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Press Release: Kuki Movement For Human Rights

KUKI MOVEMENT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Post Box-52, IMPHAL – 795001

Manipur, INDIA

E-mail: kumhur96@yahoo.com

For Press Release

Christian response to the prevailing situation in the present so-called North East India and North West Burma (Myanmar)

Introduction:

The title “Christian response to the prevailing situation in the present so-called North East India and North West Myanmar” has two distinguishable parts, namely – (1) prevailing situation and (2) Christian response.

1. Prevailing situation in the so-called North East India and North West Myanmar:

The issues to be addressed on the prevailing situation in the North East India and North West Myanmar are of two kinds. They are (1) religious confusion and (2) political unrest.

(1) Religious confusion arose due mainly to the brand of Christian faith brought by western Christians. Prior to this, every indigenous group in the region have their own religious beliefs and practices without any confusion. Christian missionaries’ general attitude was that indigenous beliefs and practices were wrong. Natives who embraced the new faith also believed that their brethrens left behind in traditional faith were doomed. Thus arose a division of the people into two camps, namely, Christians and non-christians. This continues to be so till today. Even among those who have embraced Christian faith also came countless divisions in the form of denominations. Christian missions were highly to be appreciated for their contribution in the developmental life of the people but all the good works done were overshadowed by the divided churches they brought and thereby confused the people of this region all the more.

A deeper study of the situation reveals the fact that all the converted ethnic groups have the propensity to ape the missionaries’ lifestyle rather than learning about the truth of the faith they embraced. Few leaders today have now realized this folly and strived towards an understanding of the true faith in Jesus Christ without forsaking traditional culture. Rectification of the situation is going to be a gigantic task.

The issue arisen then, and the necessity to tackle it even if it takes ages, is clear. It is to realize the truth of Christian faith recorded in the pages of the Bible and understand the fact that Christians are those who received the lost spirit through faith in Jesus Christ by virtue of which they become members of God’s family. The family of God, the Church, revealed in the Bible is one. It will take time for Christians within divided churches to realize this fundamental truth.

(2) The political unrest in the North East India and North West Myanmar is caused by the British colonial expansion in the region. At the time when India and Burma were granted political independence the British Government had not officially made known the fact that the “Independent Hill Country” or “Kuki Country” as some writers described, remained independent. British government has a kind of umbrella government over this region because it served as the connecting link between the colonized India and Burma. Thus the “Independent Hill Country” remained independent. The people of this region were ignorant of the change of governments in India and Burma after the British left. The invisible international boundary in the middle of their land was not known to them and they continued to travel freely wherever they will. The indigenous people in the Independent Hill Country were truly independent. As a matter of fact, Manipur and Tripura principalities in the heart of Independent Hill Country remained independent for two years after India and Burma became independent.

Most unfortunate was that the British government drawn a map showing Independent Hill Country as forming parts of India and Burma. Indigenous people of the region were never consulted nor were they aware of their country being part of India and Burma. The political unrest in the region today all stemmed from this undeniable fact of deceiving the then ignorant people, of their land resulting in violation of all Rights the UN pledged to protect.

(a) The first main cause of unrest is land issue. The so-called North East India is joined with Indian mainland by a narrow corridor called ‘chicken neck’. The region is sandwiched by world’s famous religions like very pragmatic and realistic communists of China in the north, a very calm and spiritual Buddhists of Myanmar in the east; a very religious and irreconcilable Muslims of Bangladesh in the south, a very rational and philosophical Hindus in the west. No wonder then that there is endless unrest in the region populated by indigenous people, the majority of whom have embraced Christian faith. This reality challenged all indigenous people of the land to stand united.

Most people of the North East India are classified as scheduled tribes in Indian constitution. This is a misnomer, potential instrument to grab land. The numerous militant groups operating in the region is because of land issue. Land is still in the hands of landlords (tribals). All unrest happened due to outsiders’ policy of divide and rule. This was one main reason why so many militant groups were operating in the region with that noble cause of protecting ancestral land. Pitfalls are numerous for them to unwittingly part with the very land they took vow to protect with much sacrifices by signing some alluring agreements. All militant groups in the region have one common issue i.e., “defending the land.” A positive conclusion one can draw is that they all love their ancestral land. As a matter of fact indigenous people of this region have been protecting their land for centuries and lived peacefully among themselves. Therefore, the land issue could be solved by dialogue between all militant groups in order to find common denomination whereby they can collectively defend the land.

(b) The second main cause is marginalization. Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act 1873 was made to protect the tribal lands of the North East India. By this Act “Innerline Permit” was introduced in lieu of Passport, which was mainly to bar outsiders (non residence of Independent Hill Country) to enter the region. Government of India has now changed it to “Protected Area Permit” to imply that the indigenous people are living in the region protected by India. This is not true. Indigenous people of this region could protect themselves. No one has ever protected them in known history.

By changing the “Innerline Permit” to “Protected Area Permit” Indian Government made itself as protector of Independent Hill Country without the knowledge and consent of indigenous people. Clandestine steps were being taken to make some areas merged to Indian Union, some to Myanmar and others to Bangladesh. Manipur and Tripura were made merged with Indian Union on October 15, 1949. Naga Hills were made as Nagaland state on December 1, 1963, Lushai Hills was made as Mizoram State on February 20, 1987 and Bangladesh was created as an independent state on March 26, 1971 with the inclusion of Chittagong Hill Tracts settled by the Kukis. All these changes were effected without the knowledge and consent of indigenous people which is much against UN Laws.

Peace accords used for conflict resolutions are a failure in the North East India. Quite a number of Peace Accords had been signed in the North East India since 1947. History is our witness that peace accords are failures.

(i) Naga Peace Accords: Mentioned may be made that the three Accords signed by the Naga rebel groups in 1947, 1960 and 1970 did not bring amicable solution of the Nagas. Then Nagaland was made a state of Indian Union on December 1, 1963 by which ancestral land has been taken away by a policy of cheating.

(ii) Mizo Peace Accord: The Mizo Peace Accord was signed between Mizo National Frond led by Pu Laldenga and Government of India in 1986 which marks the end of about 20 years long insurrection. Mizoram became a state of Indian Union on February 20, 1987. But a section of MNF is against the Accord and still active.

(iii) The mass surrendered of Bodo Liberation Tigers on December 3, 2003 creates Bodo Territorial Council while other Bodo rebels still continue.

(c) Creation of Communal States: States in the North East India named after a community or tribe is a failure. The people in the North East have not known in their history, of any peace accords with neighboring Government of India. Do peace accords bring peace in the region or created more misunderstanding and conflict? The present scenario of North East India answered the above question unequivocally in the negative. This is so because of the following:

(i) Government of India signed peace accords with rebelled tribe/s who were dissatisfied with governance or tribes having militant forces. The tendency is to seek solution to the immediate cause of conflict rather than addressing the roof cause of conflict in the region. Consequently, more enmity is created between tribes living together peacefully from time immemorial.

(ii) Peace accords had never been signed with loyal citizens and true representatives of collective indigenous people of the region. But rather with rebel groups who incited sundry tribes to take up arms, who in turn fell for false promises of some dialogue with government of India.

(iii) After peace accords were signed statehoods had been given to the rebel groups with the state named after their tribes’ name, e.g. Nagaland for the Nagas, Mizoram for the Mizos. How about none Nagas in Nagaland or none Mizos in Mizoram? Do they have peace after those peace accords were signed? Why then the Hmar people’s council and Brus not happy in Mizoram? Can the Government of India realistically sign peace accords with the more than 400 indigenous tribes living in the region to make them satisfy?

2. Christian Response to the prevailing situation in North East India and North West Burma.

Christian response to the prevailing situation in the so-called North East India and North West Myanmar is, as stated earlier, to two main confusions, namely (1) religious confusion and (2) political unrest.

(1) As has been noted, religious confusion is caused by western Christian missionaries. They outrightly condemned native religions as totally wrong and attempted every means to plant Christian faith in their place. Conservative natives who loved their traditional religion and cultural ethos were incensed by missionaries’ attitude. They steadfastly held on to their cherished system. On the other hand, many indigenous people have embraced the new faith and joined worldwide Christians. They uncritically accepted everything the missionaries, who tried every means to make converted Christians distinctive from others, told them to do. The missionaries’ strategy thus created division of indigenous people into two groups, namely, Christians and non Christians. This schism has indelible scars upon various tribes. The converted Christians will one day realized that they burdened themselves with extra gospel in that they ape the missionaries’ culture. Even so, new converts could not really get rid of their traditional culture. They have come to an undeniable situation of living in two cultural systems leaving them a confused lot.

The saddest part is that the missionaries brought the good news of salvation in and through Jesus Christ but failed to plant the true Church the Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed as his Church in Matthew 16:18. Jesus declares his Church as the family of God (I Tim. 3:15). The family of God is one as God is one. The divided churches planted by the missionaries are not one but many. This is the second religious confusion brought about by the missionaries. Realization of the above confusion cited has now begun through experience and theological education.

True believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will eventually come to know the true teaching of Christ, and consequently follow the truth of the One Church and become one body (church) of Jesus Christ who is the head (Eph. 1:23). To be a Christian is by an individual free choice and not by compulsion. Realization of this should do away with the confused animosity between Christians and non Christians. The commission of the Lord Jesus Christ is perfectly clear that the duty of every Christian is to proclaim the sacrificial work of God in and through Jesus Christ, and that people shall be saved by believing or perish by not believing in this. There is no coercion for one to become a Christian. Christians have to tell people about what is ordained in the afterlife and listeners have the freedom to choose either eternal life or living death in hell in the life after. This simple equation will clear much of the confusions.

(2) Political unrest in the so-called North East India and North West Myanmar has been stated above as caused by (a) land issue and (b) marginalization of indigenous people who are landlords of Independent Hill Country. Any doubt on the stated factors of unrest is extinguished when one peruses the events unfolded since India and Burma gained political independence from the British colonial government. The fact is further confirmed through a thorough researches carried out on the past histories of indigenous people, the sociological structures, economic systems, political life, land holding and administrative system etc. It is to be noted at this point that no other known government/s apart from regional kings, Kuki Inpi, village chiefs and tribal confederations have been in control of the “Independent Hill Country”. The immediate question is, why all this confusions and unrests and why beyond control?

The question raised is to be appropriately answered by the present Christians of Independent Hill Country. Jesus Christ said that Christians are the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). We Christians might boast ourselves of being educated, wiser and more knowledgeable than our ancestors, forgetting the fact that we inherit the land defended by them from invaders and colonizers. The land we occupied today is not given to us by anybody else but safeguarded by the blood, toil and sweat of our ancestors, who saved it for us. The land is our property. We are born in this land. God has given this “Independent Hill Country” to our forebears, and they left it behind for us all. Their hard work and sacrifice earmarked a beautiful land for our peaceful co-existence.

Those forebears, ancestors of us lived in peace. Any kind of disputes, big or small they could settle without the help of anybody outside. We Christians claimed ourselves better than those great forebears we considered uneducated, unwise, having no knowledge, poor. Therefore, the onus is upon us to redress all the ills of the present generation. We are in great turmoil, chaotic situation; the land has become a killing field, and there is loss of normal life, social harmony, peace and tranquility. To retrieve the situation all indigenous groups without exception should be involved. No single community or ethnic group, big or small can ever heal from the illness besetting the region.

A roadmap is presented below towards redressal

(a) Since when has land ownership claim begun? In the ages past such claims, if any, could be settled and peace restored by our forebears. During those days land could be peacefully given or taken with a fixed price agreed upon.

When this kind of ownership claim of land occurred today who is responsible to settle and peace restored? Certain persons or ethnic groups might have claimed lands for themselves thereby shattering age old peaceful co-existence in the region. There seems no responsible government in place of our forebears who rule the land.

(b) When such claims as ownership of land arose how has the claim ended and who got the land? There seem to be a land grabber who fomented disputes between ethnic groups by playing the policy of divide and rule. This must be identified for proper settlement and for lasting peace in the land. Encroached lands must be returned to appropriate indigenous people.

(c) If there is none to shoulder this responsibility as is the case today, the former way of governance should be revived where all indigenous people live together in peace as in the past. Because the majority of Independent Hill Country is now Christians who are the indivisible body of Jesus Christ. They can live together harmoniously. This, of course, does not exclude non Christians from Independent Hill Country. Every human being can live as good citizens in peaceful co-existence.

Release by

T. Lunkim

Chairman

Kuki Movement for Human Rights

Kumhur96@yahoo.com

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