The history of the Kuki insurgency in Manipur
Just before the first of the two phases of the Assembly Elections went underway in Manipur, all insurgent groups associated with the Kuki tribes in Manipur said they will vote for one of the National Party.
Who are the Kukis?
- The Kukis are an ethnic group including multiple tribes originally inhabiting
- North-Eastern states of India such as Manipur,
- Mizoram and Assam;
- Parts of Burma (now Myanmar), and
- Sylhet district and Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh.
- While Kuki is not a term coined by the ethnic group itself, the tribes associated with it came to be generically called Kuki under colonial rule.
- In Manipur, the various Kuki tribes, living mainly in the hills, currently make up 30% of the total 28.5 lakh population of the State.
- While Churachandpur is their main stronghold, they also have a sizable population in Chandel, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal and Senapati districts.
- The rest of the population of Manipur is made up mainly of two other ethnic groups — the Meiteis or non-tribal, Vaishnavite Hindus who live in the valley region of Manipur, and the Naga tribes, historically at loggerheads with the Kukis, also living in the hilly areas of the State.
- Of the 60 seats in the Manipur Assembly, 40 are held by Meiteis and the rest 20 seats are held by Kukis and Nagas.
What led to the Kuki insurgencies in Manipur?
- The Kuki insurgent groups have been under Suspension of Operation (SoO) since 2005, when they signed an agreement for the same with the Indian Army.
- Later, in 2008, the groups entered a tripartite agreement with the State government and the UPA led Central government to temporarily suspend their operations and give political dialogue a chance.
- Manipur, formerly a princely state including parts of Burma, made the accession into India after Independence, but was only made a full-fledged State in 1972.
- The resentment over the “forceful” inclusion into India and delay in granting statehood led to the rise of various insurgent movements.
- The problem was intensified after Manipur was declared a ‘distubed area’ in 1980, under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives sweeping powers to the military and has led to excesses.
Roots of the Kuki insurgency in Manipur
- The roots of the Kuki insurgency lie in conflicts of ethnic identity.
- First was the demand for self-determination solely for groups belonging to their ethnic fabric, meaning the dream to form a Kukiland which includes Kuki inhabited regions of Myanmar, Manipur, Assam and Mizoram.
- The second reason for the kuki insurgency lies in the inter-community conflicts between the Kukis and the Nagas in Manipur.
- At present, the demand has come to the formulation of an independent district—Kukiland Territorial Council within the purview of the Indian constitution, modelling the Bodoland Territorial Council, which was formed under the sixth schedule of the Constitution, after insurgent groups in Assam signed an agreement with their State government.
- The Kuki-Naga conflict was started over securing identity and land as some Kuki inhabited areas coincided with Naga inhabited areas.
Where do the Kukis stand today?
- While the SoO was signed in 2005, insurgent activities like explosions, extortion in the form of tax collection, arms and drug trade and economic blockades still continue, often under the radar.
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