at Aizawl in Mizoram. Zomi, is an indigenous terminology and so appropriate in regard to an identity for the entire ethnic people. However, it is conceivable onlywhen there is the assent of Kuki and Mizo.
Third, Chandel district of Manipur is populated one hundred percent by ethnic Kukis. The Kukis of yore in the district, who identified as ‘politically Naga’, are now returning to their roots in groups, which immensely boost’s Kuki nationalism. The groups include United Minorities Liberation Front and Pakan Reunification Army. The former comprise Khoibu, Maring and Kharan; and the latter Anal, Lamkang, Moyon, Monshang, Chothe and Tarao.
Last but not least, the focus of this paper concerns the Kukis of Manipur, which politically concurs with the ideology adopted by Kuki National Organisation. KNO signed Suspension of Operations with the Indian Army on 10 August 2005 and with Government of India and the state Government of Manipur on 22 August 2008. The purpose of SoO is to hold a tripartite dialogue for a viable political settlement for the Kuki people, within the Constitution of India. This is an unprecedented development in the history of the Kukis in independent India. At this vital juncture, it would be extremely impractical to dwell on finding an alternate identity to Kuki. Instead, it would be prudent to set aside internal quarrels that have crippled our community for the last half century or so and converge on the identity Kuki for the benefit of our future. Kuki is not being proposed because it sounds like a good name, but because of its potential as leverage for actuating what is politically achievable for our people.
Kuki has drawn a lot of flak in the past, but it also has its plus points as an identity because of documented facts available in prominent libraries. There is no other name for our people with these kinds of assets. The world knows our people more as Kukis, and less by any other name. To consider an alternative at this juncture would not only prove futile, but would be incalculably inopportune. Its historicity and the fact that it is the only identity we have all shared at one time also makes it more tenable. If we all agree to identify as Kuki, that unity can only serve to our advantage in many practical ways. Perhaps it is worth risking this leap of faith, trusting that political stability, which will engender development and economic prosperity, will also help us rise above petty and unwieldy internal differences.
Accepting the Kuki identity would not only be an altruistic gesture that demonstrates magnanimity on the part of those formerly aggrieved, but will also be a stimulus for a healthier environment that generates hugely beneficial returns. Rejection of Kuki was a result of clannish motives, and all of us have suffered for it – no one has ever gained from it. However, continued resistance to it will tantamount to bearing old grudges at the cost of what it can achieve. This is a luxury none of us can afford. It would be an absolute waste, as the saying goes, to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ and miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime.
Intellectual honesty plus wisdom, which comes with compassion, are qualities that need to be exercised against temptations of scepticism, egocentrism and meaningless guile. Seizing the moment would put an end to an environment where disunity and deprivations have prevailed. It is time we shed old baggage from the past and concentrate our efforts to establish a brighter future for generations to come; a future in which peace, prosperity and unity are the hallmark, not disunity, poverty and shame.
The pains caused by clannishness must be healed. Chauvinism in any shade, party, or group has to be completely uprooted so that as a nation of people we may realise our full potential and become a complete whole. We are at the crossroads; we have the moralresponsibility to make a choice that will either take us forward or keep us shackled to the mistakes and grievous conditions of the past. Amongst other gains, Kuki unity will also promote political stability, which will increase chances of a symbiotic relationship with our neighbours. The decision we make today holds the key to a better future. We must make a discerning choice now and ensure such a future does not elude our children and youth. This is the purpose of expressing a sense of nationalism and embracing an identity, which is our birthright.
It is perhaps apt to draw on Hobsbawn’s quote of Hegelian philosophy that the owl of Minerva which brings wisdom flies out at dusk.
An excerpt that provides a glimpse of the enormous length and breadth of ‘Kuki country’, demarcated in 1904 by GA Grierson, Superintendent of the Linguistic Survey of India:
The territory inhabited by the Kuki tribes extends from the Naga Hills in the north down into the Sandoway District of Burma in the south; from Myittha River in the east, almost to the Bay of Bengal in the west. It is almost entirely filled up by hills and mountain ridges, separated by deep valleys. A great chain of mountains suddenly rises from the plains of Eastern Bengal, about 220 miles north of Calcutta, and stretches eastward in a broadening mass of spurs and ridges, called successively the Garo, Khasia, and Naga Hills. The elevation of the highest point increases towards the east, from about 3,000 feet in the Garo Hills to 8,000 and 9,000 in the region of Manipur. This chain merges, in the east, into the spurs, which the Himalayas shoot out from the north of Assam towards the south. From here a great mass of mountain ridges starts southwards, enclosing the alluvial valley of Manipur, and thence spreads out westwards to the south of Sylhet. It then runs almost due north and south, with cross-ridges of smaller elevation, through the districts known as the Chin Hills, the Lushai Hills, Hill Tipperah, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Farther south the mountainous region continues, through the Arakan Hill tracts, and the Arakan Yoma, until it finally sinks into the sea at Cape Negrais, the total length of the range being some seven hundred miles. The greatest elevation is found to the north of Manipur. Thence it gradually diminishes towards the south. Where the ridge enters the north of Arakan it again rises, with summit upwards of 8,000 feet high, and here a mass of spurs is thrown off in all directions. Towards the south the western off-shoots diminish in length, leaving a track of alluvial land between them and the sea, while in the north the eastern off-shoots of the Arakan Yoma run down to the banks of the Irawaddy. This vast mountainous region, from the Jaintia and Naga Hills in the north, is the home of the Kuki tribes. We find them, besides, in the valley of Manipur, and, in small settlements, in the Cachar Plains and Sylhet.
The Mizo National Front adopted a similar map projection as Grierson’s Kuki country during its movement from 1960s to 1986 (Please see map in Annexure 2). However, as mentioned above, the Mizo Accord, signed with the Government of India in 1986, relates only to the erstwhile Lushai Hills, which represents a fraction of Kuki country.
KUKI IDENTITY AND NATIONALISM
Nationalism has more than one definition. It is usually associated with a state of independence, formation of nations, particularly during WWI and WWII. Nation also has several meanings, such as ‘State’, ‘nation-state’, ‘state-nation’, as well as ‘people’. In regard to Kuki, ‘nation’ stands for the people and nationalism is referred to ‘conceive’ identity, except when referring to the era prior to, and during British colonialism. In other words, the concept of nationalism is emphasised in relation to unification under a common identity. Identity, as a basis of nationalism is stressed because drawing on Smith’s observation, ‘they add to one’s psychological sense of security.’ Nationalism is also important because ‘it is about “land”, both in terms of possession and (literal) rebuilding, and of belonging where forefathers lived and where history demarcates a “homeland”.’
Kuki nationalism was first manifest against British colonialists’ inquest into Kuki territory in the eighteenth-century. Similar to the concept that India was a colonial contribution, the fiercely independent Kuki chieftains’ unity was spurred by compulsions to preserve Kuki territorial integrity. Kuki chieftains ruled their village republics much like the Indian princes and warlords ruled their principalities. Kuki, a generic terminology, pre-dates the British inquest, but became better known through items of literature written by colonial academics and officials.
Another generic terminology that refers to Kukis in the twentieth-century is Mizo. Kuki and Mizo comprise numerous agnate clans with shared cultural roots. Kuki is referred to and followed by Mizo, based on its historicity, not due to any sense of fanaticism. Kuki predates Mizo by over two millennia. This is corroborated by the Pooyas, the original script of the Meitei people of Manipur, which refer to ‘two Kuki Chiefs named Kuki Ahongba and Kuki Achouba were allies to Nongba Lairen Pakhangba, the first historically recorded king of the Meithis [Meiteis], in the latter’s mobilisation for the throne in 33 AD.’ Mizo became an official terminology when the Lushai Hills district of Assam was changed in 1954 to the Mizo Hills district.
In regard to the Constitution Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe recognition of India, Kuki and Mizo are termed as ‘tribes’. Ethnologically, tribe denotes an entity with distinct culture, customs and language. ‘Clan’, on the other hand, is a composite part of a ‘tribe’. Kuki and Mizo clans who share a similar culture can technically be termed a tribe, but not as separate ‘tribes’. For example, Lusei or Lushai is a clan, and Mizo, a tribe; Lusei cannot be recognised separately as a ‘tribe’. Similarly, in Manipur the various Kuki clans can be a tribe, but not separate tribes. A clan designates descendants of a progenitor and his particular lineage. A tribe cannot become a part of a clan or another tribe. Lusei, a clan, in this sense can be a part of Kuki tribe, but Kuki, a conglomerate of different clans, cannot become Lusei. Hence, Shakespear entitled his book, Lushei Kuki Clans (1929).
The Kuki ‘tribes’ in the Constitution Scheduled Cast and Scheduled Tribes Modification Order of 1956 are composed of a mix of sub-clans. For example, Anal, Lamkang, Hmar, Gangte, Vaiphei, Simte, Paite, Kom and Zou are each a mix of sub-clans because of a relative preponderance of Guite, Hangshing and Haokip among them. These are, therefore, group identities as none of them are descendants from one ancestor. Thangsing and Tonsing are part of the Haokip sub-clan. They are respectively amongst Simte and Paite. Hangzo/Hangshing is also among Paite. Among Hmar are Saimang, who are from the Haokip sub-clan. Guite, Hangshing and Haokip are sub-clans and respectively their progenitors.Chawngthu is their progenitor and head of clan of the sub-clans, which collectively represents them.
With regard to the tribe recognition, a misleading notion that has unsettled the minds of a section of people is that Kuki is a national identity and should not be recognised as a ‘tribe’. The argument: ‘this renders Kuki on the same status as tribes.’ Clarification: in the context India, which is a nation-state, Kuki can only be a tribe, not a national identity.
The section of people who identify with either Kuki or Mizo, normally consider those that associate with the other an intrinsic part of the identity they espouse. This is possible because, as indicated above, each of the identities is composed of a similar mix of sub-clans and clans. This integrating characteristic is reflected in the basic cultural elements they share, e.g. symbols, values, memories, myths, and traditions, which embody recurrent dimensions of cultural community and identity. The most important of these are,
a) a sense of stability, and rootedness, of the particular unit of population;
b) a sense of difference, of distinctiveness and separateness, of that cultural unit;
c) a sense of continuity with previous generations of the cultural unit, through memories, myths and traditions;
d) a sense of destiny and mission, of shared hopes and aspirations, of that cultural community.
Till date, a lingua franca has developed among Mizo, but not with Kuki. Prior to the advent of the British, the people were more a Kulturnation (largely passive cultural community) rather than Staatsnation (active, self-determining political nation), based on the example of Greece. Greece was a collection of city-states with their respective sovereignty, although politically, as with the Kukis, a Greek ‘nation’ did not exist.
Chieftainship continues among the Kukis in India. The institution has been abolished in Mizoram state in India, and in independent Myanmar (Burma). The people’s ancestral lands are within Northeast India, Northwest Myanmar and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, where the Bawm people represent Kuki.
An excerpt: The Bawm people are one of the Kukis of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. They are among the numerous ethnic Kukis also identified by their clan or named after their habitat. Kuki has persisted from antiquity as the collective terminology to identify the clans and groups irrespective of geographical divisions initially created by the British colonialists, and latterly reinforced by international boundaries in the post-colonial era.
The Kuki group in Chittagong Hill Tracts are Tlangmi or hill people (they are Bawm, Pangkhua, Lushai, Khumi, Mro, Khyang).
Zo-Reunification Organisation (ZORO), with headquarters at Aizawl, Mizoram advocate integration of the entire ethnic people as a single entity under Zo. Zo is considered the people’s progenitor, mi refers to citizens; therefore, Zomi would mean ‘Zo people’. With regard to historical references to Zo, in Gereni’s record, ‘according to Longhena these [people] would be the Kuki of the North Kachar and of the hills near* Manipur, who have a god Thilha among their deities. Kuki is one of the terms by which the Chin-Lushai tribes are collectively designated, whereas they call themselves Zhô.’
As this paper mainly refers to Kukis in present-day Manipur state, it is important to note that prior to the advent of the British colonialists, Kukis were an independent people ruled by their chieftains. The present political map of the state of Manipur is based on the creation of the British. The term Manipur ‘is not used at all until the British period.’ According to Cheitharon Kumpapa: The Court Chronicle of the Kings of Manipur (2005, 23), Taotingmang, the third Meitei king’s (Sakabda 186 (264 CE)) territory was ‘only up to Lilong, seventeen miles from Kangla’, which is located at the heart of Imphal, the capital of Manipur. Kangleipak or Manipur, the Meitei kingdom comprising the valley was conquered by the British in 1891. Following ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, ancestral Kuki hills were brought under British India and British Burma.
THEORIES OF THE ORIGIN OF KUKI IDENTITY
A number of theories exist regarding the identity Kuki and its origins. Two contrasting premises are referred to here: i) a popular and most erroneous view that Kuki was introduced by the British in the latter-half of the nineteenth-century; ii) Pooyas, thetraditional records of the Meitei people, date Kuki in 33 AD, and according to Cheitharol Kumaba (Royal Chronicles of the Meitei Kings), in the year 186 Sakabda (AD 264) Meidungu Taothingmang, a Kuki, became king.
The historians Majumdar and Bhattasa1i refer to the Kukis as the earliest people known to have lived in prehistory India, preceding ‘the “Dravidians” who now live in South India.’ According to Prof JN Phukan:
If we were to accept Ptolemy’s ‘Tiladae’ as the ‘Kuki’ people, as identified by Gerini, the settlement of the Kuki in North-East India would go back to a very long time in the past. As Professor Gangumei Kabui thinks, ‘some Kuki tribes migrated to Manipur hills in the pre-historic times along with or after the Meitei advent in the Manipur valley (History of Manipur, p24).’ This hypothesis will take us to the theory that the Kukis, for the matter, the Mizos, at least some of their tribes, had been living in North-East India since the prehistoric time, and therefore, their early home must be sought in the hills of Manipur and the nearby areas rather than in Central China or the Yang-tze valley.
In the second century (AD 90 – 168), ClaudiusPtolemy, the geographer, identified the Kukis with Tiladai who are associated with Tilabharas, and places them ‘to the north of Maiandros, that is about the Garo Hills and Silhet.’ Stevenson’s reference to Kuki in relation to Ptolemy’s The Geography also bears critical significance to its period existence. In the Rajmala or Annals of Tripura, Shiva is quoted to have fallen in love with a Kuki woman around AD 1512. The Encyclopaedia Britannica records, ‘Kuki, a name given to a group of tribes inhabiting both sides of the mountains dividing Assam and Bengal from Burma, south of the Namtaleik River.’
DEFINING KUKI IDENTIY IN THE PRESENT-DAY FRAMEWORK
It is essential to define the people Kuki represents before Kuki nationalism can be explained. In the context the Constitution Scheduled Tribes Order, the Government of India, based on common ethnicity recognised ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ in Assam (1950), Tripura (1950), Meghalaya (1950), Mizoram (1951) and Manipur (1951). In Nagaland (1970), they are recognised simply as Kuki. (Please see list of ‘tribes’ for ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ in Annexure 1)
The Constitution Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Lists (Modification) Order, 1956, Manipur, removed ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ along with ‘Any Mizo Tribes’ and ‘Any Naga Tribes’, and their places recognised twenty-nine tribes. Twenty-two of these are ethnic Kuki groups. The ‘Any Naga Tribes’ are i) Angami, ii) Kabui, iii) Kacha Naga, iv) Mao, v) Maram, vi) Sema, and viii) Tangkhul.
A state of identity flux has ensued among Kukis since 1956. A number of the ethnic groups disillusioned by clannishness among Kuki leaders dissociated from the identity. A few, in fact preferred identification as ‘politically Naga’ although officially there are no Nagas in Manipur following the removal of ‘Any Naga Tribe’ in 1956. With regard to the new development concerning identity, a distinguished Naga academic stated the Anals are ‘culturally Kuki’, but ‘politically Naga’. Preceding events besides the 1956 tribe modification order are attributed to the socio-political condition that induced this state of flux among Kukis. These events are discussed under a) external and b) internal factors.
a) External factors
Kuki nationalism demonstrably opposed British colonialists’ interference in Kuki territory, which began in 1777 during the time of Warren Hastings, Governor General of India. ‘The year 1860 saw the great Kuki invasion of Tipperah [Tripura], and the following year a large body of police marched to the hills to punish and avenge.’ ‘In 1845, 1847-1848, 1849-1850, and 1850-1851 there were raids culminating in what is called the Great Kuki Invasion of 1860s.’ ‘Early in 1860, reports were received, at Chittagong, of the assembling of a body of 400 or 500 Kookies at the head of the River Fenny, and soon the tale of burning villages and slaughtered men gave token of the work they had on hand. On the 31st January, before any intimation of their purpose could reach us, the Kookies, after sweeping down the course of the Fenny, burst into the plains of Tipperah at Chagulneyah, burnt or plundered 15 villages, butchered 185 British subjects, and carried off about 100 captives.’ On the term ‘raids’, a description of the Kuki offensives, Hangshing wryly remarks (1997):
Once again the British show the Kukis as being the villains of the piece and as being invaders into British territories, whereas nothing could have been more distorted or falsely projected. It was in fact the other way round. It was the Kukis who resented, resisted, and were eventually forced to fight the British invasion into areas of their sovereignty.
In the twentieth-century, WW I marked another momentous offensive against the British known as ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’. For the sake of the record, the event is also referred to as ‘Anglo-Kuki War, 1917-1919’. Shakespeare, Palit, and a recent publication The Assam Rifles, term it as ‘Kuki Rebellion, 1917-1919’. One of the significances of this war is it reflects Kuki unity, which is it was possible to make a concerted offensive against the imperialists. A ‘Minute Paper’ reports there were ‘23 principals involved, 13 in Manipur under Assam, 10 in the Somra Tract under Burma’. Sir HDU Kerry, General Officer Commanding, Burma Division wrote in a confidential despatch: ‘I therefore decided to put an end to the Kuki revolt by force of arms, break the Kuki spirit, disarm the Kukis, exact reparation and pave the way for an effective administration of their country’. After 1919, Kuki ancestral lands were brought under British India and British Burma.
In the aftermath of 1917-1919 rising, there was landscape change in Kuki history. A patriotic and independent people were now victims of colonialism. The rights of the chiefs were reduced and house tax had to be paid to the British. Their lands were brought under civil authority, the first being Sub-Divisional Offices opened at Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Churachandpur, which are now hill districts of Manipur. Chassad and Laijang, respectively in Ukhrul and Tamenglong were centres of Kuki hegemony. In the late Gangte’s words, these new administrative posts achieved two major objectives: a) ‘containment’ of Kuki activities to prevent another rising and b) ensure Naga domination in Ukhrul and Tamenglong sub-divisions. These major set backs did not seem to dampen Kuki nationalism.
In the wake of WWII, Kukis joined the Indian National Army, and together with the Imperial Army of Japan, fought the British again. There are about 150 Kuki INA pensioners. 80 of these are listed in Freedom Fighters of Manipur.Defeat of the Axis group, however, dashed the hopes of Kukis to be restored to their pre-British state of freedom. This left them deeply demoralised and vulnerable. The characteristics once exhibited to preserve Kuki territorial integrity perceptibly diminished in post-independent India. In the light of opposition to colonialism to protect Kuki territory – as did the people of India – anticipation of a suitable acknowledgement from the Govt of India was high. However, the status accorded to them was contrary to expectation, especially having conceded in September 1949 to become part of the Indian Union, along with the state of Manipur. The expectation and sentiment of the Kukis is reflected in Kuki National Assembly’s demand in 1946: 
Taking into consideration the various aspects of the vexing problems of the hills and the valley it is the desire of the Kuki National Assembly to announce that the Kukis should come under the Durbar provided the conditions are satisfactory, but failing to obtain satisfactory conditions, the Kukis regretfully, will have to follow the footsteps of their hill brethren in demanding for full secession.
In the post-independent era KNA proposed a separate state for the Kukis within India, but yielded no response from the Government.
When the Government of India Act 1935 put the Naga Hills and Lushai Hills in the ‘excluded areas’, the hills of Manipur remained within the native State, which was under British regency from 1891 to 1908. The hills came under the State Durbar when Manipur became a constitutional monarchy in 1908, but separate Rules for the Administration of the Hills were framed the same year. The Manipur Hill Peoples (Administration) Regulation – 1947 introduced the Village Authority, consisting of the chief or Khulakpa (headman) of the village and the council of elders, which was accountable to the Sub-Divisional Officer, in accordance with Section 6 of the Manipur Hill Peoples (Administration) Regulation – 1947. The Village Authority officially replaced the traditional role of chieftainship. Descent in the status of the chieftains, who opposed the might of the British, contributed to the pervasiveness of clannism and sectarian politicking. The state of the Kukis grew increasingly worse.
After India was liberated from British rule, Kukis, rather than pursue independence opted to accept being loyal citizens of the country. This choice may be stated as motivated by anticipation that Kuki history would be recognised and the integrity of their ancestral lands duly preserved within the Indian union. However, contrarily, the status of other communities was elevated, e.g. the neighbouring Naga people, whose nationalism was promoted by the British: ‘shortly after the War – in which many Nagas fought with bravery for the Allied cause’, Sir Charles R Pawsey, Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills, formed the Naga Hills Districts Tribal Council in 1945, which in 1946 became the Naga National Council.
The feeling that the status quo established by the British has been perpetuated to the detriment of the Kuki people is strong. Creation of Naga statehood in 1963, for instance, provided incentives to a number of Kukis to identify as ’politically Naga’. Creation of Mizoram statehood in 1987 also provided similar incentives, which enticed Thadou and Gangte to identify as Mizo. The pathetic condition the Kukis were left in clearly must have been a disincentive for those already disgruntled to continue identification with Kuki. The ensuing fissures in Kuki identity effectively made Kuki nationalism a virtue of the past, and the plight of the Kukis mounted immeasurably. This aspect of Kuki identity is examined in ‘internal factors’.
b) Internal factors
Following the WWII, the state of the Kukis was tense and sensitive. Unity was perceptibly at stake. They were also at a stage of adapting to transition from rule of chieftainship to a state of democracy. It was also a crucial juncture to deliberate on the political future of the Kukis. At the time, relationship with the Naga people in the hills of Manipur was not at its best because of contesting claims over ownership of land. In this scenario the objectives of the Kuki National Assembly included: a) maintain unity of the Kukis, b) maintain cordial relations with the Nagas, and c) maintain close co-operation with the valley people.
KNA also planned to establish a pan-Kuki platform for the Kukis of Manipur. In May 1947 a Kuki Naga Unity Committee was formed to resolve the problems between the two communities. This intention met with little success. Although there were efforts ‘to enlist the sympathy and sharing the sentiments of the Nagas and also recognising a long standing fellowship with them, the leaders of the KNA were aware of unauthorised occupation of their land by the Nagas which ultimately helped to develop their anti-Naga political attitude, and finally the KNA became “a symbol of Kuki opposition to the Nagas”’. In 1947 KNA formally opposed Nagas’ claim to the land of the Kukis.
At this point in time, in accordance with the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947, the President of the Manipur State Durbar was to nominate two ministers to represent the hill peoples in the Constitution Making Committee of the Interim Council of the Manipur Interim Government. R Khathing was sworn in on 12 September 1947 as the Naga minister. However, there was no consensus over the nomination of a Kuki minister. The KNA, of which Zavum Misao was President and Thangkhopao Kipgen the Secretary (who was Special Officer during the time of FF Pearson, President of the Manipur State Durbar), objected to the candidacy of TC Tiankham of Paite National Council, and Teba Kilong of Khulmi National Union, on grounds that they (Paites, and Koms and Anals) represent no more than thirty per cent of the Kuki population.
In a democracy where ‘majority wins’, albeit through free exercise of franchise, was still not a part of the mindset of a people previously governed by the culture of chieftainship. Minority rights in a democratic set up was yet to be consciously inculcated. In this circumstance, the attitude of KNA, which was dominated by ‘Thadou’ chieftains, was perhaps perceived as autocratic and out of sync. Shaw’s (1929, 30) remark that the Kuki clans were ‘under the wing of the Thadou clan’ did not help improve the situation. In an attempt to soothe frazzled nerves, on 28 June 1947 a resolution was taken at a meeting of the Khuga Valley Chiefs Committee condemning Shaw’s remark. A copy of the resolution was duly submitted to SL Lunneh, the second president of KNA. However, there was no sign of improvement. Unsavoury utterances, ‘Kuki-siki’, ‘Kuki-makhai’ (quarter-Kuki, half-Kuki) by the Secretary of KNA over the candidacy of a Kom and Paite for a Kuki minister, added fuel to the fire. A rival party called Khulmi National Union was formed of various clans, excepting those associated with Thadou. (Khulmi stands for the mythical origins of the Kukis. Khul means cave, mi people)
In July 1947, at the Thanlon Area Chiefs Conference, votes were cast to choose a national identity from amongst Khul, Kuki and Mizo. The results: Khul 111, Mizo 32, and Kuki 14. In the 1948 Manipur Legislative Assembly, seven Khulmi National Union candidates were elected, as against two ‘Kukis’. However, the success of Khulmi National Union was short lived. Further splinter groups from Kuki National Assembly emerged: the Hmar Congress (1954) and the Hmar National Union (1962), the Paite National Council (1956), the Gangte Tribal Union (1958). The ground was set for a multitude of other splinter groups to mushroom. Assertion of segmented identities over a collective one became the norm. The Constitution Tribe Modification Order, 1956 reinforced these identities. Kuki identity was clearly at risk.
After 1956, Kuki seemed to represent just a genealogically linked group, speaking the same dialect and who is amongst those that trace their origins to the Chawngthu clan. These include Mate, Lhungdim, Baite, Lenthang, Changsen, Guite, Doungel, Kipgen, Haokip, Thadou, Chongloi and Hangshing. Exacerbating the predicament of Kuki identity was another division amongst this group, i.e. between those opposed to recognition as Thadou tribe in 1956 and those who favoured Kuki. This divergent stance also existed within the lineage of Guite, Doungel, Kipgen, Haokip, Thadou, Chongloi and Hangshing. The reason being, Doungel was dispossessed of the title of the eldest in the lineage by Thadou, the youngest.
According to Kuki custom and inheritance law, Doungel, the elder’s position cannot be usurped by Thadou. Therefore, although the 1956 tribe modification order recognised Thadou instead of Doungel; Doungel, Guite, Kipgen, Haokip, Chongloi and Hangshing cannot be Thadou. Thadou consists of Sithlou, Lhouvum, Singsit and Singson. A unique feature of Kuki custom and tradition, which the British found difficult to deal with was deposing a family of their inheritance rights. For example, were Doungel’s family, as claimed by Thadou, actually extinct, his younger brother Haolai would automatically be the next to continue the lineage. The view that Thadou is not a person, but an expression, i.e. Tha means ‘to kill’, and dou ‘to defend’ is not substantiated by the oral tradition or folklore. Oral tradition and folklore are critical sources of knowledge on the people’s past, especially in the absence of known written accounts.
Furthermore, in Kuki custom, Kipgen and Haokip are elder to Thadou because they were born of the second wife of their father and Thadou was born from the third wife. On 19 December 1997, Haokip observed the traditional custom of giving Sating to the elder brother Doungel. This was followed by Kipgen giving Sating to Guite in 1998, clearly indicating they are not Thadou.
Implicit in the Scheduled Tribe recognition is the dialect in question being accordingly named. Both advocacies, i.e. Thadou or Kuki are equally objectionable for two reasons: a) the former is the name of a sub-clan, and b) the latter, being a generic terminology represents more than those speaking the dialect in question. From Chawngthu, the progenitor of the clan to which Doungel is a descendant, seven generations are said to be missing. Theoretically, if the dialect were to be named after a person, Chawngthu is the most senior and so the appropriate name. However, naming a dialect after a progenitor inevitably implies those not part of the lineage spoke somebody else’s dialect. Besides, there is the possibility of some group claiming seniority over Chawngthu because of the absence of contemporaneous genealogical record. In a wider perspective, identifying a particular dialect to the generic term Kuki accords the status of the lingua franca. Without a process of consensus involved, this renders the dialects spoken by other clans ‘not Kuki dialects’. Any dialect ought to become the lingua franca of a people through consensus, not imposed.
Another rather disturbing facet is the religious bodies’ schematic thinking adding to, rather than helping to abate the Thadou-Kuki imbroglio. Thomson’s translation of the Bible in the vernacular ‘Thadou-Kuki Bible’ was published in 1922. This was a time when amongst the Kukis reading and writing was the prerogative of Thadous who were first to convert to Christianity, which followed on the heels of colonialism. Most other Kukis were unable to read and write. Therefore, the public in general was unaware of the translation and so there was no opposition to the ‘translation in Thadou’. The priority of these spiritually enlightened few appears to have been promotion of clan status rather than truth, which is the essence of religion. These early converts were not unaware of Kuki customs and tradition or the incontrovertible genealogical tree. An overwhelming sense of clan-centrism kept at bay any sense of nationalism.
It was mainly the Christians amongst Kukis who were recruited in the Labour Corps to fight in France. In 1918, when WWI ended and they returned home, their kith and kin were deep in war with the British. Letkholal Singson, son of the chief of Kangjang and Onkai Sithlou, chief of Songdo, who were both in good relations with the British persuadedSongchung Sitlhou, the chief of Sangnao to surrender. Sangnao village was subsequently spared from being destroyed by the British, but was fined five mithun, six guns, one dahpi (gong) and one thousand rupees by the Government. This provoked the deeply-stressed chief of Sangnao to express his emotion:
U le nao vin Solkar douuh hite eitin,
Sum-minthang kavan mang kalha tai.
Our brothers asked us to join hands against the Government
But alas, this has cost me dearly.
Khotinpao Sitlhou, the chief of Taloulong, who was not converted to Christianity and still engaged in fighting replied:
Sum minthang le navan mang nachanle,
Kei toi kamkei hoija vaitham hitai mo?
If you lament the loss of your worldly wealth,
What of my sons, who gave their lives fighting, like young leopards?
Regrettably, had the returnees from France taken the path of negotiating with the Government for the Kukis, rather than the surrender of a few, a pact like Suspension of Operations leading to political dialogue could have been reached. That would have averted the arrests of many prominent chieftains and entailed a tenable status for the Kukis.
With regard to Western education being introduced, amongst others, Haokips were one who was most opposed. This was because of the love of traditional values and culture. There was deep apprehension that conversion would be on the heels of education, which would corrupt Kuki culture. Lamentably, the early Kuki converts to Christianity were allies to the British during the Kuki rising of 1917-1919.
Predictably a second translation, ‘Kuki Holy Bible’ followed in the same vernacular. The translation by an eminent Reverend was a tremendous feat. It was an excellent work of literature achieved in a remarkably short span of time, but it proved politically counter-productive. While proponents of Thadou and those preferring Kuki quarrelled over the dialect’s name, ‘Kuki Holy Bible’, written in the contested dialect implied the dialects of other clans was not Kuki. This did not help consolidate the Kuki people or their identity. Protestantism and Print capitalism is attributed to the creation of Europe’s first major ‘non-dynastic, non-city states in the Dutch Republic and the Commonwealth of the Puritans.’
Wycliffe’s vernacular manuscript Bible of 1382, which is English: a fusion of Norman French (language of the foreign ruling class) and Anglo-Saxon (language of the subject population) possibly instilled a sense of English nationalism. Ironically, in the case of the Kukis, the two translation of the Bible in the vernacular, sharpened disputes over ownership of the dialect. It also provided another reason to reinforce the other ethnic clans’ apprehensions of domination by Thadou. Notwithstanding, the Kuki Literature Society filed a writ petition in the Guwahati High Court claiming Kuki or Khongsai as the legitimate language. Disintegration appears an appropriate word to describe the state of Kuki identity. Ironically, on the communities of Manipur a publication of ‘Incredible India’ refers to Meitei, Meitei Pangal, Naga, and relegates Kuki with a sobriquet ‘other colourful people’.
The discontentment caused by Thadou’s usurpation of his elder brother’s title and its recognition as a tribe has remained unsettled to the present-day, and consequently divisions persist. ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ reintroduced in 2003 has effectively resolved the issue of tribe recognition. However, the controversy over the name of the dialect lingers. This particular segment of people being numerically the most amongst the Kukis in Manipur, their divisions has significantly affected Kuki unity. They are also responsible for the break up of the Kuki identity. An initiative – ideally taken by Thadou – to amicably reconcile the issue regarding the name of the dialect would not only help in subsiding clannish tendencies in general, but also promote Kuki nationalism in the larger interest of the people. As explained above, neither Thadou nor Kuki is appropriate as the dialect’s name. An alternative, Khochungte, which might prove to be a panacea, is proposed in this paper. It must also be stated that given Thadou’s charitable act, responsibility in regard to forging unity lies with the other groups of Kukis, too.
Clannishness must completely fade for Kuki community to thrive. Two instances of clanism related to the section of Kukis referred to in the preceding paragraph are cited to illustrate this position:
One, sections of these people engaged in clashes with Hmars in the 1960s. Attributed to the unfortunate event was a process of change taking place in the social system, where Singson chieftainship among Hmars was the norm. SL Lunneh, in a local new paper, Sim le Mal, wrote Thadou and Hmar were at war. An anecdote worthy of mention is Paolen Haokip and Paokhogang Haokip, senior Kuki leaders, who were opposed to clashes between kith and kin, slaughtered a mithun (bison) at Siden, a Hmar village to make peace. This gesture by the duo incurred the wrath of the late self-styled Gen Nengkholun Haokip, who ordered their assassination. As evident in this episode, Haokips have had the unique ability to champion opposing stands on critical issues, including in the Thadou and Kuki imbroglio. However, higher education amongst the younger Kuki generation and increasing exposure to the wider world, coupled with a growing sense of nationalism over clanism, this element, thankfully, is fast-fading, including among the Haokips.
Two, in 1997, a similar, but a more far-reaching clash took place with Paites, following an attack on Saikul village in Churachandpur district by cadres of Kuki National Front (P). This resulted in the killing of eight Paite men on the impulse that they belonged to National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak & Muivah. In a bid to make redressal, KNO deputed the late Brig Khaimang Haokip alias Vipin to meet with Khaijasong Paite. The two men charted a road map that finally ended the fratricidal killings in 1998.
Two episodes are also cited to show the strong bonds of clansmen in juxtaposition to the preceding instances of clanism. During British rule a greater part of the hills of Churachandpur was accorded the status of ‘Haokip Reserve’. Selmat, where the Rev Rochunga Pudaite, who is Hmar, has set up a college and a hospital was part of the Haokip chief, Teisheng pa’s land. Among the Kukis, a custom is observed in which zu (traditionally rice beer) plays a central role when a chief gives land to kindred (Saimang, for instance, who are among Hmar, belong to the Haokip sub-clan).
On the occasion, normally, zubel, a tall earthen jar filled to the brim with zu is brought by the party to the chief and drunk together. In the instance of Selmat, reputedly, a bottle of rum served the place of a jar of zu. In Kuki tradition monetary transaction does not figure unless the land is being purchased by a non-Kuki, or vice-versa. Pearson Veng, inhabited by the Paite community, where the late Tiankham Tonsing’s eldest son has established a school in memory of his mother was similarly given by the Haokip chief of Songpi. Tonsing, as mentioned above, belongs to the Haokip sub-clan, but identifies with Paite. These specifics are cited not only to pass on information, but also to highlight the bonds of clansmen and common ethnicity.
In the past Simte and Hmar people used the term Khochungte to refer to the group of Kukis, who were known as Khongsai or Khongjai among Meitei and Burmese people. Khochungte, colloquially means people of the north. In Khochung parlance Simte and Hmar werereferred to as Sim le Mal, i.e. people of the east and south, respectively. The term Khochungte is also substantiated in Kuki folklore: Pu Chawngthu le amite Noikhopi a kon in ahung doh un ChungkhopiKkhochung asat uve. When Pu Chawngthu and his followers surfaced from Khul (subterranean dwelling of the Kukis), they cleared a settlement Chungkhopi/Khochung. A number of Kuki elders have endorsed Khochungte as a suitable alternative to ‘Thadou-Kuki’. To name a few, they are Paoneikhai Vaiphei, Paojakhup Telien, late SNG Haokip and Lhukhopao Kipgen in Myanmar, who is keen on Kuki folklore and literary subjects.
Following the 1956 Tribe Modification Order, a sub-clan, from amongst the people who speak the same dialect, but do not belong to the Thadou lineage adopted Khongsai as their identity. Some who belong to this group suggest the name Vanthang as an alternative because Khongsai refers to a wider group.
A conglomeration of various sub-clans emerged to advocate Zomi as an alternative to Kuki. T Gougin founded the Zomi National Congress in 1972. Zo-Reunification Organisation (ZORO) was formed following an ‘historic agreement’ signed on 5 March 1988 by T Gougin of Zomi National Council and Brig (Rtd) T Sailo of People’s Conference, Mizoram. The first Zomi Convention was held on 19 – 20 May 1988 at Champhai, in Mizoram.
An extract from the proceedings of a meeting between members of Zomi and the Kuki National Organisation reflects the latter’s political aspirations:
Q. Zomi leaders: The problem is nomenclature. We want ‘Zomi’, while you want ‘Kuki’. What is your opinion?
A. The late SNG Haokip, chief public relations officer of KNO: No Government owes anything under the identity ‘Mizo’ because their issues have been politically settled. However, in the name of ‘Kuki’ – for those not included within Mizoram state – both India and Burma owe us a great debt.
The Mizo National Front was formed in 1963 to demand creation of ‘Mizoram’ as an independent and sovereign state. It was a major political movement of the ethnic people since India gained independence. In 1964, Kuki National Assembly supported the Manipur Mizo Integration Council (MMIC) for a single administrative unit. The Mizo People’s Convention was held at Kanpur in Churachandpur from 15-18 January 1965. The main agenda was ‘Territorial Integrity’ and creation of one Administrative Unit for the Kuki-Mizo people called ‘Mizoram State’. The organisations represented were i) Paite National council, ii) Vaiphei National Organisation, iii) Simte National Organisation, iv) Zoumi National Organisation, v) Mizo Union, Mizoram, vi) Mizo National Front, vii) Chin National Union, viii) Mizo National Union, ix) Hmar National Union, x) Kuki National Assembly, xi) Gangte Tribal Union, xii) Kom National Union, xiii) Baite Convention Council.
The late Demkhoseh Gangte represented the Kuki contingent as leader in MNF. He led the first and only successful MNF mission to China in 1974. After returning from a three-month long mission in China, Demkhoseh surrendered to the Government of India at Imphal on 30 June 1975. The circumstances leading to the surrender is murky. According to Bareh, Rev Zairema met Demkhoseh in Manipur. The Reverend is supposed to have enquired whether it was proper for Demkhoseh to utilise funds and material collected on behalf of MNF from China for his personal benefit. The reply was: if Laldenga could use all the money received from Pakistan for his personal use, why should he not use small amounts received from China for the survival of his team after the 3000 mile march, ‘longer than the long march of Mao Tsetung.’
In the view of the MNF cadres who returned with Demkhoseh from China he had no option but to surrender. Laldenga, the MNF chief, apparently had taken the decision to eliminate Demkhoseh. This was revealed by his personal Lusei body guard, who was ordered to carry out the errand. Following this revelation, there was a near stand-off between the Kuki and Mizo parties, who were not only brothers in arms, but blood brothers, too. It appears Laldenga was ‘considerably engaged in eliminating other leaders who were coming up in the party [in order] to retain his position and hold. He did not hesitate to get rid of his old colleagues and one time friends who had left him and returned to Mizoram to live a peaceful life.’
The revelation by Demkhoseh’s body guard took place at Molvailup, in Ukhrul district, bordering Burma. Molvailup is the village of late Brig Khaimang alias Vipin, Chief of Staff of the Kuki National Army. According to people present at the scene the incident nearly created two opposing camps, Kuki and Mizo, and almost sparked an encounter. Curiously, the wives of four MNF leaders, and Kapthuami, the wife of Demkhoseh, surrendered to the DC at Lunglei in Mizoram along with her children on 11 May 1973, almost two years before her husband’s surrender in 1975. This suggests Demkhoseh had become aware of Laldenga’s subversive intentions and had to relinquish himself to the authorities upon his return from China. Demkhoseh’s surrender is often quoted as ‘betrayal’ of the MNF cause. In the opinion of those who participated at Kawnpui convention in 1965, Laldenga’s 1986 Mizo Accord is a bigger betrayal because it did not achieve the Miff’s main objective of territorial integration and a single administration for the Kuki-Mizo people. MNF’s relation with Naga hostiles in 1967-1968 was ‘friendly and cordial.’ This is a peculiar revelation given the adversarial relationship between Nagas of Manipur and Kukis at the time.
In 1986, the Mizo Accord was signed between MNF and the Government of India. The Accord failed to achieve the principal objective of ‘Territorial Integrity’ and one Administrative Unit. Only the former Lushai Hills became the state of Mizoram. The fall out of this lack of MNF leaders’ political vision is immense, particularly in Manipur. Just six years after 1986, from 1992, the NSCN (IM)-led Nagas carried out a massive pogrom against the Kukis, which lasted until 1997. Justification for their heinous activity was based on an historical amnesia, which is a convenient and effective means of constructing one’s history that readily forgets what would be detrimental to one’s own political end. The Nagas claimed that Kukis committed ‘severe atrocities’ in the past.
According to Kuki elders, had it not been for the Kuki chieftains’ intervention to subside intense internecine clashes, for example, among the Tangkhul Nagas, their population today would be much less. These are opposing versions of ‘atrocity’ in which people suffered and that is regrettable. However, the reason the Kukis normally intervened was because they were requested by one Tangkhul party, who was the underdog on the verge of total annihilation by another Tangkhul village. On record, over 900 souls perished (mainly women, children and the elderly), 350 villages uprooted and in excess of 50,000 were rendered refugees in their own land. Two major reasons are attributed to this catastrophe: a) having surrendered with arms to the Government, after the MNF capitulated, Kukis were defenceless; b) it was clear that a conscience-singed MNF, who sacrificed Kukis for their immediate interests, would not come to their rescue. Tlawmngaihna (doing good deeds to others without expecting anything in return) had no significance. The casualties of 1992-1997 Kuki genocide are of tremendous proportion, but it is the MNF betrayal which is ‘Kuki tragedy’.
1986-1992: A STATE OF STUPEFICATION
The state of the Kuki mind from 1986 to 1992 can be best described as stupefied. NSCN (IM)’s aggression was rather a surprise. There was no coherent thought about what steps to take following MNF’s capitulation, and so there was no organised group to face the onslaught. Each village set up its own defence force to protect themselves. After NSCN (IM) signed a ‘ceasefire’ with the Government of India in 1997, the incidence of armed encounters became less frequent. The Kuki village defence forces then formed independent organisations to prevent further aggressions. Rather than come together to pursue a common goal, these organisations preferred to assert their own purposes. The condition of the Kukis seemed to go from bad to worst. NSCN (IM)’s onslaught had a cumulative effect on the dismal socio-political condition of the people, owing to external influences colonial days and internal discrepancies in post-independent period. However, a new dawn was imminent.
REJUVENATION OF KUKI IDENITITY AND NATIONALISM
In 2003 ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ was ‘reintroduced’. Signs of reversal from a state of near disintegration to reunification of the Kukis have followed since. The Amendment Act provided an avenue for any Kuki to receive a tribe certificate, irrespective of whichever clan she or he belongs to, without being subjected to applying for one based on the tribes listed in the modification order of 1956. Kuki, which officially ceased to exist in Manipur, following 1956, was back as a legitimate entity in 2003. Crucially, too, it re-integrated the common bond with the brethren in other Northeast states of India recognised as ‘Any Kuki Tribes’, rather than by separate clan names.
A timely development fomenting Kuki unification was the formation of Kuki National Organisation in 1988. KNO’s ideology, articulated in Zale’n-gam, The Kuki nation (1998), set out to unify the people by adopting an inclusive Kuki identity based on its pre-British status. KNO also adopted principles of federalism in its Constitution to ensure equal status of all constituents. KNO’s inclusive and unified ideology established a firm base for the clans to return to their roots and embrace their birthright identity. Seminars on Kuki identity and nationalism have been held in the last decade in Delhi, Shillong, Guwahati, Imphal, Moreh, Churachandpur and Sadar Hills. These seminars have helped to dispel former doubts of clan domination, which repelled many from identifying with Kuki.
The stage for unification set in place, it must be made clear that no single clan can assume to be exclusive or synonymous to Kuki. Kuki of antiquity cannot be confined either to Khongsai or the sub-clans Mate, Lenthang, Lhungdim, Baite, Doungel, Guite, Kipgen, Haokip, Thadou, Chongloi and Hangshing, who speak the same dialect. Such synonymy practically narrowed Kuki identity to represent only this group. The original Kuki of pre-British period comprises the agnate clans of ‘Old Kuki’ and ‘New Kuki’, introduced by the British to perpetuate their ‘divide and rule’ policy. Dismissing this categorisation, Prof Lal Dena points out there is no scientific or ethnographic basis for distinguishing between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Kukis.
Zale’n-gam: The Kuki Nation lists Kukis in Manipur from A–Z (Please see Annexure 2). An occasion of great revelry takes place annually on 1 November, a state holiday, when these people celebrate Kut, a harvest festival. Cultural troupes representing the clans perform traditional dances in the day section of the celebration. Interspersed with the cultural dances, musicians, accompanied by bands and soloists with backup recordings, perform to regale a throbbing audience. A pageant of beauties in which other communities, such as the Meitei people also participate, takes place in the evening shift. Live music is performed by different bands as a panel of judges choose from the various contestants, who with confidence and grace stride the catwalk. At the end, the lucky contestant is declared Miss Kut of the year, along with other winners from a variety of categories that epitomizes beauty of God’s creation, e.g. ‘beautiful eyes’ and ‘beautiful hair’.
Kuki identity, refashioned nearer to its historical status, also sets the grounds for tangible deliberations for a stable political future for the people. Besides ‘Any Kuki Tribes’, an important factor augmenting Kuki unity is ‘Suspension of Operations’ signed on 10 August 2005 between the Army and KNO, followed by another SoO on 22 August 2008 signed among Government of India, KNO and the state Government of Manipur. Consequent to SoO, twelve armed wing, representing every Kuki clan, now share the KNO political umbrella. They are, i) Kuki National Army, S Robert Haokip, CAS; ii) Kuki National Front (Military Council), TH German, C-in-C; iii) Kuki National Front (Zogam), Joshua Haokip, C-in-C, v) United Socialist Revolutionary Army, L Vaiphei, C-in-C; vi) Hmar National Army, LS Lungtrau, C-in-C; vii) Zomi Revolutionary Front, PS Hangshing, C-in-C; viii) United Komrem Revolutionary Army, T Karong, C-in-C; ix) United Minorities Liberation Front, K Khaling, C-in-C; x) Zou Defence Volunteer, Pakap Anthony, C-in-C; xi) Kuki Liberation Army, K Wilson Touthang, C-in-C, and xii) Pakan Reunification Army, Zecky Anal, C-in-C. Kuki unity of this nature is unprecedented. It is the first of its kind in nearly half a century. A map published by KNO shows Zale’n-gam, the land of the people (Please see Annexure 2).
The United People’s Front, formed in 2006, is another umbrella organisation comprising the same ethnic people. As evident in the organisation’s name, ‘unity’ is the proclaimed motto. UPF’s members are i) Zomi Revolutionary Army, Jackson Paite, C-in-C, ii) Kuki National Front, T Samuel Haokip, President, iii) Kuki National Front, Rocco Thangboi Kipgen, President, iv) United Kuki Liberation Front, SS Haokip, President, v) Kuki Revolutionary Army, David Hangshing, Chairman, vi) Hmar People’s Convention (D), Ropuia, President, vii) Kuki Liberation Army, Timothy Khongsai, C-in-C. UPF is dominated in number by groups who profess Kuki as their identity, even though all the groups are ethnically Kukis. Sensitivities to the advocates of the terminology Zomi and sentiment of Hmars appears to be the motive for adopting a neutral term ‘United’ to represent the organisations.
UPF’s political objective is identical to KNO’s in terms of the people and land. On the one hand, pre-occupation with an alternative to the terminology Kuki, and on the other hand, considerations of regional issues seems to be an obstacle in the two umbrella organisations shaking hands to forge unity. It has yet to dawn upon the minds of the various leaders that the ideology of land and ethnicity is paramount over nomenclature. No matter what one may identify herself or himself as, at the end of the day ‘blood is indeed thicker than water’. It would not be untrue to state that enough fratricidal blood has been shed owing to unbridled priority given to regionalism over nationalism.
CO-RELATION BETWEEN IDENTITY AND NATIONALISM
An inherent co-relation exists between a cohesive identity and extent of nationalism. This is amply evident in the case of Kuki. A combination of ‘external’ and ‘internal’ factors rendered Kuki identity in a state of flux from 1940s to 2003. During this phase the people have experienced immense socio-political and economic deprivations. This negative condition exhibits a corresponding equation between identity and nationalism. Following the reintroduction of ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ in Manipur and Suspension of Operations signed among Government of India, Kuki National Organisation and the state Government of Manipur, the ‘colourful communities’ have begun to crystallise back to Kuki. Just as a state of identity flux created an environment of conflict, poverty and strife, it is self-evident that an intact Kuki identity will engender peace, prosperity and strident development. This tautological logic is the basis for consolidating Kuki unity and ensuring history does not repeat itself. This can be done by representing the people collectively in political dialogue with the Government to find a proper political settlement for the Kukis.
Annexure 1: SINLUNG INDIGENOUS PEOPLES HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATION
Truth, Justice and Peace
Website: www.siphro.org Email:
Annexure 2: In alphabetical order, ‘Any Kuki Tribes’ in Manipur includes the ethnic group Aimol, Anal, Baite, Chiru, Changsen, Chongloi, Chothe, Doungel, Gangte, Guite, Haokip, Hangshing, Hmar, Kipgen, Kharan, Khoibu, Koirao, Koireng, Kom, Lamkang, Lhungdim, Lunkim, Lupheng, Lupho, Mate, Maring, Mayon, Misao, Monsang, Paite, Purum Ralte, Simte, Sukte, Tarao, Thadou, Thangal, Thangeo, Tuboi, Vaiphei and Zou.
Annexure 2: Map of Zale’n-gam, land of the Kukis in Manipur
Annexure 3: Map of Mizo National Front
 Cited by Gallois, A (1998, 1), Occasions of Identity: A Study in the Metaphysics of Persistence, Change and Sameness, Clarendon Press, Oxford
 Shaw, W (1929), Notes on Thadou Kuki, published on behalf of the Government of Assam
 SINLUNG INDIGENOUS PEOPLES HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATION, Truth, Justice and Peace
Website: www.siphro.org Email: email@example.com
Press release by Geneva Call: The Kuki National Organisation (KNO) of Northeast India commits to the anti-personnel mine ban
Geneva, 9 August 2006 – Awareness and support to Geneva Call’s action in India progresses as a second armed Non-State Actor, the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and its armed wings– the Kuki National Army, the Kuki National Front (Military Council), the Kuki National Front (Zogam), the Zomi Revolutionary Front, the United Socialist Revolutionary Army, the Zou Defence Volunteers, the Hmar National Army and the United Kom Rem Revolutionary Army, committed today to a total ban on anti-personnel mines by signing Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment (DoC) on 9 August, in the Alabama Room, in the City Hall of Geneva.
 Bareh, HM (2004, 161), Encyclopaedia of North-East India, Vol V, Mizoram, Mittal Publications, New Delhi
 ‘Any Kuki Tribes’, Register No. DL 33004/2003, The Gazette of India Extraordinary, Part II, Section I, Published by Authority, New Delhi, Wednesday, January 8, 2003, Ministry of Law and Justice (Legislative Department), Subject: Scheduled Cast and Scheduled Tribe Orders (Amendment Act, 2002), No. 10 of 2003 (J) in Part x – Manipur, p 6
 Hobsbawn, E (1997 (1990), 192), Nations and Nationalism Since 1780, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
 A reminder that one can be wise only after the event. In a local saying, avoid Haokip khonung lim
 Grierson, GA (ed) (1904), Tibeto-Burman Family: Specimens of the Kuki-Chin and Burma Groups, Linguistic survey of India, Vol. 111, Pt.111, Published by Office of the Superintendent, Government Printing, India, Calcutta
 Calhoun, C (1997, 86), Nationalism, Open University Press, Buckingham; Guibernau, M (1996), Nationalisms: The Nation-State and Nationalism in the Twentieth Century, Polity Press, Cambridge and
 Smith, AD (1991), National Identity, Penguin, London
 Op cit (1991, 72-74)
 NP Rakung, Reader, in The Telegraph, 17 January 1994, Letter to the Editor, Imphal, Manipur
 Shakespear, J Lt Col (1912), The Lushei Kuki Clans, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., London
 Smith, AD (1995, 131), The Formation of National Identity, in Harris, H. (ed.) (1995), Identity, Clarendon Press, Oxford
 Friedrich Meinecke’s distinction between Kulturnation and Staatsnation, cited by Smith, AD (1991, 8), National Identity, Penguin, London
 See full text in The Kuki People at www.kukination.net
* Note: ‘near’ Manipur, not in Manipur
 Gellner, E (1994), Nationalism and Modernization, in Gereni, GR (1909, 744), Researches on Ptolemy’s Geography of Eastern Asia (further India and Indo-Malay archipelago), Published in conjunction with the Royal Geographical Society, London. (see also the Upper Burma Gazetteer Part 1, Vol. 1, p. 452)
 The Court chronicle of Manipur The Cheitharon Kumpapa, original text, translation and notes Saroj Nalini Arambam Paratt, 2005, Notes 5, p14, Routledge, London and New York
 Burma and Assam Frontier, ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC), British Library, London
 Majumdar, RC & Bhattasa1i, N (1930, 6-7, fifth revised edition), History of India, Shyam
Chandra Dutta, Dacca
 Phukan, JN, The Late Home of Migration of the Mizos, International Seminar, Aizawl, Mizoram, studies on the Minority Nationalities of Northeast India – The Mizos, 1992, 10
 Gereni, GR (1909, 53), Researches on Ptolemy’s Geography of Eastern Asia (further India and Indo-Malay archipelago), Published in conjunction with the Royal Geographical Society, London
 Stevenson, EL (ed) (1932), Claudius Ptolemy: The Geography, (2nd Century), Translated and Edited by Edward Luther Stevenson, Dover edition first published in 1991 (p.xiii), an unabridged republication of the work originally published by The New York Public Library, NY, 1932, Dover Publications, Inc New York
 Dalton, ET (1872, 110), Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, Government Printing Press, Calcutta
 EB (1962), Vol 13, 511
 Kabui, G (1981), Anal: A Transborder Tribe, Mittal Publishing House, New Delhi
 Chakravorty, BC (1964, 53), British Relations with the Hill Tribes Bordering on Assam since 1858, Calcutta
 Carey, BS & Tuck, HN (1976, first published in 1932)), The Chin Hills, Vol. 1, Firma KLM Pvt. Ltd., Calcutta
 Elly, EB (1978, 8 (first published in 1893)), Military Report on the Chin-Lushai Country, Firma KLM (P) Ltd., Calcutta
 Mackenzie, A, The North-East Frontier of Bengal, (2005, 342 (first published 1884, History of the Relations of the Government with the Hill Tribes of the North-East Frontier of Bengal)), Mittal Publications, New Delhi
 ‘The Kukis Then and Now: The Kuki War of Independence (1917 – 1919)’, Seminar Paper Presentation, School of Social Sciences Auditorium, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, 19 December 1997
 Gangte, TS (1980), ‘Anglo-Kuki Relation from 1849-1937’, Churachandpur, Manipur,
 Shakespeare, LW Col (1977) (first published in 1929)), History of the Assam Rifles, Firma KLM Pvt. Calcutta
 Palit, DK (1984), Sentinels of the North-East: The Assam Rifles, Palit & Palit, New Delhi
 Guardians of the Northeast, The Assam Rifles: 1835-2002 (2003, 19-20), Directorate General Assam Rifles, Laitumkhrah, Shillong 11
 Minute Paper. Secret Political Department, Government of Burma, Rangoon, 23 December 1919.
 Burma and Assam Frontier, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC), British Library, London. CONFIDENTIAL, File No. 4895 Field Operations, Simla, Despatch On the Operations Against the Kuki Tribes of Assam and Burma, November 1917 to March 1919, From Lieutenant General Sir HDU Kerry, General Officer Commanding, Burma Division, To The Chief of the General Staff, Army Headquarters, India, Simla. (Diary No. 69190) No. 1762-K.P.M., Maymyo, June 1919.
 Political Proceedings, Oct. 1920, No. 13: Extract from the Proceedings of the Chief Commissioner, Assam, in the Political Department Number 8856 p, September 1920
 Gangte, TS (1993), The Kukis of Manipur, Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi
 Freedom Fighters of Manipur, published in 1985, Congress Centenary Year, by Freedom Fighters Cell, MPCC (1)
 Resolution of the Annual Kuki National Assembly conference, October 1946
 The Manipur Hill Peoples (Administration) Regulation – 1947, in Sanajaoba (1993), Manipur Treaties and Documents (1110-1971), Vol. I
 Jacobs, J et al (1990, 152), The Nagas, Hansjörg Mayer, Stuttgart
 Declaration of the KNA Working Committee, 11 August 1947, Kuki Co-operative Society (KCS) Building, Imphal, cited by Ray (1990), Authority and Legitimacy: A Study of the Thadou-Kukis in Manipur
 Resolution No.1, 27 May 1947, of the Kuki and Naga Unity conference held at Mao Naga village. Mr Lunneh (Kuki) presided over the conference, and Mr Lorho (Naga) was the Secretary; cited by Ray (Ibid)
 Ray (Op cit, 124)
 Resolution No. 1, KNA meeting concerning the Aimol and Tamenglong Circles held at Bolkot village, dated 8 June 1947
 Cited by Ray (ibid)
 Resolution of the Thanlon Area Chiefs Conference, 6 July 1947
 Vaiphei, PS (1995, 128), The Kukis, in Sanajaoba (ed.) (1995), Manipur Past and Present, Vol. 3, Mittal Publications, New Delhi
 Chaube (1973, 195), Hill Politics in North East India, Orient Longman, Calcutta
 On the Thadou and Kuki imbroglio, the Govt of Manipur issued an order recognising the name of the language in question as “Thadou-Kuki” vide No. 7/15/93-S/SECRET (HC)/Pt. I, 15-3-1996, as per the recommendation of the Expert Committee constituted under the direction of the Guwahati High Court.
Please note: Kuki in this context is distinct from Kuki of antiquity, which represents the ethnic whole.
 J Hutton, in preface to W Shaw’s (1929) Notes on Thadou-Kuki, published on behalf of the Government of Assam
 Rev Dr Lunkim, T (1971), Kuki Holy Bible, Bible Society of India, Bangalore
 Anderson, B (1991 (1983, 40-41)), Imagined Communities, Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London
 Vide Civil Rule 320 of 1990 (Guwahati) Civil Rule 295 of 1987 (Imphal)
 Gougin, T., Emancipation of Zo Ethnic Group to Nationhood, 4 July 1998, Lamka (Churachandpur)
 A translation from Decade Souvenir,Kuki Students Organisation,Delhi, 1987-1997, 13
 Document for Manipur Mizo Integration Council, signed by Holkhomang Haokip (now Ex-MP) and General Secretary and KT Lalla, Chairman of the Council
 Vumson (1986, 278), Vumson (1986), Zo History, Published by the Author, Mizoram, India
 Bareh, HM (2004, 161), Encyclopaedia of North-East India, Vol V, Mizoram, Mittal Publications, New Delhi
 Op cit, 162
 Ibid, 40
 Ibid, 75
 Ibid, 113
 Haokip, PS (1988), Zalen’-gam: The Kuki Nation, KNO publication
 For a more detailed account of these Kukis, please see The Kuki People in www.kukination.net
The Chin-Kuki-Ethnic Dilemma: Search for an Appropriate Identity
April 26, 2007: An attempt is made in this paper at studying the early history of the tribal ethnic group—Kuki-Chin-Mizo. An attempt is also made to trace their original ethnic identity, especially in view of differing, and sometimes conflicting, interpretations of their past and present made by historians and social scientist.
Like other hill tribes of the North East or elsewhere in the county, they too do not have any recorded history of their ancient past. When we know today and discuss in this paper is part of their memory and oral tradition, hundred down to them through word of mouth by their forefathers.’ Folk tales legends and stories of struggles and movements etc. constitute one major source of their history. The other major source of information about their past are the administrative reports and monographs published by British officers during the colonial rule.
The colonial administrators met the people, fought battles against them and finally brought them under their rule. They introduced civil and military administration in these areas. Therefore, we read the history of the tribal peoples and learn about their ethnic identity from the British records. No doubt, these two major sources provide us with a good deal of information to construct the ancient history of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. However, rigid scholars have questioned the validity of these sources of information and have opined that the early part of their history in shrouded in mystery.
ORIGIN OF THE CHIN-KUKI-MIZO
Scholars from the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group have recorded in their history that during the prehistoric period, they came out of a big stone cave, referred to alternatively as Chhinlung, Sinlung and Khul. In one way, they all claim that Sinlung was their original home. There are traditional songs composed after the name “Sinlung”. These songs also narrate the history and civilization of the people, which have passed from generation to generation. Because of limitations of space, we will not go into the details of these narratives.
The exact location of Sinlung is still debated. Dr. Lalrinwawia2 indicates that it is located in the province of Szechwan in China, between 10″ E and latitude 3″ N, on the bank of Yalung river, 5400 ft. above msl. Mr. Lalbiak Thanga, 3 the ex-Chief Secretary of Manipur, gives an altogether different version. He argues that ‘Chinlung’ referred not to a cave but rather to the name of a Chinese prince in China, and that the correct form of the word was CHINLUNG.
Further, he goes on to state that Sinlung was the son of Hwang Ti of Chin Dynasty who built the great wall. Dr. B.N. Mullick,4 former Director, Intelligence Bureau of India, refers to an uninhabited territory, measuring about 16000 sq. miles, situated between north and south of Ladakh.
Through this land, one trade route via Kajihangar passes through ‘Shinlung’. If Shinglung is equated with Sinlung or Chinlung then it may be inferred that the location of this legendary cave is somewhere around the Ladakh region. On the whole, it is clear that no final conclusion can be derived at about the location of the legendary cave. Notwithstanding the controversy, all the tribes and clans within the Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups believe that it is this legendary cave, which is their original home and birthplace.
With regards to their racial origin, most people as well as scholars accept that they belong to the Mongolian race. The migration route the people took to reach their present habitat and their biological properties go on to support this view. In their long history, they did come in contact with people of different origins and were put under different systems of administration. Therefore the administrators and scholars have designated the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people with different names and have identified them mainly as Lusei and Kuki in India.
Scholars have identified them as ‘Khuongsai’ in Manipur, and as ‘Kuki’ in Assam, Nagaland and Tripura. As is usual, different neighbouring tribes are known by different local ethnic names, which have been used to build up and project their identity. As far as the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group is concerned, the people accept that they are one and the same race, having the same culture, tradition, customary practices including marriage and inheritance.
Now it is in order to discuss in brief the origin of the three ethnic names—Chin, Kuki and Mizo—separately and try to find out how they came to be coined to identify these people.
Not enough evidence is available to trace the origin of the name ‘Chin’. It is perhaps a Burmese term as people inhabiting the Chin Hills in Burma (Myanmar) are identified as Chin and the British recorded this ethnic name to refer to these people. During the colonial rule, the Chin Hills Regulation was enacted in 1896, the provisions of which determined the Village and Provincial Administration in the region. Thus, the ethnic name became popular and widely accepted. Literally, ‘Chin’ means ‘little’ in one of the dialects spoken by the people. It also connotes an affectionate name given to daughters.
The term ‘Kuki’ is a generic name. Some scholars have proposed that the term Kuki was applied by the Bengalis from Kachar, Tripura and Chittagong Hill Tract as well as by the Assamese in Brahmaputra Valley to identify the hills people. But, if we peep into their ancient history and their migration route to India from far east countries like Thailand, Burma and Vietnam; in fact, the term Kuki was coined to refer to these people long before they came in contact with the Bengalis or Assamese. Equally baseless is the proposition to categories these people as ‘old’ and ‘new’ Kuki. It is therefore necessary to adopt a holistic approach to truthfully understand the origin of the term and the people referred to.
Perhaps a more reliable source is in Col. James Shakespeare’s account. 5 Shakespeare served in the Lusei hills from 1891 to 1905. He has meticulously recorded the customs, culture, and history of the Lusei as well as non-Lusei tribes, all of the same origin. While he does not refer to the Mizos as an ethnic group, he identifies a number of clans within the Lusei and non-Lusei groups. Till today, Shakespeare’s account and classification have remained unchallenged.
Literally, the term ‘Mizo’ is a compound, – ‘mi’ means ‘man’ or people and ‘zo’ means a cold place at a high altitude. According to such a literal interpretation, all people living in cold, hill regions should be addressed as ‘Mizos’. But, undoubtedly, the term Mizo refers to a particular group of ethnic people. Tuck and Carey 6 mention that the people preferred the terms Kuki or Chin when addressed in public, but in private discussions they often used the term ‘Mezo’. Given the language barrier between the Britishers and the local people, it is plausible that the terms ‘Mezo’ and ‘Mizo’ meant the same. I hold the opinion that there are some ethnic groups who address themselves as Mizo since long, in their own societies and outside the present state of Mizoram.
Today, it is widely accepted as a term with long historical background. Interestingly, in popular perception, the term is not exclusionist in the sense that it does not refer to any particular clan group in a restrictive way. Thus, it is widely believed that all the people who cook rice on three stone pillars. “Lungthu”, are all Mizo. More recently, some leaders from within the community have tried to replace ‘Mizo’ by ‘Zomi’, on the argument that ‘Zo’ should come first and ‘mi’ later. It does not make any substantive difference, the two terms, ‘Mizo’ and ‘Zomi’, may be taken to refer to the same people.
IN SEARCH OF ETHNIC UNITY
Here we briefly examine the historical move to project the term ‘Mizo’ as an ethnic identity marker. Soon after the end of the Second World War and on the eve of attaining independence, there was a spurt of hectic political activity in Mizoram. Then, the main issue before the people was to decide whether to join the Chin Hills in Burma, so that they might remain with their Chin ethnic brethren, or to opt for merger with India.
For the first time in their history, the people of Mizoram formed a political organization known as “Mizo Union”, which held its first conference on the 9 April 1946 to discuss some important agenda. The first item on the agenda was the abolition of the Chief’s rights and change of the name of Lusei Hills into Mizo Hills. The Lusei Hills District Council, created according to the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, took initiative to implement the (Moullungtha) resolutions passed in the Mizo Union Party.
On the recommendations of the district Council, the Government Assam enacted two important legislations in 1954; the first was the Lusei Hill District (Acquisition of Chief Rights) Act, 1954, which came into force on 1 April 1954. The second was the Lusei Hill District (Change of Name) Act, 1954, (Act 18 of 1954), passed under an Act of Parliament. As per provisions of the second Act, the name of the district was changed to ‘Mizo District’ with effect from 29 April 1954.
These two Acts were the result of long public struggle and fulfilled the cherished dream of the people of Mizoram. It may be pointed out that the conferment of official status to the term “Mizo” not only provided an ethnic identity to the people, it also brought all clans and tribes of the same origin under one umbrella. The terms received widespread acceptance by sister ethnoses not only inside Mizoram but also by those residing outside, particularly in the Southern District (now Churachandpur) or Manipur and Zampui Hills in Tripura. Songs were composed and sung to suit the occasion and the spirit of the movement.
In the post-independence period, many political parties were formed, and all of them were seized with the questions of ethnic identity and unity. We may mention a few of them here. Mr. Vanlawma formed a political party, called the Mizo Union Council, with the main objective of bringing the entire Mizo people, scattered in India, Myanmar and East Pakistan (Bangladesh) tinder one administrative umbrella. Mr. Lalmawia formed another political party, the United Mizo Freedom Organisation (UMFO), with the objective of uniting with the Chin brothers in the Chin Hills in Burma. UMFO seems to have ignored the issue of unificating the Mizo people in Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Chittagong Hill tract of Bangladesh. Hence, the Mizo Union Party, the party in power in the then District Council, advocated the reunification of these people within the Indian Union.
The Khul Union, formed in Manipur in 1947-48, was another political organisation with the primary agenda of Mizo ethnic unification. The Union contested the first ever Assembly elections in the state and returned 5 candidates out of 7 seats contested. In the 1950s these people launched a political movement in Manipur, demanding the merger of their areas with Mizoram.
The Mizo National Famine Front Formed on 2 October 1961 under the leadership of Pu Late Laldenga, gave birth to the Mizo National Front (MNF), formed on 12 October 1962. The MNF spearheaded the demand for a Sovereign Greater Mizoram, to be organised on ethnic lines. The idea generated a great deal of enthusiasm and many public leaders as well as young boys and girls from inside and outside Mizoram joined the movement to fulfil the objectives of an independent Greater Mizoram. Many of the youth in fact took up armed struggle, raking positions in the war front from their jungle hideouts.
A little later, in January 1965, an All Party Meeting was held at Churachandpur, the headquarters of South District of Manipur, under the initiative of the Mizo Union Party. This meeting resolved to work for the creation of a Greater Mizoram/Kuki State, comprising all the Mizo-Kuki inhabited areas in the entire North Eastern region on ethnic considerations. About two decades later, the Champhai Conference in Mizoram held on 19-21 May 1988, aimed at the same objective of ethnic unification. The Conference was attended by many representatives from Manipur and other neighbouring states. The Zomi National Congress (ZNC) Declarations (No. 7/88), December 6 to 15, 1988, related to the same political movement in search of ethnic unity.
Going back to the 40s and 50s again, it is worth pointing out that when all the tribes in Northern India were silent and the leaders in the Indian sub-continent were divided with regard to the political strategy of the freedom movement, during and after the Second World War, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people made a great contribution by joining hands with the Indian National Army, under the command of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Netaji came to North East India though Chin Hills and held several rounds of the talks with the chiefs and elders of the tribal groups. Subhas Chandra Bose came up to a small hamlet called Rengthai, close to Churachandpur town. He won the hearts of people during this visit. Thus, when the INA soldiers came to Manipur in 1944, these tribes joined hands with the INA. They had entered into some sort of mutual understanding with INA in respect of their political future at the end of the war.
But, following the defeat of the Axis at the end of the World War II and the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, their cherished dream and political aspirations for the future set up went in vain. There was no scope to revive the Treaty of Yandaboo, 1826 and no chance to reverse the course of history as two independent nations of India and Burma had been created by the Government of India Act, 1935. The Kabo valley, inhabited by these tribes, was included in Burma. Though throughout their modern history, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people had valiantly challenged British authority (Lusei Expedition of 1871-72 in Mizoram and the Kuki Revolt in 1917-19 being the major examples), ultimately their political aspiration for ethnic reunification within one administrative umbrella met with great disappointment. The Independence Act, 1947 simply confirmed the territorial arrangement made by the Act of 1935.
By and large, all the political movement launched by this ethnic group had virtually the same objective. However, the movements failed for a member of various reasons. It is difficult to single out any one reason as the main impediment. However, it is my considered opinion that the emergence of the sovereign states of India, Burma and Bangladesh caused both administrative fragmentation and ethnic division of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. It is clear that the then leadership could not appreciate the needs and aspirations of these people. For example, following partition, the whole of Chittagong Hill Tract went to Pakistan, by default. Most of the post-partition insurgency problems reflect the ignorance of the then leadership in respect of the Mongoloid people.
Now, the Chittagong Hill Tract has not only become the immediate sanctuary for most of the northeastern insurgent groups, but it has also created the Chakma-Hajong related problems. Most importantly, it has upset the social equilibrium of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo. Had the resolution passed by the Chin-Lusei Conference of Fort Williams in Calcutta, on 29 th January 1892, for bringing the whole tract of country inhabited by them under one administrative umbrella been implemented, the situation would have been quite different today.
DISTINCTIVENESS OF THE CHIN-KUKI-MIZO
THE CLAN SYSTEM
The clan system of Chin-Kuki-Mizo people is unique and is markedly different from other tribes in North-Eastern India. In most cases, the names of the different clans were derived from their progenitors forefathers. Inter-clan relationships can be used as the basis for determination of the family lines of the people. In fact, the clan system constitutes one of the most interesting and intriguing aspects of their history and society. There are a large number of clans within the ChinKuki-Mizo and, hence, it has not been possible to prepare an exhaustive list of the clans as yet. Consequently, members of the same clan/family can and do exercise their option for being identified as a Chin, Kuki or Mizo. Further, they also keep on changing their ethnic identity, according to their habitat.
Inter-marriages among the different clans within the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group have been in practice, throughout the ages, without any restrictions whatsoever. Claims and counter-claims, including litigation, for exclusive ownership of some cultural items, such as the Puonlaisen, have surfaced only recently. Some scholars interpreted these as indicative of separate identities within the group. Mr. Nikhil Chakravarty, the noted journalist, was surprised to know that there were a many as sixty-eight different tribes. There might be some minor hick-ups among the clans. But, it is unfortunate that the point that these different clans are related to each other by blood and processes of historical evolutions is often missed by scholars not acquainted with the culture and history of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people.
The different clans are scattered all over the North Eastern region (Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Assam) as well as the bordering states of Bangladesh and Myanmar. In fact, a majority of them have settled in Myanmar and far eastern countries. Pu Lalthanhira]a, the Chief Minister of Mizoram, in a discussion with the Sunday magazine of Gangtok, stated that more Mizos lived outside Mizoram than inside.9 Scattered all over the NE region and countries, through generations of settlement, they have been identified by neighbouring out-groups by different ethnic names. This in spite of the fact that the different clans have lived and mixed together in the same areas sunders the same system of administration, throughout the ages. Marriage and divorce, including other social practices are virtually uniform in their respective societies.
All clans within the Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups followed the patriarchy system and therefore men occupied a high position in their society. They took all the important decisions and were responsible for all family affairs. Recently their patriarchal system has undergone significant transformation whereby women have been accorded an important position in society and they have an equal say in the family. In fact, now the whole management of the household is in the hands of the women. They also equally participate in jhum cultivation, sowing seeds and weeding grass in the field. Of course, the practice of adopting names of their father’s clans continues. In terms of succession and inheritance also, the patriarchal system continues, though there is internal variation.
For some clans, the eldest son inherits the property of the family; in others it is the youngest son who has the right to succession and inheritance. In case of death, however, they follow uniform system of burial. After they embraced Christianity, the churches introduced more or less the same system. Though there are no restrictions for people belonging to the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group, they strictly prohibit the sharing of the burial ground with others. This aspect of their culture is deeply rooted in their history, and it goes on to show that they are the same people and their clan relationship is based on ethnic affinity through blood.
They introduced their own traditional institutions for village administration and, interestingly, the advent of the British consolidated and strengthened rather than weakening or disturbing, these Institutions.
For example, the Chin Hills Regulation of 1896 put the traditional village administration on a firm footing and clearly defined the areas of administration of the village and the provincial states. Thus, they were governed by the same customary practices and same procedures followed for trial of civil suits and criminal cases. They therefore can be best accommodated under the same set of laws and courts. The British colonial rulers understood this well and hence they treated the Chin-Kuki-Mizo as one tribe under the Chin Hills Regulations of 1896, Clause 2(3). Though the term ‘Lusei’ figured, Mizo’ did not and the ‘Chin’ included Burmans domiciled in the Chin Hills and any person who had adopted the customs and language of the Chins.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE
A large number of other socio-cultural customs and practices may be mentioned. Some of these are common to other Northeastern tribes while some are unique to the group. We will make only passing reference to a few of them. A system of slavery existed among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo since time immemorial, but it is no longer in vogue. Adoption through Saphun (a social system by which a family changes its clan affiliation) has been in practice throughout their history. For ‘Saphun’ it is not necessary to go to a court of law or a registration office; all that is required is to arrange a community feast and announce the adoption.
Like many other hill tribes, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo also has common places, which may be broadly equated with community halls and/or dormitories. The Garos call it the bachelor’s house; the Zemes call it Noktorong, while the Chin-Kuki-Mizo calls it ‘Zawlbuk’. The ‘Zawlbuk’ is an institution — it is the centre of most social activities. Further, these people practice intensive cultivation of tobacco in their jhum fields. Both males and females smoke tobacco. The men use a pipe called ‘Dumbel’ or ‘Vaibel’: the women use a special type of bamboo pipe, called ‘Tuibur’ that is fitted below with a small water container called ‘Tuiburtui’.
These people celebrate a number of festivals such as ‘Mim-Kut Pawlkut’, ‘Chapchar Kut’, ‘Thalfavangkut’ (the Autumn festival) and the like. The adoption of Christianity has not negatively affected the celebration of these festivals. In fact, THALFA VANGKUT continues to be celebrated in a big way, and all sections of the people participate in it. In Manipur, they have named it as the Chin-Kuki-Mizo Kut, which is grandly celebrated on the first of November every year. They have developed in into a most enjoyable occasion in which different cultural items such as dances, singing-competition and beauty contests are organised. Each year a new location is selected for the Kut festival and public leaders and government officials from both Manipur and Mizoram grace the occasions.
The Chin-Kuki-Mizo people are great lovers of music and songs. In all their villages one can find a number of musical instruments, both traditional and modern-western. Their sweet music and good voices charm the hills and mountains in the region. They are fond of dancing, particularly in social gatherings. They perform different dances or different occasions, or festivals and in honour of visiting dignitaries. They have hymnbooks containing songs to be sung to a specific tune. These songs are composed to suit different occasions.
They singing in accompanied by beating of the traditional drum called Khuong made of wooden material and covered by animal skin. Khuong is found in all the villages inhabited by people of this ethnic group. Among dances, the most popular are the ‘Khal Lam’, ‘Cheraw Lam’, ‘Pheiphit Lam’ and the bamboo dance. The different dances are not exclusive in the sense that they are common to all the tribes and clans, and no one group can claim separate ownership.
Lastly, it may be mentioned that these people are experts in weaving. The ladies weave clothes of different designs and colour combinations. The important thing is that different clans wear different patterns of shawls, which serve as the immediate clan identity marker of the people. They also weave traditional dresses like Zakuolaisen and Hmaram, which are extremely popular among young girls who wear them on important occasions. Zakuolaisen is the most popular shawl pattern. Saipikhup is the name of another shawl decorated with beautiful designs and very popular among the Kukis, especially those living outside Mizoram.
During one of my Flights between Delhi and Guwahati, I came across a photo-reproduction of a gentleman from Mizoram wearing a Saipikhup shawl on the cover of Swagat magazine. The shawl was projected as Mizo Shawl, reflecting the ignorance of the out-groups. In Manipur, one finds different shawls of different designs among the different tribes and clans such as Aimol, Anal, Chiru, Chothe, Gangtc, Hmar, Kom, Koireng, Lamgang, Mating, Tarao, Paite, Simte, Vaiphei. The moot point is that the different designs of the shawls serve as identity markers and any confusion in this regard can create misunderstanding.
THE LANGUAGES OF CHIN-KUKI-MIZO
The language/dialect of issue relating to Chin-Kuki-Mizo people has been matter of controversy. The linguistic diversity of India is well known. Several scholars have said that if we travel on foot from one end of the country of the other, at every five kms., we would find a different language/dialect being used by the people. In spite of certain differences, we can say that the languages/dialects spoken by the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people are closely related. The Tower of Babel legend is too well-known to be repeated here.
The Chin-Kuki-Mizo people do not have an original script of their own. Broadly speaking, we can divide them into two linguistic groups — the R group and the Non-R group. Let us take a few examples to explain this classification of R and Non-R Groups in the contexts of Mizoram and Manipur. Since they did not have a script of their own, they chose to adopt the Roman script, of the English alphabet variety of 24 letters. The Duhlien (Lusei) dialect was the first one to be codified by the British missionaries. They first translated the Bible into Lusei. This Dahlien/Lusei dialect is now known as Mizo language, perhaps the most popular and commonly used by these people. It serves as the lingua franca among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. The maximum numbers of songs, including love songs, have been composed in Mizo and hence it is very popular among the youth. Thus Mizo has the potential to develop into a full-fledged, advanced link language.
No doubt, there are internal differences with regard to the acceptance of Duhlien dialect as the Mizo language. But, it must be realised that the Mizo language (based on the Duhlien/Lusei dialect) only stands a good chance for inclusion in the Eighth Schedule, which would serve the interests of all the tribes within the Chin-Kuki-Mizo. There are many different clans, living in Chandel and South Manipur (Churachandpur) districts of Manipur, who speak dialects most of which belong to the Non-R group. These dialects are so closely related that in inter-clan, inter-tribe public gatherings they speak in their own respective dialects and yet there is no problem of communication. In the written form as well the same holds true.
In village meetings, the Secretary records the proceedings in his own dialect and reads them aloud for approval by the members. It is logical that the dialect/language spoken by the largest number of clans should be accepted and developed as the link language. In the present situation, the Kuki language stands the first chance to develop as the lingua franca as well as the literary language among the different clans in Manipur for the Non-R group.
The Chin-Kuki-Mizo people have a common marriage system. Boys pay the customary bride price for getting wives and there is no dowry system. In fact, boys having accepted a dowry and decorated their houses with materials brought by their wives are not held in respect in the society. With modernity, however, girls are allowed to bring with them some of their valued dresses, including daily garments. Since in terms of details the different clans have different customary practices we cannot provide an exhaustive account here. Let us simply refer to the most common practice.
Customary bride price is paid in both cash and kind. Marriages were normally arranged by relatives and parents by taking ‘Zu’ to the girl’s house. Since the advent of Christianity, this practice has been given up. Rather, the parents and/or relatives boil tealeaves in the house of the girl to initiate marital discussion and to finalise the details, including fixation of customary price. The customary price paid for a girl is generally shared by the close relations of her family. The traditional marriage system is a great virtue of the system.
The naming system is important for clan-wise identification of a person. The name of a person is the most important clue to the person’s clan/ group identity. Mostly, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people have avoided western names. Usually names are formed by taking parts of the parents or maternal uncles’ names or from the achievement of the family. However members of the Catholic Church usually have two names—an original ethnic name and the other a Catholic name. Sometimes the name of a child indicates the history of his/her family. But, under no circumstances do they adopt a Hindu name.
It may be passingly mentioned here that there is no caste system among the different clans of Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. All clans enjoy equal status within the group. The customary price paid for girls varies from clan to clan, but it is in no way indicative of the status of the clan.
TIlE JEWISH CONNECTION?
Recently, some historians have tried to connect the history of origin of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people with that of the Jews, claiming that the former are of Jewish origin—descendants of Manasse—one of the 12 children of Jacob. Jyoti Lal Choudhary” reported that Mrs. Zaithan Chhungi had brought out books in support of the claim that these people were descendants of the Jews. In fact, people who have advocated this theory or the racial claim belong to the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group living in Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. In India these people are mostly known as Kukis or Mizos, regardless of their habitation but in terms of Jewish identity, they are put under one ethnic name, i.e. Israelis/ Jews. While some families have already migrated to Israel, many more are still waiting for an appropriate opportunity.
Clearly, this new development has created some ethnic dilemma within the group. Shifts in identity have been a continuous phenomenon among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. It is therefore extremely difficult to definitively determine the origin and history of these people. Hence, there is always confusion, of some kind or the other, among authors and scholars, in establishing their ethnic identity. Sunil Janah has included a number of photographs, in his recent hook, of various tribal people taken (luring his tour to Churachandpur in Manipur state. 12 Many of these photographs are captioned as Kuki-Naga women or Kuki-Naga girls. In fact, Janah identifies photos of Kuki girls and women as Naga women and girls. Given the current ethnic conflicts in Manipur. Such misrepresentations create further confusion and bitterness.
I have attempted in this paper to highlight the ethnic identity and affinity of the Chin- Kuki-Mizo people. Though the discussion is not exhaustive, I hope I have been able to focus some important aspects. The work is essentially based on my personal experiences and my interaction with a number of social and religious leaders. I have taken up this work, not because I belong to this group or because I come from the northeast region, but because of my intense desire to enable this particular ethnic group to share our national glory and enrich our tradition of unity in diversity.
Following tremendous economic and technological development in Northeast India since Independence, there has been marked increases in interaction and inter-mixing among the people in this region. A number of Seminars and Conferences organised to bring together these people and scholars to discuss the various issues and problems facing them. Given great fluidity in the region, questions relating to ethnic identity, unity and affinity have assumed great importance.
On the basis of the foregoing information and discussion in this brief paper, I come to the conclusion that there is no necessity to continue the search for appropriate identity for the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. It is quite clear these people are of the same origin, a based on blood-relationship, shared history and common socio-cultural traits, customary laws and rights and lastly by common biological physical features. They have a common clan system; the different clans are named after their progenitors and the super ordinate group name, Chin-Kuki-Mizo, covers all the clans within the group.
Of course, it is next to impossible to identity members of different clans for independent inclusion under either Chin-Kuki-Mizo tribe. It is for this reason that a group of students and scholars have made a proposal to coin a new ethnic name ‘Chikim’ (Chin, Kuki, Mizo). Distinctions based on clans as well seem to be disappearing, particularly among person who live outside the region and the elite section of the society. Further, while the terms Mizo and Kuki are most appropriate in Mizoram and Manipur respectively, Chin may be the preferred identity marker in international fora.
To sum up, the entire North-eastern region is identified as a paradise of research for historians, economists, sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists; it is equally a hot bed for politicians and an area where administrators are in great dilemma while working out suitable governmental schemes to suit the diverse cultures and social systems in the region. It is regrettable that even after 50 years of independence, we do not have enough historical and contemporary information about the North-eastern peoples, their societies and cultures.
Thus, they do not find appropriate place in books on Indian history and society used in our educational curricula. Sincere efforts therefore must be made to reconstruct Indian history, which must include the history of the peoples of the North Eastern region, dealing with their ethno-cultural aspects, their struggles and fight against colonial rule and their sacrifices as well as their human potential.
1. Zou, Hososei, M. 1998. Chin-Kuki-Mizo Folk Tales, Aizawl.
2. Lalrinmawia, 1995. Mizoram History and Cultural Identity, Aizawl.
3. Thanga, L.B. ] 978. The Mizo-A Study in Social Personality , Aizawl.
4. Mullick, B.N. The Chinese Betrayal.
5. Shakespeare, J. 1912. The Lushai-Kuki Clans, London: McMillan & Co.
(Reprinted by Tribal Research Institute, Govt. of Mizoram, Aizawl, 1975.)
6. Tuck, H.W. and 13.S. Carey, 1976. The Chin Hills. Aizawl; KLM Private Limited (Reprinted from original of 1896).
7. Shakespeare, J. op. cit.
8. Chakravarty, Nikhil, 1995. Address at the Seminar on North-East region at 21st Century, Cowan.
9. Lalthanhawla’s discussion with Sunday magazine, Gangtok.
10. John Luke and The Acts of Apostle (first translation of Bible into Lusei).
11. Choudhury, J.L. 1994. The Mizos Journey to Israel: Assert to the Promised Lord. The Sunday Sentinel , October 10, 1994.
12. Janab, Sunil. The Tribals of India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Chawnglienthang Changsan, “The Chin-Kuki-Ethnic Dilemma: Search for an Appropriate Identity” in Dynamics of identity and Intergroup Relations in North-East India, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, 1999, pp.
Source: Kukiforum liata,
By Chawnglienthang Changsan ta, Thursday, 26 April 2007 00:30Thursday, 26 April 2007 00:30 noh nata daiti liata aropa a cha.
The People: Kuki/Chin/Zo
By Vei Kho Ning, ta
Wednesday, 27 May 2009 06:35 noh liata aropa a cha.
This chapter is intended to explain the identity of the target audience for the project. Its purpose is not to present a complete history of the people. The people, though belonging to the same group, carry different names and speak diverse dialects such as Falam, Hakha, Laotu, Mindat, Matupi, Mizo, Paite, Sizang, Teddim, Thado, Zo, Zotung, Zophei, and many more. However, they have common name(s) – Kuki/Chin/Zo (Zomi/Mizo). For the sake of convenience, I will be using the term KCZ throughout my project.
In some sense, the KCZ people are unique. They came into existence without a decisive history of their origin. Their population is spread out along the Indo-Burma-Bangladesh borders. In Burma, they have Chin state of their own, and in India, they have a state called Mizoram. Despite efforts to find a mutually acceptable common name, no agreement has yet been reached. They do not have a common language, but the different dialects they use are more or less intelligible. For instance, people in the town of Lamka (in Manipur state in India) could communicate with each other by using their own dialects.
1.2 The Origin and Identity of the Nation
The history of the origin of the KCZ nation is complicated since the people have their own legends regarding their beginnings. The common legend is that the nation came out of the bowels of the earth, or a cave and was called Khul or Chinlung, depending on the dialect. Some native scholars accept this legend as historical fact, while others see it as myth.
Some try to prove that this nation originated from China; this justifies the name ‘Chin.’ Some others say the nation descended from ‘Zo’ (the name of the ancestor), and thus should be called ‘Zomi’, or ‘Mizo’. Some further argue that this nation is supposed to be called ‘Kuki’. The KCZ people, who call themselves ‘Mizo’, attempted to prove that the people are ‘Mizo’; while the Chin group insisted that they were ‘Chin’. Likewise, people who call themselves Kuki stand for the name ‘Kuki’,  and Zomi, for ‘Zomi’. This is the reason why I use the abbreviated term KCZ here. It seems to me that the various groups of this nation want to defend the name they have as its original.
In order to avoid such prejudices, and because of the limitation on the research I can do regarding this nation, I am only able to present different suggestions regarding the name of the nation as advocated by various authors without taking any position.
I grew up with the acknowledgement of being called Chin by the Burmans and being recognized officially as Chin. Also included in this group are Asho, Falam, Halka, Lushai (now Mizo), Thado, Tiddim, Siyin, Mindat, Matu. The British adopted the name Chin from the Burmans. The question is where Chin and its people come from. We can find three different theories regarding the name Chin. The first one is that the name originated from the Chinese word ‘Jin’ or ‘yen’. According to Carey and Tuck, “The name Chin is a Burmese corruption of the Chinese ‘Jin’ or ‘Yen’, meaning ‘man.’” This theory is accepted and further explained by some native scholars and authors.
The second theory is that the name Chin was imposed by the Burmans. Golden believes that Chin is the modern form of the archaic Burmese khyang which means ‘allies’ or ‘comrades’ in old Burmese. However, Kennet noted, it is questionable whether the Burmans would call Chins ‘allies’ or ‘comrades,’ since they were a constant threat to the security of Burman villages. Woodman records that it was because the British had annexed Chin Hills to Burma proper.
The third theory is that the name Chin originated in the language of ‘Asho Chin’. In this language, a person is called “hklaung,” and thus Asho Chins called themselves Asho hklaung. In his article, “In Search of the origin of the names: Kuki-Chin,” Kenneth Vanbik tries to prove how the term Chin originated from the Asho Chin language. According to his explanation, the Burmans, at their first meeting with the Asho Chins, used the latter part of the name to designate them. However, the label became khyang because the Burmans had already lost the kl- affricate; the closest affricate they could use was khy. Accordingly, the term khyang appeared to designate any Chin group. Later, khy became ch. Thus, Vanbik concludes that the word “khlang (or hklaung) was pronounced khyang by the Burmans, until the Burmese language changed its initial khy- to ch-, dragging the name along with it.” Chang eventually became chin.
Kuki is another name given to this nation. According to the Burmese accounts, we can trace the history of the Kuki in Myanmar to as early as 100 B.C. The Kuki nation had established their kingdom, with its capital of Hanglen known for the beauty of its queen, Lenchonghoi. The term Kuki appears to have originated in Sylhet, in East Bengal. The term first appeared in Bengal Rawlins writing of “Cuci’s, or Mountaineers of Tipra.” Elly recorded that the Bengalis called the tribe Kuki, or “hill people.” Grierson also describes the term Kuki as an Assamese or Bengali word applied to such hill tribes as Lushais, Rangkhols, Thadous, and so on, who were residing in India. In 1893, Reid also described: “Originally applied to the tribe or tribes occupying the tracks immediately to the south of Cachar. It is now employed in a comprehensive sense, to indicate those living to the west of the Kaladyne River, while to the west they are designated as Shendus would be known as Chiang, synonymous with Kyen, and pronounced as ‘Chin’”
Later, the term was spelled ‘Kukis’ by the British administrators (such as Lt. Colonel J. Shakespear and C.A. Soppit) in referring to the migrants in Manipur State, Naga Hills, and the North Cachar Hills of India. The term was actually not recognized by the Kuki people themselves. In 1893, Soppit, who was Assistant Commissioner of Burma, and later Sub-Divisional Officer in the North Cachar Hills, Assam, remarked in his study of Lushai-Kuki: “The designation of Kuki is never used by the tribes themselves, though many of them answer to it when addressed, knowing it to be the Bengali term for their people.” But the term was still used as a designation to cover these migrants, since they had so much in common, both in language, manners, customs, and systems of internal government.
Vumson, a KCZ scholar, suggest that the KCZ people should be called Zo. He, Vumson, mentions Fanch’o, a diplomat of the Tang dynasty of China, who wrote in 862 A.D. about a kingdom in the Chindwin valley. The princes and chiefs in this kingdom were called ‘Zo’. Vumson believes that the rise of the Tang dynasty (618-906 A.D.) brought contact between the early Zo people in the Chindwin and the Tang Chinese. The Tangs widely traveled and recorded the existence of three kingdoms in Burma: the Pyus, the Pegus (Mon), and the Sak, which Vumson speculates to be Zo. Vumson also mentions Father Sangermo, who wrote in 1783, “the petty nation called ‘JO’,” the name not used by the tribes such as ZO or YO or SHO, and British officer Tom Lewin’s record, indicating “The generic name of the whole nation is DZO.”
This nation has been carrying different names, such as Kuki, Chin, Zo and is spread over many different parts of India, such as Manipur state, Assam state, Mizoram state, Nagaland state, Tripura state, and the Chittagong Hills of Bangladesh, and in Burma, such as Chin state, Arakan state, Sagaing division, and Maguai division. By 1985, the population of this nation was two and a half million.
Though the original name of this nation may not be discovered, nor their origin convincingly traced, the fact that these peoples with different names belong to one origin is unanimously accepted. There is enough historical evidence and records proving that the Kuki, Chin, and Zo people are one nation. To quote one of the most decisive records demonstrating the truth of this unification, Messers B.S. Carey and H.N. Tuck wrote: “Without pretending to speak with authority on the subject, we think we may reasonably accept the theory that the Kukis of Manipur, the Lushais of Bengal and Assam, and the Chins originally lived in what we now know as Thibet (Tibet), are of one and the same stock; their form of Government, method of cultivation, manners and customs, belief and traditions all point to one origin.”
This nation had been united and strong, living in their own lands until the British came to divide and subdue them. The British split this nation into two, annexing one half to the then British India, and the other to British Burma. They gave different names to the divided lands – Chin Hills (in Burma) and Lushai Hills (in India). This is existing undeniable evidence of wicked rule, which perpetuated division within the nation. Carey and Tuck record that the British gave separate names to these people with the intent to divide them. They wrote, “Those Kuki tribes which we designate as ‘Chin’ do not recognize that name,——.” Though the nation was divided by the British, these people still belong to one origin and one nation.
Shakespear, who was one of the British authorities in Chin state, said in 1912:
“The term Kuki has come to have a fairly definite meaning, and we now understand by it certain—clans, with well marked characteristics, belonging to the Tibeto-Burman stock. On the Chittagong border, the term is loosely applied to most of the inhabitants of the interior hills beyond the Chittagong Hills Tracks; in the Cacher it generally means some families of Kuki. Now-a-days, the term is hardly employed having been superseded by Lushai in the Chin Hills, and generally on the Burma border all these clans are called Chin. These Kuki are more closely allied to the Chakmas, and the Lushai are more closely to their eastern neighbours who are known as Chin.—–“Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the Kukis, Lushais and Chins are all of the same race.”
Many from KCZ came to the United States of America for various purposes. Among them are hundreds from Myanmar. After the military coup in 1988, many came to the United States to escape hardship and persecution under the junta. My main concern in developing this project is for these more recent immigrants and refugees from Myanmar.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a country in Southeast Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and Thailand. The bordering countries are Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, and Thailand. Myanmar is comparatively smaller than the state of Texas. In 2006, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) puts the country’s estimated population at 55.4 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.02%. The major religion is Buddhism (89%), and other religions include Christianity (4%), Muslim (4%), Animist (1%), and other (2%). The common language is Burmese, and minority ethnic groups have their own languages. Myanmar is divided into seven states and divisions: Chin State, Ayeyarwady,* Bago,* Kachin State, Kayin State, Kayah State, Magway,* Mandalay,* Mon State, Rakhine State, Sagaing,* Shan State, Tanintharyi,* and Yangon.* Myanmar is composed of many nationalities: Burman, Chin, Shan, Kachin, Karen, Kaya, Palong, Lahu, Naga, Rakhine, Mon. The ruling juntas are the Burman Buddhists.
Burma gained independence from the British on January 4, 1948. The country had a fledgling democracy from 1948 to 1958. The 1962 military coup paved the way for General Ne Win to control the government until 1988; first as a military ruler, then as President, and later as political kingmaker. Despite multiparty elections in 1990 that resulted in the opposition parties winning a decisive victory, the ruling military junta refused to hand over power. Key opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest several times (1989 to 1995, September 2000 to May 2002, and again in May 2003); her supporters are routinely harassed or jailed.
Burma is a resource-rich country that suffers from abject rural poverty. The military regime took steps in the early 1990s to liberalize the economy after decades of failure under the ‘Burmese Way to Socialism’, but those efforts have since stalled. Burma has been unable to achieve monetary or fiscal stability, resulting in an economy that suffers from serious macroeconomic imbalances – including a steep inflation rate and an official exchange rate that overvalues the Burmese kyat by 1000 times the market rate. As such, the people have been going through an enormous economical crisis, from which the KCZ people are not exempt.
Religious persecution is a major concern for the KCZ people, who are almost 100% Christians. The Burmese military, which practices an egregious policy of Burmanization and Buddhitization among minority racial groups, has been forcing the KCZ Christian villagers to construct Buddhist pagodas in their own villages and forcing them to donate money for the constructions too. Many pastors, evangelists, and young missionary volunteers have been arrested and tortured.
One good example for national and religious hatred: A Kuki ethnic village called Nung Kam, a Christian village in Sagaing Division, was bulldozed in the beginning of 1993, as the villagers refused to become Buddhists. Then, a new Burman village known as Saya San Ywo was set up with a military platoon guarding the village. As the new Burman dwellers moved in to this new village, the neighboring Kuki villages were ordered to supply labor and their basic needs. The Kuki villagers had no choice but to comply whatever they were commanded to do. Resisting the military’s order means risking one’s life.
One gruesome example of religious persecution, worth mentioning here, is the incident that happened to the largest church of Kuki Chin Baptist Association KCBA),called the Phailen Baptist Church, Tamu, Sagaing Division, in August 1993, Sagaing Division. The army accused the church of buying weapons from a soldier and thus arrested several leaders of the church and tortured them. The army tortured the church pastor Rev. Zang Kho Let, beating him with rifle butts until his bones were broken; his mouth was cut open so that he could no longer preach. Finally, they shot his lifeless, resistless body claiming that he was shot while trying to escape. They also mercilessly tortured three helpless and innocent farmers and even buried one of them alive. Being wrongly accused out of religious and racial hatred, these heroes had sacrificed their lives for the truth they believed in under the inhumane dictatorship of the Burmese regime.
Due to the unabated political crisis, religious persecution, ethnic hatred, and economic hardships, many come to the United States for refuge and survival; many more escaped to other countries. For them, life in the United States is very different from their homeland. When the KCZ people were in Myanmar they worked to live, but in the United States it seems that they live to work. They work hard, not only to survive in a foreign country, but also to financially help their extended families, relatives, and communities in Myanmar. They have to sustain a great deal of pressure and stress because of a sudden change of life style, their concern for their loved ones back home, and the general bleak state of Burmese society under the military dictatorship. They labor endlessly and tirelessly without proper rest.
Many of them work seven days a week. They even have to work on Sunday, unlike back home where the KCZ Christians ceased from working on Sundays. Consequently, they hardly take care of their physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. Families can hardly spend time together – eating, praying, sharing as a family – because of their busy, different schedules. Younger generation began to adapt American culture and life styles, which makes it difficult for understanding and communication between parents and children. Life situation in the United States, which is different from that in Burma, has made it difficult for the KCZ people as individuals and families to maintain their culture and identity. This causes great stress for the KCZ families and communities. 
Having gone through this myself and seeing the need of my fellow people, I decided to do research on the ‘Sabbath.’ My purpose is to discover the meanings of the Sabbath and how they can be applied to the daily lives of these people. I strongly believe that my research will be of great help to the KCZ people in managing their lives in this future-oriented and achievement-oriented culture. By learning and applying the meaning of the Sabbath in every area of life, they will have a more relaxed and enjoyable life in this seemingly strange land. Moreover, they will live an abundant life, which I describe as wholeness.
 ‘Mi’ refers to ‘people.’ Zo here is one of the common names believed to be the name of KCZ people; it does not jut refer to Zo speaking people.
 The target group for this project is specifically the KCZ people from Myanmar, while my project is applicable for all who go through similar life situation in the United States and other foreign lands.
 William Shaw wrote a story of how this nation came into existence on earth. This story is the version of the legend by the so-called Thado/Kuki of today. William Shaw, The Thadou Kukis (Delhi: Cultural Publishing House, 1929), 24-16.
 J. Shakespear, The Lushai Kuki Clan (Aizawl, Mizoram: Tribal Research Institute 192, reprinted 1975), 93-94.
 Thangkhomang S. Gangte, The Kukis of Manipur: A Historical Analysis (New Delhi: Gyan Pubulishing House, 1993), 14. Gangte agrees that this nation came out of the bowels of the earth, or a cave. Vumson also cited Hrang Nawl, one of the prominent politicians among this nation, who believes the term ‘Chin,’ comes from Chinlung where the Chin people emerged into this world. See Vumson. Zo History (Aizawl, Mizoram, India: published by author, 1986), 3.
 Vumson does not accept this legend as a historical fact because he regards the legend as a contradiction to facts of how humans originated. See Vumson, Zo History, 26.
 Mizo speakers advocate for Mizo as the common name for the KCZ people. See, S H M Rizvi & Shibani Roy, Mizo Tribes In North East India (Delhi : B.R. Publishing Corp., 2006).
 Hakha, Falam, Matupi, Mindat, and other dialect speaking KCZ people stands for Chin as our official name. Read, Cum Awi, The Value and Identity of the Chins (Irving, Texas: Published by the author, 2000).
 Thado or Kuki or Thado-Kuki speaking group believe Kuki to be the official name for KCZ nation.
 Teddim and Zo speakers argue that all the KCZ should be called Zomi. Read T. Gougin, History of Zomi, (Churachandpur, Manipur: T. Gougin, 1984) to know Zomi.
 These are the groups called ‘Chin’. But there are more groups with different names who call themselves ‘Chin’.
 Bertram S. Carey and H.N. Tuck, The Chin Hills (Rangoon: Gov. Print., Burma, 1896), Vol. 1, 3, Cited also by Lian H. Sakhong, Religion and Politics among the Chin People in Burma (1896-1949) (Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University, 2000), 61.
 Sakhong, Religion and Politics among the Chin People in Burma, 57 ff.
 Gordon. H. Luce, “Chin Hills-Linguistic Tour” – University Project. Journal of Burma Research Society, Vol. 42, No.1, (1954): 25, quoted by Kenneth VanBik, In Search of the Origin of the Names: Kuki-Chin, Department of Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley, 2001, 2.
 VanBik, In Search of the Origin of the Names, 2.
 Dorothy Woodman, The Making of Burma (London: The Cresset Press, 1962), 421. According to Woodman, the main reason why the British annexed the Chin Hills to Burma proper was the constant invasion and harassment of the British-ruled Burman and Shan villages by the Chins. Also cited by VanBik, In Search of the Origin of the Names, 2
 Asho Chin is the Chin group with whom the Burmans first come into contact. They live in the plain region, not in the Chin State of Myanmar.
 H. Joorman, Chin Grammar (Rangoon: American Baptist Mission Press, 1906), 12.
 VanBik, In Search of the Origin of the Names: Kuki-Chin, 2.
 As a matter of fact, in old Pagan inscriptions, both khyang and khlaung are written to designate the same people. Luce, “Chin Hills-Linguistic Tour,” 25, cited by Vanbik, In Search of the Origin of the Names, 2.
 Comparison between written Burmese (WB) and modern Burmese (MB) shows how khy- became ch- in Burmese history. See, Paul K. Benedict, Sino-Tibetan: a Conspectus. (Princeton-Cambridge Studies in Chinese Linguistics, 2) with contributing editor, James A. Matisoff (New York: Cambridge U. Press, 1972), 3:1, i-x. cited also by Vanbik, In Search of the Origin of the Names, 2.
 Julian Wheatley, Burmese: A Grammatical Sketch. Ph.D. Dissertation (University of California, Berkeley, 1982), 18-19. Wheatley explains how the three phonetic shifts from written Burmese to Modern Burmese form a “drag chain” beginning with s to th (phonetically dental fricative). 1. s > th 2. c, ch > s 3. ky, kr > c khy,khr > ch., cited also by Vanbik, In Search of the Origin of the Names, 2.
 John Rawlins, “On the Manners, Religion, and Laws of the Cuci’s, or Mountaineers of Tipra. – Communicated in Perfian.” Asiatick Researches (Calcutta: Manuel Cantopher, M.DCC.XC, 1787), 187.
 E.B. Elly, Military Report on the Chin-Lushai Country (Calcutta: Firma KLM (p) LTD, 1978), 1.
 G.A. Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. III Part III (Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1903), 5.
 S.A. Reid, Chin-Lushai Land (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co. 1893), 5, cited by Sakhong, Religion and Politics among the Chin People in Burma (1896-1949), 63.
 John Shakespear, The Lushai Kuki Clans, 2.
 C.A. Soppitt, An Outline Grammar of the Rangkhol-Lushai Language (Aizawl, Mizoram: Tribal Research Institute, 1893, reprinted 1978), 2, cited by Sakhong, Religion and Politics among the Chin People in Burma (1896-1949), 63.
 Ibid, 4.
 Vumson used the name Zo to be the name of the KCZ nation. Vumson, Zo History, 26. In my conversation with him, he suggested that I use Zo in my dissertation to refer the KCZ people saying, “We are Zo.“
 Chindwin valley is all the bay areas beside the Chindwin River, one of the most important rivers in Myanmar (Burma).
 Vumson, Zo History, 1.
 Ibid. 2. Cited from Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India, 25.
 Ibid. 2. Cited from Thomas H. Lewin: A Fly on a Wheel or How I Helped to Govern India (London: Constable and Co., 1912), 35.
 Vumson, Zo History, 7.
 Carey and Tuck, The Chin Hills, 2.
 Ibid, 3.
 Shakespear, The Lushai Kuki Clans, 8. Also cited also in Sakhong, Religion and Politics among the Chin People in Burma, 63, and Gangte, The Kukis of Manipur, 21.
 (*) refers to division.
 One good source for detail information on persecutions among the KCZ people is www.chro.org.
 Nehginpao Kipgen, The Rise of Political Conflicts in Modern Burma (1947-2004), (May 2004), 7.
 This is the summary of the incident. For the full story, read P. S. Haokip, Zale’n-Gam, the Kuki Nation. (KNO Publication for Private Circulation, 1998), 22.
 KCBA is one of the KCZ religious organizations, affiliated to Myanmar Baptist Convention, Myanmar.
The regime denied their acknowledgement about the plan but is guilty of its irresponsibility and of its chaotic rule that had allowed such cruel persecution under an insane and unsupervised general, shedding the blood of the saints and taking away the innocent lives in the most dehumanizing way, which will remain imprinted in the hearts of the KCZ people as long as the human history exist. We will always remember them as our heroes with the indescribably ugly and incurable scars stamped in our hearts. Their blood still and will always cry out from the ground with an inexpressible hunger for peace and justice in Myanmar.
 Life in America is based on the information given by the pastors listed in my design submitted to APS, The interview questionnaire I used for soliciting the data is in the Appendices. I mention more about the life situation in America and the struggles of the KCZ people on pages 125-126.
 That the United States is a country of future and achievement-oriented culture is explained on page 92.
The writer, who received Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary (California, USA) on 23 May 2009, submitted this as the first chapter of her dissertation entitled “Understanding And Practising The Sabbath For The Kuki/Chin/Zo In The United States: Cultivating Wholeness Through Self Care For The Service Of The World And Ministry Of God.”
Ethno-political relations between Kukis and Meiteis
By George T. Haokip
Abstract: Manipur is characterized by ethnic diversity. She is dominantly inhabited by the Meiteis, including Meitei-Muslim (Pangals), in the valley and Kukis, and Nagas in the hills. They live in mutual co-existences since time immemorial.
However, the amicable bond of relationship between the kukis and the Meiteis which was in vogue in the erstwhile period begun to deteriorate after the merger of Manipur into the Indian Union in 1949 and it reach its zenith during the sixties and the eighties due to the emergence of plethora militants in the region, this further intensified the relationship and led to the recent outburst of ethnic violence between the two communities in the border town of Moreh. Nevertheless, mutual respect, like in the past, will prevail again if all concerns play their respective responsible roles.
The territory which constitutes the present state of Manipur is inhabited by three major ethnic groups viz: the Meiteis including the Meitei-Muslims (Pangals) in the valley; the Nagas and the Kuki-Chin-Mizo in the Hills, thereby indicating ethnographic boundaries.
One of the largest Kuki concentrations in the Indian sub-continent is found in the state of Manipur. They are found largely concentrated in the entire nine districts of the state which includes clans/tribes/sub-tirbes like Gangte, Hmar, Lushai, Simte, Paite, Thadou etc. They have close affinity with each other in terms of language, culture, dress, mode of living, food habits etc, but they are inclined to identify themselves separately by the names of their own respective tribes, sub-tribe or clans.
It is an undisputed fact, corroborated by many writings from the past on the Kukis that they were short tempered and a war-like people. Despite, their fiery temperament, they believe in the principle of peaceful co-existence, and from time immemorial, have maintained harmonious relationship with the people around them. However, they are proud people, and have close affinity with the land. This bond is recognized the world over and is a distinguished characteristic of the kukis.
The Kukis co-existed in peace with the Meiteis right from the time of their first settlement in Manipur. They indeed migrated and settled in the hills of Manipur as early as in the pre-historic times along with or after the Meitei advent in Manipur valley. However, the great kuki exodus is said to occur in the 18th century A.D. It is true beyond doubt that so far/until very recently history has never recorded strained relations between the two communities. The kukis were indeed never ruled by the Meiteis but on the contrary, they came forward to give assistance to them.
In this regard, P.S Haokip writes, the Meitei King Chourajit could not fight the Ava’s in 1810 and therefore, asked the kukis for help by declaring “the hills surround Manipur Golden Land like a stockade and the tribal guards the stockades” and in due course of time the kuki chiefs also sent its soldiers to guard the Maharajah and his Kingdom so as to resist the merger agreement on the eve of Manipur’s annexation to India in 1949 and that has brought about an ideological clash with the Akhil Manipur Hindu Mahasabha.
However, in the meantime, the introduction of a new system of administration in 1891 had threatened the bond of amiable relationship between the two communities where the entire administrations of hill areas were to be administered by the Vice President of the Manipur state Durbar in which the contact between Hill people and British administrators was made through and depended entirely on the corrupted “Lambus” rather than the village chiefs. It should be noted here that prior to the British, the role of the Lambus in the hill areas was no more than a peon though they sometimes acted as an interpreter between the Maharaja and the village Chief.
The Potthang system too though officially abolished in the year 1913, the British meitei lumbus continued it despite, a series of Petition to exempt it to the authorities. The Kukis conversion to Christianity and the Meiteis to Hinduism during the sanskritisation process has also driven a wedge in their hitherto cordial relationship. Thus, the British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ has immensely endangered the cordial relationship among them.
This strained relationship was further intensified and escalated with the merging of Manipur into the Indian Union, and this has had intrigue a wider gulf between the two communities, in which various hill areas under the British administration became a ‘Scheduled Area’, thereby, forbids the plain peoples to settle in tribal areas/ the hilly region. It thus, clearly alienated the meiteis and the tribals.
However, in spite of this, the meitei elites are of the view that Manipur which comprised of both the valley and the hills was an independent Princely State before the coming of the British and that the merger agreement as null and void since its annexation was much against the wishes of the people, and goes contradict with the International laws and the Manipur State Constitution Act 1947. Professor Joykumar has rightly stated that “the Maharaja was forced to sign the agreement”. He continue to writes, “It is reported that Budhachandra was quite upset to see the unexpected and undesirable policy adopted by the Government of India and having no other alternative; Maharaja signed the instrument of merger agreement on the 21st September, 1949”.
The meitei elites are also of the view that the hills and the valley people are of common origin. G.A.Grierson in his monumental Linguistic Survey of India has grouped the Meitei in the Kuki-Chin sub-family of the Tibeto Burman languages. P.S Haokip also records that if all the Benagali and Hindi words are to be omitted from Meitei language, the leftovers are all of Kuki dialect. Thus, to Gangumei Kabui, a more appropriate name of this sub family, in the opinion of many linguists, would have been the Meitei-Kuki-Chin.
Therefore, with this strategy and also with the slogan ‘Hingminnasi eikhoi’, in course of times and in spite of various modifications and amendments, passed and recognized by the government, the Meitei communities gradually continue to pour into the hills and its adjoining areas and thereby, begun to settle mostly in Kuki inhabited areas. At the time, a number of militant organizations, nationalist in nature came into existence, and within a short span of two decades, every ethnic community had its own militant nationalist organizations.
These organizations had separate objective, goals, and aim and follow different strategies to achieve these objectives. This often leads to friction and disharmony amongst the various groups pursuing different goals. And in order to protect their sphere of influence and also to maintain their own respective status quo, both the meiteis and the kuki elites harp upon the ideology of Nationhood and democratic value based on peaceful co-existence.
As already stated, Manipur/Kangleipak being a princely state before the advent of the British, and its merger agreement to the Indian union in 1949 being unconstitutional, as also much against the wishes of his highness the then Maharaja of Manipur, Budhachandra and of the people. This led to the mushrooming of numerous militant organizations in the sixties in which mention may be made of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF), etc. with the prime objective to restore the Monarch and his government; to sum up, for the attainment of an independent kingdom “Kangleipak”.
However, the kuki nationalist are of the view that Zalengam/Kukiland and Manipur/Kangleipak are in co-existence since the inception of time. They considered that they were never the subject of the meitei’s Maharaja but on the contrary like many other kings, they also formed an alliance with them. They further say that the meitei nation state was conquered by the British in 1891 while the kukis were subjugated only towards the end of 1919 episode. It is apparent that prior to the British the Kukis has exercised sovereignty over their lands which is clearly evident from the events of ‘the Kuki war of Independence 1917-19’ and also from the coalition made with the INA during the course of the World War II.
However, this has had the result of scattering them in three different countries viz: India, Burma and Bangladesh, resulting in the status “Minority in Ghetto” characterized by lack of political unity among them. The patriots who took part in the war, live through a period of trials, pain and agony and left their imprints on the sands of time to inspire later generations which gradually culminated into the formation of Kuki National Assembly (KNA) on the 24th October 1946, the first political organization, demanding a separate statehood for the Kukis within the frame work of the Indian constitution in the mid sixties.
This was further intensified by two revolutionary groups viz: (Kuki National Army) K.N.A and the (Kuki National Front) K.N.F in the eighties. The KNA demanded for an Independent state “Zalengam” while the KNF demand for “Kuki Land” (Kuki state) within the frame work of the Indian constitution. Indeed, it was a surprising shock and distress for the Kukis who were not much mediocre and inferior to their counterparts in the North-Eastern states with respect to population; having distinct custom and tradition, and a rich cultural heritage within the region they inhabit to be kept in limbo by the government even after sixty years of India’s independence.
Although, comparisons are odious, it is important to note that the Khongjom war of 1891 which resulted in the domination of the state by the British was fought between the Meitei and British forces for the duration of only one week, whereas the Kuki war of Independence lasted for almost 3 long yrs. The Kukis exhibited a strong determination to cling to their independence. Although the Meitei Generals who fought the British in 1891 like Thangal general and Bir Tikendrajit have been honoured by the Manipur government, Kuki generals like General Tintong and Pu, Chengjapao have been ignored, and this has hurt the sentiments of the Kuki community.
Similarly, the Black September or the massacre of 90 kukis on the 13th Sept., 1993 is commemorated today only by the Kukis in Manipur. The 18th June uprising, 2001 which is regarded as a milestone of Manipur’s history pertains however, only to the Meitei community, as 18 innocent meiteis lost their lives in the uprising. To honour and salute their courage and dedication to the preservation of Manipur’s territorial integrity, this date is observed as a state holiday. This has offended the sentiments of other communities in the state. The kukis in particular have always wanted to preserve the territorial integrity of the date, yet their efforts in this direction have not been taken into cognizance.
As such, many of the Kukis are in affirmation that, this is an indication that confirms the present ‘Manipur/Meitei land’ to no more than the ‘valley’ which constitutes 10% of the state. This has had resulted in the Kukis proclamation of each other territorial rights. They stated that “there will be a peaceful co-existence between the Kukis and the Meiteis by promoting mutual respect for each others territorial rights”.
On the other side, a wide chasm has appeared in the hitherto harmonious co-existence of various communities in the state. This is exacerbated by the fact that the fruits of development are mainly confined to the Imphal valley where the meiteis reside. The tribals have been increasingly alienated and marginalized. Therefore, some elements of the population wanted the Meiteis to confine themselves to the valley. And thus, assume that they will no longer tolerate the discriminatory nature of the government and the inferiority complex of the meiteis. Indeed, it is pertinent to note that so far the UNLF landmines planted in kuki inhabited areas have took the lives of 9 people in Churachanpur district and 33 in Chandel district.
It is also obvious that four hundred kuki villagers were abducted and taken to Lallim/Namunta in Myanmar on 13th March 2007. Moreover, the rape of Hmar women by the UNLF cadres at Parbung and Lungthulen villages have fuelled the resentment and discontentment of the kukis who feel neglected by the government which pays no heed to the difficulties of the kukis, and pours no balm on their wounds; despite, the (Kuki Students’ Organisation) KSO rally in Delhi on March 2007 and the judicial enquiry into the Hmar rape case, the victims have not been rehabilitated or given any compensation and the women have been subjected to severe trauma for several months. All these incidents have impacted greatly on the kuki community and made them suspicious in some instance of the Meitei community.
The ministry of Information and publicity of the NSCN (IM) outfit in this regard affirmed that the local kukis were denied the right to live peacefully in Moreh and its surrounding areas soon after the UNLF succeeded in collaborating with Burmese army while the government of Manipur activate by far, not lesser than a canopy to the Kuki’s grievances. It further asserts that the KNO/KNA fails to understand the plans of UNLF but now realize its mistake lately.
The kukis indeed, realized their folly very late that they were being exploited by the meiteis in various ways in the past and in the present which was clearly portrayed in the recent Moreh incidence where the two rival militant organizations i.e. the UNLF & the KNA came into confrontation in the border town of Moreh in the Indo-Myanmar border resulting into the death of 11 innocent civilians from both the communities. The government however, promised to provide compensation to the bereaved families by providing jobs to their next of kin, as also to erect a memorial tomb for the deceased but this promise was made only to the affected Meiteis, while the affected Kukis were not compensated on the ground that they were not civilians.
The actions taken up by the Govt. of Manipur established a sense of alienation and distrust. The kukis feel that all their efforts to preserve the territorial integrity of Manipur have not been acknowledge or appreciated. “It is deeds that will establish the sincerity of the State Government, not mere words” in the existing political climate in Manipur, only then, the relationship which has got stranded over the past few years can be restored back to its historical state of peaceful co-existence/normalcy, only if the Meiteis, the majority community, change their attitude of assuming themselves as the paramount owner of the land for which the Kukis and the alike (Nagas and Pangals) have also equally sacrificed their lives.
Therefore, it is a high time for the general populace to joined hands and pool their thoughts and knowledge to unearth how and why such an awful episode has cropped up so that the escalating communal tensions are clamped and averted.
The writer is a research student in the History Department of Manipur University, India.
 Kabui, Gangumei: History of Manipur, vol.I (Pre-Colonial Period), p.23, National publishing
[2 Shakespear,J: The-Lushai-Kuki clans (1912), Cultural Publishing House, Delhi, p.118.
 Haokip, P.S: Zalengam, The Kuki Nation, Private Publication, 1998. p.27.
 Annexation of Manipur, 1949 by Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM),1995. p.182.
 Naorem, Joykumar: Colonialism to Democracy-A History of Manipur,1819-1972. Spectrum
Publications, Guwahati:Delhi, 2002,p. 123.
 Literally poththng means carrying of ones luggage.
 Aide-Memoire: To the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohon Singh for the recognition of U.P.F, Jan 2006.
 Haokip,P.S: Zalengam, The Kuki Nation, p-27, Private Publication, 1998.;
 Kangujam, Sanatomba: Ethnic Discourse in the North East: in search of an alternative paradigm, p.8.
[13 Prof.Naorem, Joykumar: op.cit. p.193
[15 Grierson, G.A: Linguidtic Survey of India, vol.III, prt. III p.6.
[16 ‘Hingminasnsi eikhoi’ means lets live together (Live and let live).
 Today many of the meiteis community are found largely settled in various hill districts of
 Haokip, P.S op.cit. p.27.
 Dr. Rosiem Pudaite: Indian National Struggle for Freedom and its Impact on the mizo Movement, 1935-1953 A.D. (2002 editon) p.99.
 Haokip,P.S, “Zalengam, The Kuki Nation”.
 Aide-memoir: To the P.M of India, Shri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee for immediate creation of
Kukiland; 1998, April 8, K.Maneithangja, General Secretary, KNF).
[22 Statistical Abstract Manipur 2005, Directorate of Economics & Statistics, Government of Manipur, p-1. * (Total areas of Manipur= 22,327 sq.km. Hill areas= 20,089 sq.kms., vaslley areas= 2,238 sq.kms.)
 The Sangai Express, 12/06/07: KNO verbally fires at UNLF.
 A K.N.O. COMMUNIQUE over K.S.O. rally in Delhi. P.1.
 The Sangai Express, 12/06/07; GPRN-NSCN on recent Moreh killings.
 Ibid, 10 June 2007.
 As per the Sangai Express: 27th June 2007, “KNO ponders over emerging realities and issue” the KNO asserts that the following kuki victims/ diseases were of innocent civilians and in no way are connected with the KNA/KNO; they are’ (L) Pastor Hemjang Lhungdim, 40 yrs. (Church Pastor), (L) Doumang Haokip, 31 yrs.(Charcoal worker), (L) Lunkhomang Misao, 17 yrs. (Student), (L) Lunkholal Haokip, 19 yrs. (Student), (L) and Tongkholun Sitlhou, 17 yrs. (Auto-ricksaw driver).
 The Sangai Express, 18th July 2007, “ KNO urges Government to free Haokip”.
The writer is a research scholar at Manipur University, India.
A case study of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo (CHIKIM)
By Priyadarshni M Gangte
The genographic history and transborder tribes - A case study of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo (CHIKIM)
“… Nor for the past alone for meanings to the future …”
If recent history were to repeat itself, the largest effort yet to study human genetic material may be defined as the relation of the vampire. An international team of scientists announced in April 2005, a plan to collect blood samples and extract DNA from some 100,000 people around the world including 10,000 from India. The study they claim will help the people worldwide understand their own origin better.
The new demographic trend is leading us to understand and detect the patterns of ancient human migration and the origin of population groups around the world. It has been acknowledged that the scientists will use DNA to pick together in fine detail the migratory routes that humans had taken many thousands of years ago as they trudged out of their indigenous settlements, especially from Africa where modern human originated and began to populate the world. India, some researchers believe was among their earliest pots of call.
Some years ago, the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP) aimed at studying DNA from indigenous tribes and other communities around the world had been initiated but it had failed to take off because scientists say “imaginary figure” generated a groundswell of opinion against it.
“Every drop of human blood contains a history book written in the languages of our genes.”
This paper is an attempt to deal with the historicity of relationships among the neighbouring peoples of Chin Hills of Myanmar and that of Manipur (India) to show as to how far the various tribes and communities living therein are related. To establish the relationships of these people is extremely difficult. One cannot either out-rightly reject their ethnic relationship or accept it wholeheartedly of being related. It is mainly due to the absence of authenticated written documents available on the side of Manipur.
On the side of Myanmar the people try to establish history of their relationship through historical linguistic syntax, archeological findings, oral tradition, etc. It is now accepted that the Chin, Kuki and now Mizo – belong to the group of people identified as Tibeto-Burmans. Hence, for the purpose of this paper and for convenience of understanding, the acronym, CHIKIM, of Chin-Kuki-Mizo, shall be used henceforth to mean the people of the said group of ethnic tribals.
The CHIKIM, as we know, asserts that they were originally from a cave called ‘Chirmlung’, Kukis call it ‘Khul’ or ‘Khur’, Mizos ‘Chhinlung’ or ‘Shinlung’. The place is given different locations by different clans.
By analysing their language and comparing with other languages, anthropologists concluded that their language is related to the Tibeto-Chinese languages and hence their cultural, affiliation with them. The Tibeto-Chinese group of people are sub-divided into several groups, e.g. Tibetan are situated on high mountain (Himalayas). Those who move downwards into the Chinese territory have Tibeto Chinese affinities and those who migrated towards Burma were aligned with the Tibeto Burman stocks.
The intermediary factors were the linguistic affinities and the territory. But to be taken of Tibeto-Chinese in Tibeto Burman groups would be a misnomer. It seldom happens. A critical study is required.
General misunderstanding and some distortion has been created on account of Grierson’s writings which have today become misleading. The Tibetans do not have much Chinese influence as has been claimed in the past rather it is just the other way. “Recent mitochondrial DNA testing has revealed these facts and the CHIKIMs are placed together with Burmans; Meiteis, Nagas, Kachins, Lolos, Tibetans” etc., as the Tibeto-Burmans. They at one time or the other, must have shared common cultural or political affiliations or both.
This leads one to believe that CHIKIM people originated in China and that they might in some way be related to bones found in the caves of Chou K’outen, south of Peking, the bones of ‘Peking Man’. Peking Man is earliest known man in China and surrounding areas, and anthropologists believe that Peking Man possessed certain characteristics peculiar to the Mongoloid species.
Traces of human existence are attributed to as long ago as a million years, and Peking Man was believed to have flourished in 5,00,000 B.C. In the others region of China stone implements and a few bones of hunting people were found which suggested a time frame of about 50,000 B.C., said Vumson in his work on Zo History (P27) and further contended that by about 4,000 B.C., a Mongolian people with a neolithic culture appeared but their tools included finely polished rectangular axes with keen cutting edges.
And, according to Eberhard, W., in his work on, a History of China, Los Angeles, 1971, there were eight principal historical cultures in China. The Ch’iang tribes, ancestors of the Tibeto-Burmans, were found in the Western China in the province of present day Szechuan and in the mountain regions of Kansu and Shensi. Wiens, JH, in his work on Han Chinese Expansion in South Asia, Hamden, 1984, said that their economy was based on sheep rearing and raising of Yaks, Ponies and some Pigs and that their cultivation was mainly on wheat and buckwheat which might have resulted from alien influence.
Hall, in his work on a History of South and East Asia, London, 1964, was convinced to say that during the Shang dynasty (1600-1028 B.C.), the Ch’iang tribes were neighbours of the Shang people with whom they were in constant state of war. They were then found to have settled in the Southwest region of Shansi and Shensi. During the Chou dynasty (722 – 481 B.C.), Ch’iang tribes were found in Northwest China, between the sources of the Yangtse and Wei, wrote, Hall.
The earliest Chinese records coming from the latter half of the second millennium B.C. called them the Ch’iang who were ultimately forced to take refuge in the Northeast Tibet due to Chinese hostility. This fact is important for cultural interaction and population influx. Subsequently, genetic mutation followed.
During the Han dynasty, the Ch’iang tribes appeared as the Tanguts – the Tibetan Tribal Federation. The Tanguts attempted to block Chinese access to Turkistan, which the Chinese had conquered in 73 A.D. Heavy fighting ensued and the Chinese got the upper hand, driving the Tanguts to the South. Whether this was the reason for the Tibeto-Burman’s migration to the south can only be guessed. Hall gives an earlier time, the first millennium B.C., for the Tibeto-Burmans southward migration. He writes “… they were pursued by the Chinese rulers to Tsin (Chin) through the mountains towards the south.”
The Ch’iang tribal structure was always weak, as leadership arose among them only in times of war. Their society had a military rather than a tribal structure, and the continuation of these states depended entirely upon the personal qualities of their leaders. They were fundamentally sheep breeders, not horse breeders, and therefore, showed an inclination to incorporate infantry into their armies”.
Separation from Tibet:
The absence of writing among most of the Tibeto-Chinese suggests that their separation must have begun at a very early date perhaps before the Chou dynasty, whose rulers were Tibetans. Except Tibetans, none of the Tibeto-Burman group had writings. The Chou dynasty came to an end around 200 B.C.
During the third century A.D., Buddhism was introduced into Tibet and China but none of the Tibeto-Burman group except the Tibetans were affected. They had been shifting their villages often in connection with their slash and burn method of cultivation. Civilization therefore did not penetrate them. This is an established fact. If we look into the Tibetan scripts, we will find traces of Indian influences of an early kind.
The establishment of the Tibeto-Burman influences and the people at large took centuries and the recent migration of these people to the KaleKabaw Valley has taken more than centuries and there is no sign that migration is still complete. The same pattern is very likely the case with the other Tibeto-Burman groups. The Kachin, for example, are still moving towards the south until very recently. As they slowly moved on through the hilly regions to settle at other locations and some further moved on. The result is their separation in terms of different social groups under such situations.
Those who separated last remain closely related, for example, the CHIKIM and the Meitei. There is very close affinity between the two.
Entry to Burma:
In migrating toward the present Burma, the CHIKIM people separated into two groups. One group moved southwards between the Chindwin and the Irrawaddy, and the other group moved south to the west of the Chindwin and reached CHIKIM country and the Arakan sometime before 1000 A.D. According to G.H. Luce, “the Nagas were in present Nagaland when the CHIKIM-Meitei group passed through on the move south.”
One demonstration of this was a village in Nagaland whose inhabitants never married with other tribes, but who retained the original CHIKIM language and culture. The villagers said they had lived in that village for several centuries. These villagers and some other CHIKIM-Meitei groups remained in Nagaland as others moved to the south, and these people such as the Tangkhul Nagas, are linguistically and culturally closer to the CHIKIM than to other Nagas.
In the Somra Tracts, the Pongniu, Sawlaw, Kayou and Heni clans, who speak the Kalaw dialect, are closely related to the Laizo of Falam. CHIKIM people, and also Meitei slowly moved through the Hukawng Valley. When they came to the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin Rivers, they settled there, the two big rivers giving them security and protection from enemies. One reason of their settlement could have also been influenced by their inability to cross the two big rivers. Legends tell us that CHIKIM people found out building rafts only after they saw a rabbit floating on logs. It is not true. It is natural observation of the people and rafts have been used since time immemorial.
On the Fringe of Manipur:
The ancient history of the Chindwin Valley is told in a chronicle found in Kale. The ‘Gazetteers’ speak of a ruined palace, and the chronicle of the town Yazagyo traces its history back to the time of Buddha, when Indian princes from Magadha ruled local Sak Kantu people. Even today the carved walls of the ancient town of Yazagyo can be appreciated at a place twenty miles north of Kalemyo, in the Kabaw Valley west of the Chindwin.
The chronicle says that about 639 A.D., the palace was destroyed by combined forces of the Meiteis and the CHIKIM. According to the Gazetteer, the Kale area was closely linked to ancient Magadha. Yazagyo is a corruption of Rajagriha, the residence of Buddha and the capital of Magadha. Webula, a mountain few miles west of Kalemyo, was named after Wepulla of the Pali history of modern Buipula. The linkages therefore reveal the Indian relationships among the people.
Of all Tibeto-Burman peoples, the Meitei of Manipur were the people linguistically closest to the CHIKIM and they settled together as one group in the Chindwin Valley.
Historical materials of the Meiteis have shown the presence of CHIKIM people in the Chindwin Valley after the beginning of the Christian era. Lehman in his book – The Structure of Chin Society: Urbana, 1963, puts the CHIKIM’s occupation of the area well into the middle of the first millennium A.D., in which period the Meiteis conquered the Andro-Sekmai group of people, who were inhabitants of present day Manipur.
Hudson has maintained that the Meiteis were descendents of surrounding hill tribes. Their traditions have remained similar and even today they retain many customs of the hill people. He wrote, in 1900 that the organization, religion, habits and manners of the Meitei of two hundred years before were the same as the hill people (CHIKIM and Naga) of his own era. It is indeed an important observation and demands critical appreciation.
There are legends and traditions, which tell of early relationships between Meitei, Naga, and CHIKIM – the three ethnosis. A Tangkhul (Naga) tradition says that Naga, Meitei and CHIKIM descended from a common ancestor who had three sons. These were the progenitors of the tribes. This tradition puts the CHIKIM as the eldest and the Meitei the youngest.
Hudson wrote, “The Tangkul legend is to the effect that one day a sow, heavy with young, wandered from the village of Hundung and was tracked to the valley by the younger of the two brothers who had migrated from the village of Maikei Tungam, where their parents lived, and had founded the village of Hundung.”
Oknung, the pig’s stone, were the sow was eventually found, is situated on the banks of the Iril River. The sow littered there and the young man stayed to look after her; “and as he’ found the country to his liking, he decided to settle there. For a time he kept up friendly relations with his brother in the hills, who made a practice of sending him every year gifts of produce of the hills and in turn received presents of the manufacture of the plains. The younger brother became well-to-do and proud, and abandoned the custom of sending presents to his brother in the hills, who promptly came down and took what he had been in the habit of getting.”
Hudson has also revealed a Mao Naga legend, which connects the Naga, the Meitei, and the CHIKIM, “Once upon a time there was a jumping match between the three sons of the common ancestor. The Kuki leapt from one top of one range of hills to the crest of the next, while the Naga, nearly as good, cleared the intervening valley, but his foot slipped and touched the river. Hence the limit of his ablutions, while the stronger Kuki to this day avoids all use of water. The Manipuri tumbled headlong, which explains his fondness for bathing. Another variant says that the father of them was a Deity named Asu who had three sons, Mamo, Alapa, and Tuto. From Mamo are descended the Kukis and the Nagas, while the Gurkhalis are sprung from the loin of Alapa and the sons of Tuto are the Manipuris.” This and many similar legends of CHIKIM, Meitei, Naga, and Kachin tell stories of their early relations. Most of the legends attempt to explain how they separated or lost track of each other.
Grierson, G.A., in his work on ‘Linguistic Survey of India; Vol.III 3, 1904 told a Thado legend which tells of the Khungsai (Thado) and Meitei separation. “Our forefathers have told us that man formerly lived in the bowels of the earth. The Khuangzais and the Meiteis were then friends. One day they quarrelled about a cloth, and their mother took a dao and cut into pieces.
From then on the Meitei and the Thado went separate ways. The Meitei, who had gone to cut haimang trees, left fresh footprints, so that many people followed them and the Meitei became numerous. The Khuangsais went to cut plantain trees, from where they ascended to the earth. When people looked at the footprints of the Khuangsai, they looked rather old and therefore few people followed them; which explains why there are only a few Khuangsai.”
Kachin legend maintains that they were separated from the CHIKIM people, who had gone out in front, and they spent many days trying to trace the way the CHIKIM people had gone. As they could not find the trail, they called the CHIKIM people Khang, meaning footprints, because they were looking for footprints of the CHIKIM people. (As there are Khang tribes in the Hukawng valley, the identification of the CHIKIM as Khang could be of modern interpretation.)
Khami legend reveals that the separation was due to the women and children, who could not walk fast and remained behind, where they cultivated the land and followed the others later.
Sizang legend is similar to the Khuangsai legend, but it does not specify from whom the group was separated. They went in front of the others and to mark their trail cut down plantain trees. The plantain trees grew up immediately after being cut, so the people following them assumed they had lost the trail and went no further. There was another party, however, who marked their trail by cutting off tree barks. The people finding these still fresh cutting followed them. Thus, there were fewer CHIKIM people as they had lost their way and had got way laid.
There are also Meitei or Manipur legends that record the relationship between CHIKIM, Naga, and the Meiteis. Tombi Singh (1972) writes, “If we have an element of truth in our legends and historical records, one thing is established: that the ancient forefathers of the Manipuris had their origin in the hill areas of Manipur. This period of forefathers reigning in hilltops is too remote from our memory and understanding to grasp it in its fullest details. As time passed, a super human being performed almost a miraculous feat to drain the water collected in the valley, boring a hole through a hill rock with a spear like weapon. Even now the outlet is known as ‘Chingnunghut’. As the result of the drainage provided for the water of Manipur, the population of Manipur moved down to the valley. … special mentions are seven clans, who established stable kingdoms in the different areas of the state.”
Little is known about Meitei history by the CHIKIMs especially by those in Myanmar. Yet, they say that in Myanmar, the Shan prince Samlong found the Meiteis to be very poor. After a thousand years, during the reign of King Pamheiba, Manipur became a strong nation. Conversion to Hinduism during the late eighteenth century and contact with Indians and Chinese widened the gap between the highlanders, CHIKIM and Naga, and plainsmen, the Meiteis. There had been little contact except for war, and so different cultures, customs, and modes of life were developed.
In concluding, it is interesting to note all the important relevance to our present society as to what an individual or group can work for ourselves. Indeed, we are opt to find out every aspects of our being today. Art and science go hand in hand as it is confirmed from many researches carried out in this regard. The Archaeological Survey of India plays an important role in establishing facts of our history. Likewise, others contributed a lot using different devices.
The concept of origin propounded by many authorities still exists. The general populace of India, as believed originated from Africa, is there along with the group which was suigeneris in the Narmada Valley. This group of people originated and influenced the demography in the region of Andhra, the coastal region as also the people living in the region of Burma by using the Mitochondrial DNA analysis.
In fact, the origin of migration was probably in Africa, the cradle of all humanity when the first modern human beings gradually began to move eastward spreading across Asia, about 40,000 years ago.
The writer is wife of late Thangkhomang Gangte (TS Gangte), a renowned Kuki historian, who did extensive research on Kuki history.