The first two days of the violence in Manipur saw 90% of the deaths, especially of the Kukis along with arson, raping, and burning people alive.
While I share this, Manipur is on an Internet lockdown where the Supreme Court refuses to interfere with the order lifting the Internet ban in Manipur and asks the State to go to the High Court. If there was no Internet ban, perhaps all the horrific videos would surface on the Internet to reveal to India the scenes of terror in Manipur.
The horrific video that emerged now of an attack on a Kuki girl, being paraded naked by the Meiteis is stirring outrage across the nation. “The incident in the video happened way back on the 4th of May, 2023. While an FIR was filed, the police chose to ignore it until the cat was let out of the bag for all the world to see. This proves the plight of the KukiZo tribes,” expressed one Kuki in frustration.
Supreme Court directs Union and State governments to take steps against the videos of women being stripped and paraded in Manipur. CJI DY Chandrachud remarks, “We will give a little time for the government to take action otherwise we will step in.”
During the unrest in the Indian state of Manipur, an archbishop reported that within the initial 36 hours of the violent wave in May, approximately 249 churches belonging to the Kukis were demolished.
The Kukis claim that 90% of the violence erupted on the first two days, May 3rd and 4th. Many children and families were burned alive, their homes destroyed, Kuki girls raped, and scores of Kukis managed to flee to different states in India for refuge.
The violence was triggered after the High Court’s directive to the Manipur Government to submit its recommendation on the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list. The tribals organized a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ organized by the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) in the ten Hill Districts of Manipur on 3 May 2023. While the protest marches across the State started peacefully, the Kukis say that the Meiteis started to attack their settlements. There was retaliation and clashes after this which increased to genocidal proportions.
During the nefarious raging violence, Kuki lady, Kim Haokip said that while some just managed to grab their documents and run for their lives, some of them did not even have time to take their documents. This puts them in a very vulnerable position. It is especially disturbing because the Meiteis are now taunting the Kukis telling them they are immigrants and to go back to Burma.
When I asked a Kuki if things had ever been this bad before in Manipur, he did exclaim in trepidation, “It’s never been this bad!” This time, the Kukis felt they were targeted directly in their own state and for the first time felt so unsafe that thousands had to flee. Even the Senior BJP MLA Paolienlal Hoakip calls Manipur violence” targeted ethnic cleansing,” and openly admitted that the Kukis were the victims.
A Kuki, Siam Phaipi says passionately that the ones who left could never coexist with the Meiteis and that their very name sends shivers down their spines. He voiced firmly he would never go back to Manipur because he felt so unsafe.
The May 3, 2023 court declaration led to an ethnic “genocide” in the north-eastern state of Manipur, India, pitting the Meitei people, who constitute the majority residing in the Imphal Valley, against the tribal community from the neighboring hills, including the Kuki people.
Kukis are Southeast Asian people living in the Mizo (formerly Lushai) Hills on the border between India and Myanmar (Burma). The Meiteis migrated from South West China, defeated the earlier settlers like Poireiton, and established themselves in the Imphal valley (Parratt, 2005: 2, 12, 22).
Tragically, as of July 4, the violence has resulted in the loss of 142 lives, leaving over 300 others wounded. Furthermore, approximately 54,488 people have been internally displaced as of the same date, seeking refuge from the turmoil.
It is evident that the Kukis are the victims because it is their settlements, churches, and mostly their people who were targeted. It is the Kukis who are fleeing so this illustrates the victim and the aggressor. There are videos revealing the Manipur State Police Commandos accompanying the Meiteis who set out to attack the Kukis driving to their settlements.
To tell the Kukis to coexist with the Meiteis when they are still raw from the wounds of the massacre of “ethnic cleansing” without dealing with their aggressors and putting them behind bars sounds shallow and hollow to them. You can never tell a victim to get back into the same house of abuse because they need closure and justice to feel safe again. At this time, they don’t need lectures from the outside world.
This attack seemed drummed on by Chief Minister Biren Singh who nonchalantly closed his eyes and actually came on Twitter to mock a Kuki asking him if he was from Burma. When the chief minister trolls his own people, Kukis, in his state, this reveals why so many Kukis were easily ravaged and killed. The Kukis took to Twitter to say, “This is our CM. After 100 plus deaths, he came to Twitter and taunted us.” The chief minister is refusing to resign and the prime minister remains silent about the carnage.
It is not possible to coexist without the roots being addressed and allowed to heal. The only solution is to make two states with a separate chief minister who would be fair to the Kukis and give them justice. While Kukis and tribals are approximately 40% of Manipur, the Meiteis are 54% with only 20 MLA representing the Nagas and Kukis and all the rest are Meiteis, and this imbalanced equation moves in favor of the Meiteis. There are about 3 lakh Kukis, 15 lakh Meiteis and around 7-8 lakh Nagas in Manipur.
The attempt at “ethnic cleansing” of the Kukis resurged an old demand when in Kangpokpi district in the Manipur hills, crowds thronged invoking the old Kuki demand for a separate state. For decades, the struggle for a separate homeland for Kukis has raised an armed insurgency in these hills. Scholar Seikhogin Haokip describes it as the “Kuki autonomy movement” or a battle for self-rule within the contours of the Indian Constitution, a state within a state with autonomy and protections under the Sixth Schedule .
The campaign to slander the Kukis is triggered by forces who want trouble in India. India must not forget that the Kukis also participated in various wars and rebellions against British colonial rule, they also fought alongside the Manipuri king in the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 and later staged a series of uprisings known as the Kuki Rebellion from 1917 to 1919.
While some of the Meiteis may mock them calling them outsiders and telling them to go back, they must not forget how the Kukis also helped the Meiteis to fight their battles as the Kukis were a warrior tribe of brave strong, and skilled warriors. Indians must not forget how the Kukis fought the ‘War of Independence” to fight the British in 1917. The 1917-’19 Anglo-Kuki War of Independence was one of the biggest uprisings by the tribe against the colonial power.
One must not forget our fearless Kuki Hero of India, Chengjapao Doungel, born in Sadar Hills, a hamlet in Manipur, and with his help, they managed to win the war against the British. They are the great warriors who fought for India. Going back in time, it was often the Kukis that helped the Meiteis to fight their wars because Kukis were originally a fierce warrior tribe, loyal, faithful, brave, and ethical.
This is the time India must stand for them, give them safety, protection, and dignity and not allow the selfish games of politicians to take root in Manipur. Speak for the Kukis. There are around 3 lakh Kukis in Manipur, not too big a number and if the government cannot keep them safe, the nation has failed the Kukis miserably.