By: Mr. Pakinrichapbo (Advocate)
It is a well known fact that the driving force responsible for shaping the Naga-Kuki relations in Manipur owes to the uncompromising policies followed by their underground nationalists. Before I make my arguments on how the underground nationalists play a major role in determining Naga Kuki relations, first-time followers and observers ought to know the categories of nationalists within these ethnic groups.
Underground Nationalists and their roles:
The quick militarization of their nationalism leads to the rise of the underground nationalists, who now hold the reins to the future of both ethnic groups unless their power is checked by the general mass which is unlikely to be happening. These underground nationalists refer to the militants serving full time in the armed political groups. The Naga-Kuki relations post militarization of their nationalism always depend on the policies pursued by the underground nationalist, it means the nature of relation the common Nagas and Kukis shares, depends on the underground nationalists, much have not changed till today. To save time and space, this writer would not present the historical background leading to the militarization of Naga and Kuki ethnic nationalism, all the same, the readers ought to make historical note that the impact created by militarization of ethnic nationalism continues to last in their present relations and it appears the current uncompromising political behaviour of nationalists and their policies would let the history repeat itself again in Manipur unless the general masses muster up the courage and take precautionary measures to avoid giving unquestionable power to militants to decide their future by blindly supporting their policies like the civil organizations did in the past and even now.
Over ground Nationalists and their roles:
Over ground nationalist categories cover all the civilians from different backgrounds who staunchly support the political goals propagated by their respective armed political groups. The over ground nationalists, particularly from civil society organizations and religious organizations, had largely played the role of peacemaker in the past making limited progress as more than a century old conflicts remain unsettled and the chances of another clash in the future are still looming in the dark shadow of ethnic intrigues. Over ground nationalists groups from both parties have to try harder this time to break the impasse to build a secure future for all.
Ethnic debate post – Sahnit-Ni:
The war of words between Naga and Kuki nationalists both underground and overground post- Sahnit Ni observation from 11th -13th Sept. 2018 was really an eye opener with numerous revelations from both party. The disappointment was when several accusations claiming to be based on records hurled at each other was not countered precisely points by points to disprove the particular accusations by either of the party but the debate mostly centred on being the ancestral owners of the lands in the hills by producing their evidence derived from their own historical source. The matter of accusations and counter-accusations will be dealt with in details some other time.
Naga Nationalists argument as it is:
To understand Naga Nationalists argument, the natural critics of Naga Nationalism ought to critically analyse the nationalists’ stand that the New Kukis distinct from Old Kukis came and settle in their ancestral lands with their permission with certain conditions, in some case after uprooting earlier settlements and also planted by the Colonial British. The new Kuki groups began to name their new settlements within their territories in their own dialect. Moving forward top underground Naga Nationalist leaders could not compromise on such historical facts, also feel Kukis help are not required in Naga cause and hold the views that the Kukis were largely responsible for the conflicts by plotting with Central Government intelligence agencies to finish NSCN IM and to capture strategic Moreh town in Khurmi region of Nagalim.
Kuki Nationalists response to Naga Nationalist argument:
The Kuki Nationalists would respond by quoting Royal Chronicles of Meitei Kings to prove that they are ancient settlers of Manipur hills, that the Nagas were slaves of Kukis. The past atrocities committed by the primitive Kuki Chiefs against Naga villages are the fault of those villages for refusing to obey their Kuki masters. Our peaceful Kuki brothers and sisters ought to rethink if such boastful statement can bring peace in the long run.
Kuki Nationalists argument as it is:
The Kuki nationalists still argue that Kukis were the master/ruler of entire Manipur hills, that Nagas as subjects of Kukis have no right to question their masters. That NSCN IM committed genocide against Kukis because of their past dominance and to grab their ancestral lands.
Naga Nationalists response to Kuki Nationalist argument:
The Naga nationalists argues that both sides have equally suffered during the 1992-97 conflicts, further claiming the Kukis refused to reciprocate even after the olive branch was offered on several occasions for reconciliation and such baseless accusation must stop for the sake of communal harmony.
What to expect from the uncompromising nationalists:
We cannot expect permanent peace from the current uncompromising nationalists but one can hope that in the near future with changes of leadership and their policies, the common Nagas and Kukis may find everlasting peace. Until such time comes, the public have to be more vigilant in giving free hand to underground nationalists and communal state politicians if they truly favour peace.