The Sadar Hill District demand and its emerging politics have brought out many unasked questions, dimensions and perspectives which ONLY require matured understanding and unbiased analysis. The article attempts to understand the politics and historical narration of the district demand:
A very interesting and important development is the public statement of the Manipur Chief Minister on Sadar Hill District issue saying that district creation is within the purview of the state government. While his statement is undoubtedly true, it is a foolish public statement that will be a stumbling block for the GOM to trip over later.
By this argument that district creation is a State subject and that the Centre has no business to interfere with the state government and CM, they should know new State creation is the purview of the centre being in the Union List and Manipur should also not interfere with the centre creation of unified Naga state.
As the State Govt is disregarding the stand of the Nagas to consult stakeholders in district creation and not willing to acknowledge such needs for consultation even after economic blockades, the centre can also disregard the State Government and not consider the Meeteis/Meiteis view as stakeholders in creation of new State for Nagas. In this way, Nagas should now ask outrightly for declaration of new State for Nagas by the Centre as per Union List provisions as the State plan to create new Sadar Hill district (and Jiribam) as per State list provisions. All their pleas in the past to consult all stakeholders in Naga peace talks, Framework Agreement, etc is contradicted by their immature and inconsistent stand in trying to accommodate the Kukis.
Meantime, the Meeteis under All Manipur Clubs Organisation (AMCOM) has said that Sadar Hill district should not touch Meeteis areas. This shows the selfish interests of the Meeteis again. They mind their land being given to Kukis but do not mind the Nagas areas being given to Kukis for a district.
If a Kuki district is formed from Naga areas, it will form a bad precedent in that the Kukis will come to think that Naga and Meeteis lands/areas can be converted to Kuki districts if their migrating population increases. Therefore, it is both a short term and long term threat to both Nagas and Meeteis.
The Kukis claims that they are indigenous settlers of the present areas of Manipur. But their history, folklore and folk songs (and legends) says that they are like eagles flying from place to place. Moreover, they have claimed strongly in recent times that they are descendants of thr lost tribe of Manasseh and therefore wandering about with no real indigenous status anywhere in the world except Israel and have heavily migrated to Israel. This has contradicted themselves completely by saying they are indigenous tribe of Manipur and also that they are wandering lost tribe of Manasseh who are now migrating back to Israel. Hence, their status is migrant status in Manipur, Myanmar and other states of NE.
It is a well established fact that Meeteis and Nagas share traditional boundaries since time immemorial. Inspite of occasional wars between Nagas themselves and Meeteis themselves and also between Meeteis and Nagas, the Meeteis has never crossed over to settle in the Naga areas nor claimed it as their areas. Even the recent statement by AMCOM shows that the Meeties have a clear sense of their actual areas. Then, why are the Meeteis trying to accommodate the Kukis? Because they think that Nagas are a threat to Meeteis and Kukis are good lackeys of them. This is inconsistent argument.
What was the recent ILP issue all about? Every Meetei knows that it was not aimed at the Mayangs or then Muslims migrants which doesn’t pose much threat. Nor was ILP directed towards the Nagas as such. But the Meeteis seeing the endless large scale migration of Kukis from Myanmar saw threat of being surrounded and engulfed by them. The Meeteis and Kukis have been having clashes and locking horns frequently in Moreh for control of the town after the original inhabitants i.e. Nagas vacated it during Naga-Kuki conflict in the 1990s. It is a predictor of Meetei-Kuki relations in the future when the Meetei accomodated Kuki population increases in Manipur.
The Nagas and Meeties therefore, need to sit together to sort out this physical threat to land grabbing by the weak Kukis which always are foolhardily strengthened by Meeteis for short term strategies against Nagas. Meeteis and Nagas are not natural opponents having lived side by side for millenia. The Nagas nor the Meeteis have never said to each other that they are foreigners in their respective areas. But both Nagas and Meeteis through various CSOs and colonial British have said in the recorded past that the Kukis are recent migrant foreigners. This is the most important common platform for Nagas and Meeteis to start their journey of understanding each other.
If today the Sadar Hill district is foolhardily declared by Manipur led by CM Ibobi without consultation with Nagas , the centre led by Modi should immediately declare creation of South Nagaland for Nagas of Manipur as it is centre prerogative. Till today, the Nagas are thinking of a pan-Naga political and economic set up without outrightly (if possible) tearing apart Manipur. But if the foolhardy hostile stance of the GOM continues, the Nagas need to press for outright creation of South Nagaland for the Manipur part.
What we see is that the Kukis, on the other hand have been forever opposing the Nagas. Even in the present ILP crisis which actually is about chasing them back to Myanmar from where the majority of them have come across to India in past few decades, they have not shown the desired level of solidarity with the Zomis and Nagas.
Where have the Kukis been granted district in Nagaland? Also where have the migratory Kuki immigrants given district in any northeast Indian states where they are spread sporadically? Where also have the Kukis been given district in Myanmar? The Chins which are altogether different ethnic group has a state but Kukis because of their migratory doets not had district in Myanmar. Nagas have districts in Myanmar because they are indigenous land owners. These questions are worth asking.
The Kukis are the only people who floated the Kuki-Chin-Mizo phrase to shore up their weak position in NE. Nowhere have the Lushais or Mizos used this Kuki-Chin-Mizo phrase. Nor do the Chins use it. In fact, history shows that the Chins defeated the Kukis badly in Myanmar and chased them away so that they were forced to migrate towards India via Chassad route. Then when they reached Mizoram areas, the Mizos defeated them very decisively so that they were completely chased away from Mizoram to no man’s land areas of Assam. The Kukis are disliked by the Mizos and Chins. In fact, the Mizos have better relations with the Zomis and Nagas in comparison to the Kukis.
During the Naga-Kuki conflict, the Kukis were defeated and chased away again by the Nagas. Only some places in Naga areas where they received protection of Assam rifles outposts, were able to remain in their migratory villages which has been set up as tenants status to the neighbouring Naga villages. The Assam Rifles posts were the fortresses which saved the surrounding Kuki setttlement from being chased away. The fleeing Kukis then went to Lamka i.e. Churachandpur district where Zomis were original inhabitants and now the Kukis AUDACIOUSLY refers to it as a Kuki district after the Zomi-Kuki conflict. They are therefore also hated by the Zomis. This is a bitter truth.
Even the Meeteis have a natural dislike of Kukis and a natural liking for Nagas as shown by intermarriage between Meeties with Nagas but hardly any intermarriage between Kukis and Meeteis. This shows that Kukis are liked by none except that they make themselves available as mercenaries of Meeties today as done in the past. But what will Meeteis profit from Kukis today by taking stand together against Nagas? The real old neighbour is the Nagas who have no real land dispute is the Nagas. The problem for Meeties is the chauvism displayed by some of their elite (not all) and the UNLF having a hegemonistic Manipur worldview where tribals are seen as forever dependent on the valley Meeteis and advanced facilities.
Nagas, Meeteis, Zomis and Mizos who are all original inhabitants need to patch up because they do not indulge in MIGRATION neither do they make UNWARRANTED CLAIM over each other traditional lands. They are natural friends and the migratory Kukis are the spoiler with their UNENDING MIGRATION, DECEPTIVE MERCENARY NATURE AND NEW CLAIM OF LAND AS THEIR INDIGENOUS LANDS when their population increases.
Here is a novel bold proposal if the Meeteis are so keen on accommodating Kukis and also want to accommodate the Nagas as they want to be accomodated in the hills. Let the 2 valley districts of Imphal West and Imphal East districts be splits into two districts each. Let one new district of Imphal West be alloted to the Kuki community as their new settlement and district for their speedy development from staying in the valley. Let the other new half of Imphal East districts be allotted to the Nagas so that the Nagas can also develop speedily by living together in a valley environment. Then from the Nagas part, they will share commensurate areas of hills for Meeteis to use. Then, there will be development for all without tribals suffering from remoteness of location. Some resettlement and shifting away of valley people to Thoubal and Bishenpur districts or hills to accommodate Nagas and Kukis will be needed and so also some Naga villages may need resettlement either in new valley district or hills. This is a serious proposal which can be discussed with academic inputs for bringing uniformity in economic, educational,etc developments.
SO LET’S BE CLEAR WITH THE HISTORICAL FACTS AND BE WISE ENOUGH TO LIVE TOGETHER.
(The views expressed in the paper are personal. The Author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Source: Imphal Free Press