IMPHAL: The Kuki National Organisation (KNO) has stated that history cannot be changed and that the people of the state, as the state government has, must credit the historical event of Kukis in the 1917-1919 War to enrich the state and not suppress it either out of bias or ignorance.
Stephen Kuki, Under Secy, Inf & Pub, Kuki National Organisation stated in a press release that a year past the actual date of the Centennial Commemoration of the war the Kukis fought against the colonialist British from 1917-1919, on 17 October 2020, the Hon’ble Chief Minister, N Biren Singh inaugurated the event via Video Conferencing, a medium widely resorted to for official events on account of the Covid -19 pandemic. Following the programme, a Memorial Park in the state’s capital and a restricted state holiday dedicated to the event were announced, which by all account enriches the culture and history of the state, the KNO said.
The organisation also pointed out that on 18 October 2020, ISTV aired interviews held with Leisemba Sanajaoba, ningthou of Manipur, L Sotinkumar Secy CPI Manipur State Council, O Jugindro President MPP, Gaikhangam President MPCC, Jitandro NIngjomba, President CCSK, a gentleman whose name was not posted, and nonagenarian Rev Dr T Lunkim. On negating The Anglo-Kuki War, 1917-1919, purportedly in favour of the state’s integration there was palpable consensus of view amongst all interviewees, with the exception of the last interviewee, the Reverend, whose magnanimity was self-evident, reminiscent of ‘ching na koina pansaba….’ Clearly, the Reverend’s charitable attitude was prompted not only by virtue of being a man of God, but as a sensible and sensitive member of present-day state of Manipur, the KNO stated. The gentleman whose name was not posted expressed his view of Manipur’s history, which contradict Kuki indignity recorded by the Pooyas, the contemporaneous historical accounts written in the traditional Meitei Mayek (script), dating back to AD 33, when Kuki Achouba and Kuki Ahongba were allies to Nongda Lairen Pakhangba, the first historically recorded king of the Meiteis, in the latter’s mobilisation for the throne. Some valley-based CSO, however, refute this historical account, the Organisation stated.
Stating that history, it is said cannot be changed even by God – no irreverence intended, whatsoever, the KNO questioned if Lan in Meiteilon mean War in reference to Khomjom Lan of 1891. By admission of own, the ningthou and others refer to ‘Khongjai Lan’, as Kukis in the vernacular refer to the same as British Gal (War), it stated and questioned if Lan or War is to be ascribed to and only by the majority population of the state and denied to a relatively minority group? Is it proper to project present-day political norms in the state to arbitrate on appellative issues concerning a past event for which contemporaneous record of a file (600-plus pages) under the ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’ is located in the archives of the Oriental and India Collection of the British Libray in London?, the orgnisation questioned. One would have to literally convince the British Library to expunge the file from the archives to say Kukis did not exist and the War never happened, it added.
“With intentions transparent for public consumption, KNO opted on The Kuki Rising, 1917-1919 because it provides documentary evidence to the event, not because The Anglo-Kuki War is in anyway incorrect. The option was also determined by a spirit of accommodation of sentiments aired by members of certain CSOs, mainly valley-based. At the same time, because of such subversive intent of denial, it is all the more necessary to firmly establish the historical fact with documentary evidence available at the British Library.
“The Kuki Rising or Anglo-Kuki refer to the same indisputable event and are not contradictory, not just academically, but also politically. Any credible scholarly research worth its salt must need refer to the archival file, ‘The Kuki rising’. Choice of one over the other for the Centennial Commemmoration is purely tactical in preference for consideration of one another’s sentiment; it does not compromise one iota the fact of the historical event. In the present instance, truly, Kukis have yet again demonstrated a spirit of magnanimity and remain unstintingly stalwarts refered to in ‘ching na koina pan saba….’
“Lt Col Shakespeare used the colonialist term ‘Kuki rebellion’ against their adversary, the Kukis. In independent India, after one hundred years, it is preposterous that our Meitei brothers, who also fought the British in The Khomjom War should prefer ‘rebellion’ to a people who fought to preserve their land against the colonialists! Jogindro mentioned Chassad and that one British officer killed do not warrant the title, War, while endorsing ‘rebellion’. Clearly, either he is ill-informed of the rest of the 1917-1919 details with columns of British sepoys deployed to the Kukis, or is simply biased. The gentleman is referrering to Coote’s and Patrick’s column, whose combined forces attacked Chassad (Kamjong), the village of Chief Lhukhomang Haokip alias Pache. In the encounter that followed, ‘a British offficer Lieut Molesworth was killed’.
“According to witnesses account of the time passed down through the oral tradition, the Kukis attacked the advancing British column from their stockade with pumpi (cannon made of rolled bison skin) and muskets,” the KNO stated.
Read the enormity of the war, please see an extract from the Proceedings of the Chief Commissioner of Assam in the Political Department: The ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, which is the most formidable with which Assam has been faced for at least a generation … the rebel villages held nearly 40,000 men, women and children interspersed … over some 6,000 square miles of rugged hills surrounding the Manipur valley and extending to the Somra Tract and the Thaungdut State (Upper Chindwin & Kale Kabow Valley) in Burma, the KNO said.
The KNO further stated that as a matter of historical fact, during the Khomjom War in 1891, Pu Tonglhu Haokip son of Pu Nehlam Haokip, chief of Chassad, harboured the Meitei Maharja and his retinue comprising the ‘Jubaraja[Bir Tikendrajit], the Senapati, Shamu Hanjaba, Jila Ngamba, Chingakahangba Nongthonba, Maisana Luwang Ningthou, Chongtha Ayapurel Major with 200 men escaped to Chassad via Porampat….’, who were pursued by the British. The act of kindness was propmpted by Tikendrajit’s favour earlier to Tonglhu (wealthy cotton trader), when he was captured in 1888 with a gong, Rs 800, Mithun, and elephant tusk, but later exonorated and presented a silk coat (Khamenchep in Kuki) worn only by royalty. Such incidents of mutuality that inspired cordial relations in the past would prompt reciprocity and stability in the present, they stated.
There was a time when noble-minded folks cherished history and celebrated significant events. For example, the Tikendrajit and Tonglhu relationship was immortalised by artistes and performance broadcast over All India Radio. The recorded clip, however, is no longer traceable. Could this be yet another attempt by some to subvert history?, it questioned.
In the interest of the much hyped territorial integration, the people of the state of Manipur – as the Government has – must credit the historical event of Kukis in the 1917-1919 War to enrich the state, not suppress it either out of bias or ignorance, the KNO said. On account of the sentiment of the Tangkhul people and the valley-based CSOs, Government’s concern to maintain peace has been supported with altruism of the Kukis. This is the give and take attitude that bodes well to promote emotionally integrity essential for integration. The question is when others would give to assuage Kuki sentiment, it asked.