GUWAHATI: In the Northeast, nothing is more conflicting than the different sense of history that each community fiercely claims to be true.
One such tipping point was reached in Manipur among not just communities but also the state government over memorial stones commemorating the Anglo-Kuki uprising of 1917-19. The contentious words used by the Kukis on the memorial stones were: “In defence of our ancestral land and freedom”.
In Manipur, there are issues over ownership of land principally among Meiteis (Manipuris), Nagas and Kukis. As the Kukis used the words ancestral land, not only did the Nagas immediately react, even the state government objected.
As several Naga and Meitei organisations erupted in protests, the Kuki Inpi Manipur, the apex social organisation of the Kukis, and the Anglo-Kuki War Centenary Commemoration Committee agreed to remove the words “ancestral land” and instead use, “In defence of dignity and freedom”. They also agreed to use the words “Anglo-Kuki rebellion” instead of “Anglo-Kuki war”. The agreement was made during a meeting with Chief Minister N Biren Singh.
The two organisations demanded that October 17 be declared as a restricted holiday as a mark of respect to the Kuki martyrs who laid down their lives in the fight against the British. The CM said the government had not yet taken any decision on it. Another demand of the Kuki organisations was the setting up of a memorial site for the martyrs in Greater Imphal.
Earlier, the Tangkhul Naga Long, which is the apex social organisation of the Tangkhuls, had insisted on the deletion of the words “ancestral land”. Similarly, the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur had also raised an objection. It said the use of the words inscribed on the memorial stones was a distortion of history. It argued that it was not the ancestral land of the Kukis.
The Naga Students’ Union Delhi (NSUD) too accused the Kuki organisations of distorting history.
“The Kukis are non-indigenous recent Immigrants to Manipur…The name Kuki was heard for the first time in Manipur between 1830 to 1840 AD…They fled and arrived in Manipur as they were driven northwards by powerful tribes of Burma,” the NSUD said.
The United Committee Manipur (UCM), an influential organisation of the Manipuris, said the misinterpretation of a “rebellion” as “Anglo-Kuki war” was “condemnable” and “disappointing”.
“If the Naga claims the land as its own, if the Kuki claims the land as its own and if the Meitei makes the same claim, then there is no future for Manipur,” the UCM said in a statement.
However, the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), which is a conglomerate of several Kuki insurgent groups that signed the suspension of operation agreement with the government, said, “Objections do not change history.”
“They have every right to object but objections do not change history. History is a fact that cannot be rewritten. That it was a war is a fact of history and it is 100 years old. It is documented world over. It is there in the British Library in London, for example,” KNO spokesman Seilen Haokip told this newspaper.
“Our forefathers had fought the British imperialists when they came and tried to invade our country. Only the Kukis had put up a fight and for three years. Who else had risen up against the colonialists?” asked the KNO leader.
He added, “The fight against the British was in defence of our ancestral land”. Meanwhile, the concluding day’s function on Thursday was to have been inaugurated by the CM but he did not show up.