India: Kuki blockade Manipur highways in last ditch attempt to force government to dialogue
Dr Manmohan Singh
Govt of India
Subject: Political dialogue with the Kukis, represented by KSDC and Kuki Militant Organisations
Hon'ble Prime Minister,
Prior to the advent of the Biritsh colonialists, the Kukis were an independent people, ruled by their noble Chieftains. The Meitei people of present-day Manipur and the Kukis co-existed in peace, politically independent of each other. From time to time, the two communities worked together as allies; neither presumed authority over the other. To illustrate this status of political exclusivity between Kukis and Meiteis, in 1892, the Khomjom War against the British, was fought exclusively by the Meiteis. The Kuki Rising 1917-1919, also against the imperialist power, was fought exclusively by the Kukis.
In 1949, when the Meitei Ningthou (Chieftain) was to sign the Merger agreement with the Union of India at Shillong, the Kuki Chieftain firmly opposed the move. The rationale: Kuki hills and Kangleipak (actual Manipur of Meiteis) would be clubbed together within a single administrative set up called Manipur because the two entities was once collectively administered by the colonial power, although a separate set of rules existed, i.e. Hill People's regulation Act. However, the Meitei Ningthou signed the agreement and was duly compensated; the Kuki Chieftains were neither approached to sign the agreement nor compensated. Technically and legally, the Kuki hills remain an independent entity.
However, reconciled to being clubbed together with our long-time neighbours, the Meiteis, and to be integrated within the Union of India, Kukis became a part of the administration of Manipur. Optimistic that the new dispensation would prove equitable to both communities in socio-economic-politico terms, Kukis abandoned the strive for their traditional status of self-determination under the Chieftains. Regrettably, the last 60-odd years has proven wrong our optimistic expectations of equitable development in every sphere. Consequently, today, the Kukis are the most backward community in Manipur, not to mention the Northeast, compared to the neighbouring Nagas, Mizos and Khasi-Jaintia-Garo of Meghalaya.
Furthermore, from 1992-1997, the NSCN (IM)-led Kuki genocide left over 900 Kukis dead, 350 villages uprooted and over 50,000 displaced. Besides (IM)'s aggression, the valley Meitei insurgents have caused havoc in the Kuki hills, including loss of life and property. Kukis are sandwiched by Naga and Meitei militants, but Government remains a mute spectator.
In the meantime, not content with enjoying the lion's share by depriving the Kukis of their due share, the Government of Manipur have consistently tried to exploit our traditional lands. Firstly, the Government plans to introduce the Manipur Land Reform Act, designed to acquire Kuki territory. Secondly, in the last census, traditional hills areas have been included within the administration of the valley districts. Thirdly, Village Authority elections are being conducted, which impinge on the traditional rights and authority of the Chieftains.
Disillusioned with the status quo in Manipur, Kuki armed groups, in response to your call to abjure the path of violence and come forward for peace talks, signed Suspension of Operations (SoO) with the Government in 2005, followed by a tripartite SoO with the state Government of Manipur. Seven long years has passed during which peace has reigned in the Kuki Hills, but Government rather than show appreciation, unilaterally decided on a three-month extension instead of the usual one year. This is insult over injury, to say the least, especially in view of the fact that Government has engaged in dialogue with Nagas, our neighbours who perpetrated the infamous ethnic cleansing of Kukis from 1992-1997.
Currently, it appears Government is planning to cede certain demands of NSCN (IM), some of which will have direct bearing on the Kukis. For instance, the Nagas claim 5 of the 6 hill districts of Manipur. It must be borne in mind that the district boundaries were not drawn on ethnic lines, but purely for administrative convenience. With Government only talking to Nagas, and not Kukis where it concerns them, how would justice take place?
From preceding narrative of facts, it has become apparent that Government wishes to placate the Nagas, who have already been given statehood, and relegate the Kukis further. This seems the reward for acquiescence of the Kuki public over the years and compliance of Kuki armed groups to SoO ground rules.
Therefore, left with no alternative, the Kuki State Demand Committee, representing the Kuki Public, had resolved that a separate state comprising of traditional Kuki territories, incorporated within present day Manipur, is a political imperative for the protection of Kuki tribal land and Kuki rights, political, economic and cultural. While reiterating our demand for a separate Kuki State, , KSDC have resolved on the following:
A larger chunk of the hill areas in present day Manipur forms the traditional territories of Kuki people, and we still inhabit these areas. Because the Government of India chose to ignore the rights of the Kukis and are holding talks with the Nagas, involving these Kuki territories, in true democratic protest, National Highways such as Imphal to Ukhrul, Imphal to Tamenglong, Imphal to Moreh, Imphal to Chandel, Imphal to Senapati and Imphal to Churachandpur shall be blockaded indefinitely, beginning 14 November 2012.
An end to the blockade would be effected only when a written assurance is given by the Government of India that the process of political dialogue with Kukis, involving KSDC and Kuki militants, would begin within a predetermined date. In the event of Government of India’s failure to heed our plea, KSDC would be compelled to launch, ‘QUIT KUKI LAND’ MOVEMENT AGAINST INDIA!
General Secretary, Kuki State Demand Committee
Update 20 November 2012 - From The Sangai Express
One hurt in highway blockade
IMPHAL, Nov 20 : The indefinite bandh called by the Kuki State Demand Committee (KSDC) went on without any let up even as one bandh supporter sustained injuries when she was hit by a vehicle at Gwaltabi along Imphal-Ukhrul road today.
Bandh supporters were blocking the highway when a team of Litan police station arrived at the scene escorting some civilian vehicles.
As the police team and the civilian vehicles tried to cross the point in the face of the blockade, one bandh supporter Nemkin (45) of Tuisoujang village was hit by a police vehicle and again by a civilian vehicle. Imphal-Moreh highway (NH-2) was also blocked at Tengnoupal.
Justifying their agitation, KSDC Tengnoupal Block chairman Mang Haokip said that the Government was indulging in delaying tactics by holding off a political dialogue till date even as SoO pact was signed in 2005.
“Kukis have the right to demand a separate State and we are ready to launch violent movements if no positive response is forthcoming to the ongoing peaceful agitation”, Mang said.
Though the highway was blocked at Moreh too, it did not affect normal activities of the border town.
On the other hand, bandh supporters damaged three trucks at Kangpokpi along Imphal-Mao section of NH 2.
The three trucks were empty and they were heading towards Mao. There was passenger bus service on Sapermeina-Imphal and Motbung-Imphal routes.
Click on the images below to view photos from the ongoing protests in Manipur.
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