We Manipuris must not fall into the rickety trap. What is happening is not a Kuki versus Meitei clash. It is deeper design of the Indian military establishment and its oiled monster hardware matrix fulfilling the task.
By Yoihenba Ningthouja
The Indian State has created a monster in its attempt to finish off insurgency in Manipur. And the monster is the Kuki militants fed, nurtured, groomed, sheltered and armed by the IGAR South, Mantripukhri. The present violence is closely connected with the way how the Indian military hardware has operated in Manipur to contain and finish-off valley based Manipuri insurgents. It all began by identifying a mercenary that the Indian military establishment including the para-military forces like the Assam Rifles could use to achieve its objective. And they found it in the Kukis who had served as mercenaries to different agencies since the early part of history.
The colonial British were the first to use the Kuki, a homeless migratory tribe with shifting loyalty, either as porter or mercenary, way back in the 18th century, to rein in rebellious tribes such as the Lushais and the Nagas. British together with the Manipur sovereigns used Kuki mercenaries in the Lushai and the Naga Hills expeditions. However, the British policy to establish a Kuki regiment just like the Gorkha Rifles was put to an end once the Kukis rebelled against Labour Corps recruitment in Manipur during the World War I (Kuki intellectuals love to call it Anglo-Kuki War). While the Gorkhas were known for their loyalty, discipline and bravery, Kuki indiscipline and disloyalty vexed the British, and thus shelved the proposal to create a Kuki regiment.
In contemporary times, the Indian State found a mercenary in the Kukis, first of all to combat the Naga insurgents and then, the valley based insurgents. During the bloody, Kuki-Naga ethnic clash (1991–1997), Indian State forces supplied arms and ammunitions to the Kukis with its keen eyes of using them as weapons in its counter insurgency operations. Once the Government of India entered into a ceasefire agreement with NSCN-IM and other Naga outfits, the Indian military, especially the Assam Rifles, could buy the loyalty of the Kuki and used them in subsequent operations against the valley based insurgent groups. And undeniably, it has been successful.
Since, the signing of the SoO pact since 2008, the phenomenon has increased all the more for every observer to see bare-through. The combined forces of the Indian military and Kuki militants were able to sanitise the valley based insurgent groups literally from the soil of Manipur starting from South and South-west regions of the state. Beyond the military turf, the Assam Rifles has allowed the Kukis takeover business in Moreh, Churachandpur and other areas leading to ethnicisation of trade and commerce. For example, SoO signatories such as Kuki National Army (KNA) and United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF) are at Moreh town instead of staying at designated camps such as at Chilep, Tengnoupal District Headquarter (for KNA) and at Chandel District (for UKLF) with full knowledge of the Assam Rifles. While KNA set up its camp at Moreh Ward No.1, the camp of UKLF is at Moreh is at S. Moljol Village, opposite to Chavangphai Assam Rifles Camp, Moreh. Both the SoO bound outfits are freely moving in and around the Moreh with arms, extorting money from businessman and public as well as indulging in kidnapping and demanding ransom very frequently. At Haolenphai Village, around 3 Km from Moreh town, around 70 armed cadres of the People’s Democratic Front (PDF), Myanmar, a foreign non-SoO signatory militant 2 outfit is stationed with the full knowledge of Assam Rifles. KNA is training the PDF cadres at Sahei Village and B. Bongjang Village with full knowledge of the Assam Rifles. Furthermore, the Assam Rifles has created the conducive environment to seep in Kuki migrants from Myanmar and allow illegal poppy cultivation in encroached areas. While Kuki frontal organisation like the Kuki Students’ Organisation physically transports the illegal Kuki migrants from Myanmar, their Aadhar and other related identity documents are prepared by Autonomous District Council at the Behest of Hills Tribal Council, Moreh. It is more or less the same phenomena in other Kuki dominated districts of Manipur where different Kuki frontal organisations undertake the task. Furthermore, through narco-trade, Kuki militants are able to buy sophisticated weapons and arm the Kuki civilians and illegal migrants. Assam Rifles play a key role even in this arms-trade.
Since, May 3rd 2023, reports have been pouring in that the Assam Rifles are mute spectators when Kuki militants torched Meitei houses, prevent Manipuri volunteers to ward off Kuki militants. For example, the burning down of the houses in Serou and is done by the armed cadres of UKLF stationed at the non-designated camp of Nazareth Village established by the Assam Rifles at Khambathel around 1/2 km from Sugnu Bazar. The burning down of the whole village of Tangjeng Wangma Ahallup under Kumbi AC was also carried out by The Armed Kuki militants coming in two Boleros that passed through various Assam Rifle posts. This is the same story in Gwaltabi, Sanasabi, Awang Sekmai, Dolaithabi, Sabungkhok Khnonou. Torching of the Meitei houses by Kuki militants occurred right under the nose of the Assam Rifles. There has not been a single instance in which the Assam Rifles stopped the drug-boosted armed Kuki civilians, migrants and militants in their rampaging acts of torching Meitei houses and assaulting the helpless Meitei civilians right in front of their eyes. Once again, the Assam Rifles has the full knowledge.
Now the question is: Why do the Assam Rifles allow this method madness to continue? In other words, why is India in its attempt to finish off valley-based insurgents allowing Kuki militants to target the Meitei civilians? The answer is simple. As stated above it is to finish insurgency in Manipur. Nevertheless, this is an unethical Indian military policy once its mercenary starts targeting the civil population. This military hardware can be corrupted anytime and malfunction harming India’s national security in the long run. For the moment, India must be responsible for its attempt of turning this narco-terrorism into a communal or people-people clash. And we Manipuris must not fall into the rickety trap. To conclude, what is happening is not a Kuki versus Meitei clash. It is deeper design of the Indian military establishment and its oiled monster hardware matrix fulfilling the task.
(Yoihenba Ningthouja is Convenor of Indigenous People’s Front, Manipur)