By: Gitchandra Oinam
India has witnessed a massive surge in violence in Manipur since May this year owing to a long-standing ethnic conflict and narco terrorism there. On May 3, violence erupted in parts of Churachandpur in Manipur following a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ that was carried out in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. So far, more than 180 people have lost their lives and 27 persons missing, several thousands were injured and 60,000 homeless.
First wave of Chin Kuki exodus took place when the students uprising for pro democracy movement erupted against military junta in Myanmar and gathered momentum in 1987, hundreds of Myanmar students, political dissidents and people began to take shelters in India’s frontier states like Manipur. The Indian Embassy in Yengon encourage Myanmar’s activists and people to cross into India, promising shelter and support their pro democratic movement. India was one of the first Myanmar’s neighbours to condemn the military repression against pro democracy activists during nationwide uprising. Since then, Myanmar people infiltrated uninterruptedly in Manipur taking advantage of GoI support and unguarded 398 km long border with Myanmar to its south and east. Sooner Naga Kuki ethnic clashes took placed for control of land. During Naga Kuki ethnic clashes in 1991-93, Kuki refugees filtrated in Manipur and took armed and fights against Naga. Tengnoupal District was predominately settled by Naga; however, Kuki could dominate Moreh border town of Indo Myanmar in Tengnoupal district after Naga Kuki ethnic clashes displacing Anal, Maring, Meitei and Tamil (1995). Since then, Kuki insurgency gained momentum, with the Kuki arming them against Naga.
Second wave of Chin Kuki exodus in Manipur occurs after the military coup in Feb 2021 in neighbouring Myanmar that made 50 thousands of Chin kuki refugees flocking into the Northeastern states mainly in Mizoram, Manipur further migrated to Assam, Tripura and Nagaland. UNHCR reports that there are about 40,150 Chin refugees in Mizoram and 8,250 in Manipur (most of them are arm militants), with an additional 5,092 seeking registration with UNHCR in New Delhi. 2178 newly registered Myanmar refugees entered in Manipur disappeared from rehabilitation centre opened by state government and they have established 41 Myanmar villages in Tengnoupal, Chandel, Kamjong and Churachandpur districts of Manipur. Nonstop lending of illegal migrants occur daily and entered more than 1000 armed Myanmar militants namely PDF and KNA in Moreh town of Tengnoupal district, Lajang, New Samtal, Molchan, Dingpi of Chandel district recently.
The assimilation of the Chin Kuki refugees, those who have arrived from Myanmar, with the Kukis has further complicated the inter-community relationship and caused resentment to the Meiteis and the Nagas. Meitei see it as a move by the Kukis to growing supersede the indigenous population and threatening to territorial integrity of Manipur. Like the Mizos, the Chin and Kukis belong to the racial stock of Tibeto-Mongoloid. They share similar linguistic and cultural identities and hence differentiating the Chins from the Kukis of Manipur is tough.
Since the 2000s, the Kukis have been demanding a separate Kuki land be carved out of the five hill districts-Churachandpur, Pherzawl, Chandel, Kangpokpi and Tangnoupal. Kuki support illegal Myanmar migrants to develop strength in their struggle for separate administration as transitional measures for their dream plan of Chin Kuki Zo sovereign state curving out of Myanmar, Bangladesh and India
The Chin state, one of the most insurgent affected states of Myanmar, shares its boundary with Mizoram and Manipur. A Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar allows citizens living in an area within 16 km in either side of the borders to travel up to 16-km with border pass and stay up to two weeks per visit. The Kukis are letting in migrants without informing the competing authority.
Huge demography changes had occurred in the state of Manipur. Christian population in Manipur in the year 1911 is 0.04% only however, it has increased to 19.46 % in the year 1961 census. Christian population increases to 41.29 in 2011 census. Hindu population was 57% in 1991 census however, declined to 52% in the year 2001 census. Hindu population was sharp declined to 41.4% in the year 2011. Sooner Christian population will overtake Hindu population in 2021-31 censuses in Manipur. Hindu in Manipur has sense of insecurity to the drastic changes of demography. Alarming decreased of Hindu population is due to illegal migrations from Myanmar. Estimated account of 4 lakhs illegal migrants is residing in Manipur which may be pushed back once NRC is implemented in Manipur.
Presently, Indo Myanmar border fencing has been completed 10 kms only out of 398 km. Assam Riffles taking responsibility to guard Indo Myanmar border of Manipur and counter insurgency operation as well, however, failed to guard border and exodus of Myanmar illegal migrant occurs continuously. Beside, border town #Moreh is out of controlled. Myanmar base Chi Kuki militants are openly operating in Moreh town. No Meitei house is left to loot and burn, all are burnt down. State commando and central RAF are not allowed to enter in Moreh by local people to enforce law and order but why SF can’t enter? Why not airdrop the security personals in case of road blockade or unable to clear road? What will happen in case of Chinese external aggression? Question arises how Meitei houses in #Torbung villages were burnt in from of 9AR camp posted at Kangvai, Churachandpur? How Meitei villages were burnt in front of 37 AR gate in #Serou and #Sugnu area of Kakching district? How Meitei villages in #Phayeng were burnt in front of 22AR gate? Why Assam riffles blocking road and disturbing when state police commando do their emergency duty at foot hills? This is the reason why violence continues for 83 days or ethnic violence was ended on 6th day of the violence. Fresh violence was occurred only after 10 days of remaining silent in the state.
Once illegal Myanmar Chin Kuki entered in Manipur they have never plan to return to Myanmar knowing the benefits of minority card, Christian card and ST card in various government programmes and job in India. As they belong to the scheduled tribe, they enjoy more privilege than the people live in the valleys. Illegal migrant communities in Manipur are getting more rights and privileges than the indigenous tribes. Beside, Kuki tribe is blaming Meitei for taking over the hills, if the Meiteis are included in ST list. Kuki consider that hills belong to their ancestors and Meitei are obstructing to their plan for Kuki land.
For the Meiteis, the Kukis are outlanders who came to the state in the 18th and 19th centuries and encroached upon their ancestral lands (https://www.imphaltimes.com/guest-column/item/25325-who-are-kuki-in-manipur-whether-kuki-s-demand-for-home-land-in-manipur-is-reasonable). Mount Koubru and its surroundings are considered to be the first site where the Meitei, indigenous people of Manipur, began to settle down before they dispersed and came to the valleys. The United Naga Council (UNC), an apex body of various Naga groups representing the Nagas living in the hills of Manipur, has also expressed concern about the Kukis giving assistance to the Chins to settle down in the hills.
In their anti India memorandum to the US President, PM of Israel and United Nation, World Kuki Zo Intellectual Council (WKZIC) mentioned the Name, Rank, Regiment or Battalion and area of posting of all Meitei officers of the Indian Army. Kuki Student organisation (KSO) had earlier committed the same act of defense secrecy leak. World Kuki Zo Intellectual Council (WKZIC) referred a state government banned book called “the complexity of tribal land rights and conflict in Manipur written by Retired Brig. Sushil Kumar Sharma mentioning “total area the Manipur Merger Agreement covered was a territory of 700 square miles. No merger of the tribal chiefs and their territories.” The original merger agreement document does not mention actual geographical area however, the Central Gazette specifically reproduces the “Manipur Merger Agreement” at page No 232viz. appendix XXXI and the said Government of India publication further records at page No.295 thereof, that during the time of merger vide Merger Agreement date 15/10/1949, Manipur had 8620 square miles of area and total population of 5, 12,000.
Further, World Kuki Zo Intellectual Council (WKZIC) alleges that Kuki villages paid Hill house tax to the British from1800 till India got independent but not to Meitei. The fact is that Standing order of the President Manipur State Durbar in his order No 9 of 09/09/1933 declared that a Kuki village having 29 houses shall pay house tax of Rs 6/- per annum. Standing order of PMSD- T.A. Sharp in his order no 2 of 23/07/1941 declared that the Kuki shall obtain prior permission from the chief of Naga village for settlement and pay house tax to the Naga chief. After Maharaja left the Presidentship of Manipur State Durbar in favor of Vice President in 1916, and after Kuki rebellion (1917-19), there was a reorganization of the administration of hills area of Manipur. Under the revise Rules the President (former Vice President ) of the Manipur State Durbar was given power equivalent to District Magistrate and the President (former vice President) assisted by the sub divisional officers were authorized to rule the hills area of Manipur on behalf of the Maharaja of Manipur in accordance with the rules approved by Chief Commissioner of Assam.
World Kuki Zo Intellectual Council (WKZIC) also mentioned that barter trade between Meitei and Kuki like supply of tobacco by Meitei in exchange of timbers and bamboo are called tax paid by Meitei to Kukis.
World Kuki Zo Intellectual Council (WKZIC) further mentioned in the memorandum about Kuki contribution as freedom Fighters in INA. The fact is that during the World War, combined Japanese and INA army advanced towards Myanmar and Manipur and hoisted INA flag at Moirang. INA recruited local non combat volunteers to get logistic support and guide. Kuki in Myanmar and Manipur joined in INA non combat volunteers. INA does not provide military training and gun to local Kukis. They are simply hired for loaders; however, some of local Kuki, Meitei and Naga volunteers get the honour of “freedom fighter” after India got Independence. Did Kuki fired any gun or killed any British soldier as a volunteer of INA? No official record was found for INA Kuki volunteers firing gun and killing British soldier.
The established politico territorial status of Manipur as an Asiatic power is testified by the numerous international treaty relations. Manipur had treaty relations with Pongs (the Shans), The Avas, the Ahoms, and the British. The Anglo Manipuri Treaty, 4 September 1762; the Treaty of Yandaboo, 28 February 1862 (with Burma); The Anglo Manipuri Treaty 1933; and the Kabo Valley agreement, 25 January 1834 (Manipur, Burama and British) can be mentioned. The agreement transfer of Kabo valley in the year 1834 (present Sagaing region of Myanmar) to Burma on the condition it paid 500 gold siccas annually. The Barak Treaty, August 1874 was another treaty that give international recognisaton to the territorial status of Manipur.
Khuraijam Athouba, the spokesperson of COCOMI, stated that the GoI’s treatment and handling of “armed Chin-Kuki Narco-Terrorist groups” violate the fundamental rights of the Indigenous Meitei Citizens of Manipur. If the Government of India (GoI) keeps engaging and legitimizing the “Chin-Kuki Narco-Terrorist groups” despites all the available evidences, the people of Manipur will defy everything to determine their own future and counter the emerging trends of violence in the state, said Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) spokesperson.
Pointing out that this treatment has legitimized their existence; COCOMI accused the Union government of not taking “concrete action” despite several evidences of violating the Suspension of Operations (SoO) ground rules by “Chin-Kuki Narco-Terrorist groups”.
“This is illegal”, said Athouba and asked if the GoI is deliberately supporting “Narco-Terrorism” in the region. He said that the Director of Intelligence Bureau reported 125,000 acres of hill areas under poppy cultivation and about 650 MT of opium are produced annually from Manipur hill areas under Kuki dominance. This has generated Rs 50 thousand crore to 65 thousand crore revenue generations annually. These areas are protected and managed by Armed Chin-Kuki Militants”.
As a result, “Manipur is emerging as the largest producer of Opium in the world and Chin-Kuki Narco-Terrorist are the primary actors and SoO groups are the key players which Government of India is politically legitimizing their illegal activities. This will have a direct impact on the youth of the nation, National Security and even more difficult situation with bigger South and South East Asian geopolitical ramification”.
“This is why COCOMI had raised the following slogans – “Suspension of Operation, a legal protection to Chin-Kuki narco-terrorist groups in Manipur. Suspension of Operation, a legal protection to strengthen Chin-Kuki narco-terrorist. Suspension of Operation, a policy breeding proxy army of the Indian Army (The Assam Rifles). Suspension of Operation, a failed India’s peace policy. Suspension of Operation, militarization of the region with ethnic armies.
Outbreak of this violence on 3 May 2023 is not about ST demand of Meitei but against the state government policy on 1) War on Drug- not allowing free drug transportation. Rs 1576 crores worth’s drug was busted by state govt. cutting supply chain of golden triangle now opening route to Mizoram highway. Daily drug and narcotic substances worth crores are arrested 2) stop poppy plantation- state govt. start destroying puppy plantation in Manipur.125, 000 acres of hill are under illegal poppy plantation. Once poppy plantation is done, soil can’t be used for other plantation for 10/15 years 3) Stop deforestation – govt. action plan for forestation preventing poppy plantation and developing new villages in the forest area. 4) Stop illegal migration – state govt. drive for checking illegal migration from borders and propose plan for NRC implementation 5) Eviction of encroachment areas of protected reserve forest. 6) For not allowing burnt and develop villages in small hills and around Imphal. 7) State govt. stand against Kuki land demand and separate administration 8) For not allowing free roam of SoO Kuki militants and illegal tax collection from public.
Presently, 32 Kuki Insurgent groups operating in Manipur, of which 25 are under tripartite SoO with the GoI and Manipur state government in 2008. Most of them are flown from Myanmar for involvement of arm rebellion in the name of pro democracy movement in Myanmar. Myanmar illegal migrants are actively involved in Manipur politics. 5 Kuki MLAs have close relations with Kuki militants groups out of ten Kuki MLAs. As many as 17 Kuki militant groups under the umbrella group of Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and 8 are under the United People’s Front (UPF). SoO has been extended for 12 months till 29 February 2024 under signed by Additional Secretary home (NE) GoI and Residence commissioner GoM. Dialogue between SoO Kuki militants and AK Mishra, special security advisor to GoI is under progress. SoO Kuki militants demanding Union Territory (UT) with legislative power where forest and land rights and seeking review of SoO point of agreement to abide by the Constitution of India, laws of the land, and territorial integrity of Manipur after Meitei Kuki communal violence took placed on 3rd may 2023.
Meanwhile in Mizoram, hundreds of people, including Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, openly support the Chin Kuki demand and participated in a rally in Aizawl to express solidarity with the Kuki-Zomi community in violence-hit Manipur. The rally was participated by Myanmar nationals and Chin Kuki refugees from Manipur. On May 27, Zoramthanga, the CM asked union home minister Amit Shah for ¹ 10 crore to support the displaced persons from Manipur. Mizoram currently has 12,301 IDPs from Manipur in 11 districts, with 13 relief camps in Aizawl district and 14 relief camps in Kolasib district.
In Myanmar, the EU provides over €18 million to respond to the dramatic escalation in needs following the military takeover of 2021. The funding will allow humanitarian partners to ensure the provision of life-saving support such as protection, food, shelter, healthcare and education, reads a press release of the European Commission. With this additional funding, EU humanitarian aid for Myanmar now totals over €68 million since 2021. Support for Rohingya refugees, their host communities, and disaster preparedness efforts in Bangladesh since the beginning of the Rohingya crisis in 2017 now stands at over €242 million. The EU has been providing humanitarian aid to people in Myanmar since 1994.
The U.S. Congress has also authorizing $136 million funding for pro-democracy groups and humanitarian aid with the BURMA Act of 2022. However most of pro democratic leaders flew to Manipur and Mizoram and demanding Kuki land, taking opportunities of the Manipur violence and loopholes of state govt. machineries and centre unstable policy. US Institute of Peace suggested to Washington DC for a constructive next step would be congressional engagement with India’s parliament to better understand the needs of refugees and prospects for cross-border aid on India PM Narenda Modi visit to US. Modi’s visit to Washington few week ago marks an opportunity to encourage a greater Indian role in resolving Myanmar’s humanitarian and political crisis. United States to engage India through a multi-pronged approach grounded in shared values and interests. Further US IP allege that India was the third-largest supplier of arms to Myanmar before the coup, In March 2023, rights groups Amnesty International and Global Witness further identified an Indian company and fuel terminal involved in the sale of jet fuel to the Junta, which has used airstrikes to terrorize the civilian population. The strike destroyed civilian shelters and medical facilities, forcing a renewed surge of hundreds of refugees. Local sources report that two bombs landed on the India side of the border, which New Delhi denies. US IP alleged that, these sales from Indian firms amount to $51 million in weapons and materiel for the Junta since February 2021. The Indian government refusal to allow access for U.N. agencies in the northeast unable refugees to register with UNHCR for protection from forced return. That refugee does not want to return to Myanmar again. With its history of border clashes, India knows the importance of having stable, peaceful neighbours. In an unprecedented fashion, Myanmar’s resistance movement is uniting ethnic minorities and Myanmar in the fight for a federal democracy claimed by US IP research project. Recently Myanmar national and Mizo arm smuggler gang was arrested by NIA in Mizoram while trying to transfer weapons to Myanmar arm rebels.
However, UN report says out of 1 billion dollar trade, Myanmar military imported more than 267 million USD worth of weapons and materials from entities in china, including state owned entities. Myanmar is also an essential node for Chinese expansion into the Indian Ocean, most notably through the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor’s pipelines and planned railroads from Yunnan Province to Kyaukpyu Port. China is already taking advantage of the post-coup landscape to increase its influence, pledging support to the SAC “no matter how the situation changes” while simultaneously stepping up engagement with its allies among the ethnic revolutionary organisations (EROs) of Chin State in Myanmar. Since the coup, China has launched a number of new infrastructure projects in Myanmar, transferred jets to the military, and reached a deal for Yunnan Province to provide the SAC with rice and fertilizer. In April, Indian officials confronted the SAC over possible Chinese intelligence facilities on Myanmar’s Coco Islands, which would provide new capabilities for monitoring naval bases and missile test sites on India’s eastern coastline. Chinese oil and gas pipeline, which run from #Rakhine coast to southern china were constructed in 2011 and began operation in July 2013. The 973 km pipeline passes through #Magwa and #Mandlay regions and Shan state to China’s Yunnan province. China and Myanmar had signed a defense agreement to protect the pipeline by China military in Myanmar. After PDF attack to Myanmar military guarding pipelines, Chinese troops were gathering in #Jiegao, opposite the Shan state border town of muse. Many Chinese soldiers and military trucks have arrived at the border, Economic Times report said.
Indo Myanmar development relations includes the #Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which is meant to extend from India down into Myanmar’s Rakhine State and the Indian Ocean. While the Indian-funded port of #Sittwe has begun operations, the planned 68-mile highway stretching through Chin State remains unfinished. Much of this area is in conflict and controlled by ethnic revolutionary organizations (ERO) and completion of the project will require negotiations with them. Chin Kuki militants want to get support from India for their struggle of autonomy in Myanmar to get clearance of India project in Myanmar Chin State.
After PM Modi US visit, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar met Myanmar’s junta leader U Than Swe, who is now their Foreign Minister, in Thailand raising issues concerning human and drug trafficking.. S. Jaishankar underlined the importance of ensuring peace and stability in our border areas. These have been seriously disturbed recently and any actions that aggravate the situation should be avoided. Flagged concerns about human and drug trafficking. S.Jaishanker, urged stronger cooperation among relevant parties for the early return of trafficked victims’. Jaishankar further said, “As an immediate neighbour, India is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Myanmar. Proposed people-centric initiatives aimed to address the pressing challenges.” He added that India will continue to support the transition of the government there from a military rule to democracy for bringing peace and stability in the region. Earlier this month, ASEAN leaders condemned the growing incidents of violence and mass massacre of civilians in Myanmar at a foreign ministers’ meeting of the bloc. ASEAN has asked Naypyitaw to adhere to the five-point peace plan, which the military rulers of Myanmar under Junta Chief Min Aung Hlaing, have rejected.
The Myanmar military ruled the country from 1962 to 2011; when the military implemented some democratic reforms that began a transition back to civilian rule. Prior to the coup Myanmar was governed by a power-sharing arrangement between the civilian government and the military, under the 2008 constitution. No military rules mean any more Myanmar. Myanmar has some 20 ethnic strong rebel armies that have fought each other as well as the country’s military for decades over their demands for autonomy, as well as for control of the lucrative drugs trade and natural resources in the country’s borderlands that fund the armed movements. Insurgent groups of Kachin Independent Army in Kachin State, the Rakhine (or Arakanese), Chin, and Rohingya ethnic minorities have fought against the government for self-determination in Rakhine State since the early 1950s. The region was a stronghold of the Red Flag Communist Party until its defeat by the Tatmadaw in 1978.
Myanmar has rewrite constitution three times. First Myanmar constitution was enacted in 1947; a second constitution was enacted in 1974. The country’s third constitution was published in September 2008 after a referendum, and came into force on 31 January 2011.
The Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) retain significant control of the government under the 2008 constitution. 25% of seats in the Parliament of Myanmar are reserved for serving military officers. The ministries of home, border affairs and defense have to be headed by a serving military officer . The military also appoints one of the country’s two vice presidents. Hence, the country’s civilian leaders have little influence over the security establishment. 2008 Myanmar constitution is hard to amend. Further, to amend some part of the constitution a referendum is necessary and more than half of eligible voters need to vote in favour of proposed changes.
On the 21st of May 2020, the national referendum on Myanmar’s constitutional amendments, already approved by Parliament, was put on hold. Amending Myanmar’s Constitution has been a topic of much debate since the formation of a National Convention in 1993, as it is a key for profound reform in the country. Despite the reforms however, it is clear that the Constitution is used as a means to ensure that the Myanmar army, the “Tatmadaw”, retains some of its powers during and after Myanmar’s political and economic transition. The positions of Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Defense and Minister of Border Affairs are also automatically attributed to members of the military. As a consequence, the Tatmadaw is responsible for the decision-making related to conflicts at the border areas of the country, such as in Rakhine, Kachin, Chin state etc.
India stand on Myanmar affairs must be very clear. India becomes a land of refugee trying to support pro democracy movement in Myanmar finally; it is affected to territorial integrity of Manipur, Tripura and Assam and threatens to India national security as well. Chin Kuki’s separate administration or Union Territory demand is just beginning for their objectives of complete independent state of Chin Kuki Zo curving out of Myanmar, Bangladesh and India. Most of the regions and states arm military groups in Myanmar want an independent country of their own entity. Myanmar democracy will take time to return unless arm pro democracy movement could defeat the military junta or completely suppressed by military Junta beside, rewrite of Myanmar constitution is highly recommended to bring a vibrant democracy in Myanmar or military coup will occur again even after democracy returned in Myanmar.
Clueless Violence in Manipur after second wave Myanmar Chin Kuki exodus
By: Gitchandra Oinam