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History of the Kuki Insurgency in Manipur


Just before the Assembly Elections started in Manipur on February 28, all insurgent groups associated with the Kuki tribes in Manipur said they will vote for the BJP. This comes days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that his party will end the Kuki insurgency problem in five years, if it is voted to power for the second time


GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:
  1. Who are the Kukis? 
  2. What led to the Kuki insurgencies in Manipur? 

Who are the Kukis? 

  • The Kukis are an ethnic group including multiple tribes originally inhabiting the North-Eastern states of India such as Manipur, Mizoram and Assam; parts of Burma (now Myanmar), and Sylhet district and Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh.
  • While Kuki is not a term coined by the ethnic group itself, the tribes associated with it came to be generically called Kuki under colonial rule. 
  • In Manipur, the various Kuki tribes, living mainly in the hills, currently make up 30% of the total 28.5 lakh population of the State.
  • While Churachandpur is their main stronghold, they also have a sizable population in Chandel, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal and Senapati districts. 
  • The rest of the population of Manipur is made up mainly of two other ethnic groups — the Meiteis or non-tribal, Vaishnavite Hindus who live in the valley region of Manipur, and the Naga tribes, historically at loggerheads with the Kukis, also living in the hilly areas of the State. 
  • Of the 60 seats in the Manipur Assembly, 40 are held by Meiteis and the rest 20 seats are held by Kukis and Nagas.

What led to the Kuki insurgencies in Manipur? 

  • The Kuki insurgent groups have been under Suspension of Operation (SoO) since 2005, when they signed an agreement for the same with the Indian Army.
  • Later, in 2008, the groups entered a tripartite agreement with the State government of Manipur and the UPA led Central government under former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to temporarily suspend their operations and give political dialogue a chance. 
  • Manipur, formerly a princely state including parts of Burma, made the accession into India after Independence, but was only made a full-fledged State in 1972.
  • The resentment over the “forceful” inclusion into India and delay in granting statehood led to the rise of various insurgent movements.
  • The problem was intensified after Manipur was declared a ‘distubed area’ in 1980, under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives sweeping powers to the military and has led to excesses. 
Roots of Kuki militancy
  • The roots of Kuki militancy lie in conflicts of ethnic identity.
    • The demand for self-determination solely for groups belonging to their ethnic fabric, meaning the dream to form a Kukiland which includes Kuki inhabited regions of Myanmar, Manipur, Assam and Mizoram.
    • The inter-community conflicts between the Kukis and the Nagas in Manipur. 
  • The Kuki insurgency in Manipur grew in real terms in the 1980s and after the Kuki-Naga conflicts of the 1990s.
  • This is when the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and its armed wing Kuki National Army (KNA) were formed.
  • The community could not shed internal differences between tribes and take a single line of action.
    • While some militant Kuki outfits demanded Kukiland, including parts which are not in India, some demanded Kukiland within India. 
Present Situation
  • The demand has come to the formulation of an independent district—Kukiland Territorial Council within the purview of the Indian constitution, modelling the Bodoland Territorial Council, which was formed under the sixth schedule of the Constitution, after insurgent groups in Assam signed an agreement with their State government. 
  • The Kuki-Naga conflict was started over securing identity and land as some Kuki inhabited areas coincided with Naga inhabited areas.
  • Wanting to dominate trade and cultural activities in those areas the two communities often engaged in violent standoffs, with villages being torched, civilians killed and so on.
  • Even though clashes have reduced in recent decades, tensions between the two ethnic groups still exist.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023