Khongjais of Manipur are Yelhoumee. But the term Kuki is an alien term. They arrived in Manipur alongside the British Missionary. If the claim by Naga that Kuki is a refugee in Manipur are legitimate, then both Naga and Kuki are also a refugee in Manipur.
The Khongjais are very much prominent in the history of Manipur as Meetei, Tangkhul, Maram, Thangal, Chothe, and Kabui. They existed since the pre-historic days in Manipur.
There is no place for Naga and Kuki in the State of Manipur which comprises Meetei, Tangkhul, Thangal, Kabui, Poumai, Maram, Maring, Chothe, Thadou, Anal, Paite, Vaiphei, Zou, Moyon, Lamkang and several other indigenous tribes settling in the region since ages.
Taothingmang – Khongjai or Meetei
The Royal Chronicle of Manipur kings mentioned Taothingmang as the ruler of Meetei Leibak in 264 AD. As the name sound like a Khongai word, few researchers claim that a Khongjai ascended the throne of Meetei Leibak.
There is no harm in such claims as Meetei, Khongjais, Tangkhuls, and Chothe are the seeds of Konchil Tukthaba Ibudhou Pakhangba. However, Taothingmang is a Meetei king from the Mangang clan.
The word “Kuki” first appeared in Bengal through Asiatic Researcher Journal in 1872. The Khongjais existed as yelhoumee and plays an important role in the Meetei civilization.
Will the Khongjais of Manipur and the Tangkhul fight over the Naga-Kuki issue if the British never arrived in Manipur? Now, the term used by Britishers to separate some of the indigenous tribes of Manipur for their smooth administration is rewriting the history of the region to assimilate in the fiction books of the Britishers.
Instead of separating the indigenous tribes from the history of Manipur, try to promote the contribution of your forefathers in the making of Manipur as a Nation, spreading far as the Yunnan province east and the Irrawaddy river in the South.
Why Refugee Relief Fund for Khongjais of Manipur
It was the far-sighted policy of Tangkhul MP, Rungsung Suisa that he requested the Indian Government to grant relief funds to the refugee. His intention might be sincere and legitimate to check the illegal influx from erstwhile Burma in the hills of Manipur. However, the refugee relief fund was a blunder for the indigenous khongjais of Manipur.
The Government of India agreed to grant relief funds or refugee funds to the Kukis under a Memo. P3/9/66 of Finance Ministry of Home Affairs. Subsequently, the payment was made to the Kukis by the state government of Manipur vide Memo No. 01/R/RFL.(First payment 22/04/1957, Second payment 07/07/1959, Third payment 28/02/1966, Fourth payment on 18/07/1968).
What is disturbing to the younger generations was that for the purpose of distributing refugee relief funds, a meeting of all Kuki chiefs was also convened on 15th May 1968 where a five-member committee was constituted in the name of the ‘Kuki Refugees Relief Committee’. HT Pakang was the chairman of the committee while Thangkholu Haokip and Janghem Lunkim were the vice chairman and general secretary. Two others, Haokholu Haokip, and Hawlngam Haokip were members of the committee.
Getting that refugee relief grant cannot change the history of Manipur. Yes, it was proven that Kukis are refugees in Manipur and they have been given the refugee grant. What about the indigenous Yelhoumee, the Khongjai? It was the dark phase for the Khongjai tribes who are the indigenous (yelhoumee) people of Manipur.
Even though the two terms, Kuki and Naga are loan words gifted by the Britishers to yelhoumee tribes of Manipur, researchers, and politicians from various tribes are recreating a separate origin, history, and political domain drifting away from their identity and roots. There was no term like Kuki or Naga in the Kingdom of Manipur until the British arrived.
We may be wrong to say illegal influxes from neighboring Myanmar and Mizoram are trying to dominate the Khongjai. When the political map of Manipur before the arrival of the British spread up to most parts of Myanmar and other Northeastern states, how can we conclude influxes from Myanmar and Mizoram are demanding for a separate homeland?
The wave of migration from the Southern part of Manipur is creating imbalances in the hills and valley. Tangkhul’s claim that Kuki’s homeland is a utopian dream in Manipur is right, for there is no Kuki in Manipur. When you are staying in your home, how can you claim to the world another in your own home?
The ethnic cleansing of Naga Kuki in the 1990s paved the way for the Kuki homeland, there was no homeland movement before this genocide. The Awang haos, often called by Meetei forefathers have made the khongjai hostile, and the demand for self-rule autonomy gaining momentum, fuelled by the support from those living outside Manipur. In fact, of all the tribes, living in Manipur, it was the Khongjais who came to save Manipur and supported Budhachandra, the King of Manipur even when India annexed the Manipur Kingdom in 1949.
If the Khongjai are refugees in Manipur, why then the Chassad khullakpa, the Aihang khullakpa, the Longpi khullakpa, the Nabil khullakpa and other leaders from Haokip village protected the Palace with 300 volunteers, armed with weapons to fight against India?
Khongjai researchers must find out how the Haokip Veng, the Old Lambulane, and the Churachandpur existed in Manipur. The expulsion of Awa from Manipur, the role of Khongjai in the Second World War to defeat the Alliance, and the protection of the Manipur boundary against the Kuki of Mizoram and Myanmar during the reign of King Chandrakirti. All these records will show the immense contribution of Khongjai in safeguarding the integrity of Manipur.
A copy of the Census schedule from the State Statistical Census Department of 1946-47 shows several khongjai villages in the present day Ukhrul, Mao, and Tamenglong. Some of the Villages in Mao have Khongjai Chiefs during this period, Ngatan, Khamson, Chawai, Khongdei, etc. Even in the Ukhrul districts, some villages have Khongjai chiefs which has taxable houses. Bungpa Khullen was a Khongjai village with 12 taxable houses. Similarly, villages like Chamu, Kalhang , Khuntak, Pushing, Shihai, Sinakeithel, Chassad, etc.
Therefore, the claim of Tangkhul Naga Long’s general secretary Vareinan Gachuiwoshi announcing that there is no ancestral land belonging to Kukis in all Naga districts of Manipur in general and in Tangkhul Naga territory, in particular, is completely wrong.
Khongjai is not a refugee, they are the yelhoumee of Manipur protecting the hills of Manipur. How come a Yelhoumee tribe having its own yek salai be included in the Kukis and Nagas which don’t have origins? The Aimol, Chothe, Moyon, Monsang Kharam, and Kom have seven yek salai, proving they are the children of Konjil Tukthaba Ibudhou Pakhangba! Referring to some books and diaries of British Writers won’t help much to link the present-day generations with your ancestors.
Feature photo credited to @Kukipeople
(C) Naorem Mohen
The Writer can be reached at Twitter @laimacha