An Open Letter to United Naga Council, Manipur


This is not an official rejoinder to your press release dated 2nd February 2024, but treat it as a heart felt response from a Kuki-Zo volunteer. You have given us a warning citing some of the issues that you assert have hurt you. Now, lets look at the origin of this conflict. It started with Meiteis demanding ST status which we tribals (both Naga and Kuki-Zo) were against it since it would put us at a great disadvantage vis-a-vis Meiteis. So, after deliberations, our apex tribal student’s body ATSUM called for a mass protest. While that protest happened in all hill areas, problems started in Lamka after volunteers who had returned from the town to the periphery villages were assaulted by the Meiteis. One thing led to another and by evening, Meiteis selectively targeted Kuki-Zo in Imphal and the savagery was there for all to see. Given the fact that we were all trying to fight together for tribal rights, it was logical that Manipur Nagas should have stood by our side and sent strong messages against Meiteis if they would escalate the voilence. But what did you all do except for your stoic silence. Its like two brothers going to fight together against a vicious neigbour but one suddenly changing stance and deciding to be ‘neutral’ when the neighbour reacted violently. If there ever was one community that can feel grieved against your betrayal, it is the Kuki Zo.

Secondly, the case of the burning of a Liangmai house in Leimakhong is blown out of proportion. Please remember that the said house caught fire during retaliatory burning of Meitei houses. Moreover, since the occupants were Meiteis, no body had the time to research the owner of the house at the heat of the moment. We were threatened to pay Rs. 20 Lakhs which was not only a heavy sum at a time such as this and that too for a house which didn’t deserve that high amount. But we complied not wanting to grieve the family further. Our Liangmai brothers should have realised that we were fighting for our common future instead of trying to act vengeful.

Thirdly, with regard to the harassing of a Naga driver, the act of the Kuki underground was condemnable. Yet, it is a given that all insurgent groups collect taxes in their respective regions and this menace is as prevalent in Kuki areas as it is in Naga areas. The blank firing case is another unfortunate episode for which actions of such reckless jackasses need no defending. However, four of our Kuki civilians were butchered deep inside Ukhrul district. Not to forget the burning of villages within Ukhrul district. The Meiteis cannot reach there without crossing many Tangkhul areas, and a certain Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front was also involved in the Killing. Did we threaten any Naga living nearby because of that? Is the Killing of Kukis justified?

What about the safe passages that Meitei insurgents from Burma are getting via Ukhrul? Do you all understand that we also can get hurt? That too for fighting alone for something we started together? Or were we lured to a trap? We know that Meiteis are trying their best to draw you all in the conflict and are waiting for us to make mistakes. Therefore, we didn’t even react to the killing of Kukis in Ukhul even though it has hurt us. Though much grieved, we also remember the Naga individuals who gave us shelter in Imphal on those unforgettable nights, and those who assisted us tremendously by tending to our injured; those contributing sacricial reliefs especially from Senapati and Tamenglong districts. We also can’t forget the help that Nagaland Nagas rendered to us. We shall remember them. Yet, at such difficult times, a warning letter from UNC is very unwarranted.

In the initial days of the war, our leaders approached you to join hands together. Your response was that you will get back to us but that day never came. You all have been fighting for Greater Nagalim which was to carve out portions of Manipur. Looking at your attitude in this war, those high sounding shibboleths of the Naga national workers from the South seem all an eye wash. If claimants to hill districts is a concern, tribal Christians can surely chalk out such issues in a give-and-take manner since we live in contiguous areas. The British opened sub-divisions after our surrender in the Kuki Uprising 1917-19, and the headquarters were placed in your villages for fear of disturbance if placed in Kuki villages. That doesn’t mean that all hill areas belong to you. We wouldn’t have fought the British for almost 3 years if we were not defending our land, and as much as it belongs to you, it also belongs to us. Each village was an independent entity and didn’t belong to any particular tribe.

You know well that the greatest hindrance to your political dream is the Meiteis with their avowed pledge to defend Manipur’s territorial integrity. Today, if our churches can be burnt, one day, yours can be burnt too. Your silence and ‘neutrality’ in this conflict shows that you are preferring short term benefit for the cost of perpetual subjugation. Some of the influential ones among you even seem to be consigning themselves to a future with their Meitei ‘brothers’.

Meitei have 40 MLAs in an Assembly of 60; they control all the state machineries. Our foolish leaders gave them a foothold in Lamka, Kangpokpi and Moreh. Now, via the ST status, they want access to all our land. With the kind of financial clout they have, in few years they will finish buying all our land, including ‘Naga Hills’ in Manipur. There will be no reservation in the state and they will eat up all tribal jobs in the centre. Infact, Kuki-Zo from Lamka might still be able to compete with Meiteis but what about us Kuki-Zo and Nagas from Kangpokpi, Chandel, Tamenglong, Tengnoupal, Ukhrul? Do we stand a chance? What then explains such cloudy vision from your leadership? Has the safety of your homes in Imphal become the most important political vison?

As for us, we are done living under the domination and subjugation of the Meiteis. We don't know whether we will win or lose, but atleast our grand childrens will be proud that we fought with all our might with our heads held high instead of bowing to a barbaric and savage civilisation. They might have all the state machineries but we have the will, a desire to be free. We leave it to you to choose your path but as for us, we will never again barter our dignity with pigs and compensations! Lastly, please remember that though we are fighting alone, we are still fighting on our(Naga and Kuki-Zo) behalf. Our victory will be your victory and our loss will be your loss. If we lose, know that you are the next target of the Meiteis. The least you can do is to atleast give us moral support.

Yours sincerely,

David Kuki,
A Kuki Village Volunteer

Courtesy: Thingkho le Malcha [06 March 2024]

*The views and opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Khalvontawi Online.


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