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Kuki Defense Force And The Bandh

The 13-Hour Bandh called by the Kuki Defense Force in protest against the Ceasefire Extension will also be scrutinized for the simple reason that it is a Bandh called in the Hill Districts of Manipur, something that has not been done yet. The success of the Bandh will reinforce the fact that the Hill Districts of Manipur are also inhabited by various Communities, most notably the Kukis.

The statement issued by R.Zouramthang, President of the Kuki Defense Force reiterating ‘the Meiteis and other tribes belonging to the Sino-Tibeto-Burmese groups had been living peacefully together in Manipur which had been an independent kingdom in South-East Asia’ is indeed reflective of what Manipur was and is now.

As to his opinion that the terms ‘Nagas’ and ‘Kukis’ were created and being used by the British in 1840 to broadly classify the tribes in hills is another issue altogether.

The fact that the Bandh is being called in the Hill Districts of Manipur, in protest against the Ceasefire extension, by none other than the Kukis drives home the point that the Hills are inhabited by various Communities, most notably the Kukis. Of course the Nagas have been projecting that the Hill Districts are their own domain. We ought to let the world and ourselves know the nature of what Manipur truly is.

We also need to take into account the significance of this Bandh in relation to the National Highways. National Highways 39 and 53 are dubbed the ‘lifeline of the State’ due to its strategic importance and the State pretty much would die a slow death if not for these Highways. It is no wonder that Various Underground Organizations operating in the Hills collects taxes from vehicles plying on these routes.

While this is happening, the Naga Youth Federation of Senapati District, Manipur has also called for a Bandh on National Highway 39 and this one is in protest against the Indian Government announcement that it will review the Ceasefire Extension. We can understand that there definitely is a divide here with a section of the Nagas supporting the Ceasefire, while on the other hand all Communities pretty much are against the Ceasefire Extension. This goes on to prove that designs aimed at disintegration of the state will not work.

Also interesting is the appeal made by the smaller tribes of Manipur that they are left alone. It reminds us of the recent Kuki-Naga clashes. There was much brouhaha as to the classification of some of these tribes. Naga Nationalism as we see now has made bringing these tribes under the umbrella of the Nagas, either voluntarily or by force a top agenda.

This very agenda led to the quit notices being served on the Kukis who once resided together with the Nagas and thus started the Kuki-Naga nightmare. Naga Nationalism in the days of A.Z Phizo seemed to me to be confined to the state of present day Nagaland. But with Th. Muivah at the helm of affairs, and hailing from Manipur, it is of no surprise to see what we are seeing today.

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