Kuki: The forgotton tribe of Nagaland

Dimapur Oct 8 | Publish Date: 10/9/2020 12:17:02 AM IST

 “The State of Nagaland was created on 1st December 1963 as a Political settlement under the 16th Point Agreement as the 16th State of the Indian Union for the 16th Tribes of Nagaland”.

The recent statements, analogy and assumptions that the state of Nagaland has only certain number of recognized Tribes and Stakeholders has come at the cost of hurting the sentiment and distorting of our rich historical background and of the existence of various tribes recognized by the Government of India as per the Constitution of India. The existence of such Tribe Indigeniuous to its Land and history and as old as the existence of the concept of our Naga Nations and its movements is the “KUKI ” Tribe of Nagaland. Kuki’s are also a Stakeholder within our state of Nagaland irrespective of how minor or lesser populations we may be, as we were a Stakeholder as history has shown in our struggle for self-determination.

The Kuki’s of Nagaland has settled and living within the Naga Hills and state of Nagaland after its attainment of statehood. The existence of Kuki are documented and historically noted even during the time of John Butler, who took a census of the Kuki’s of Naga Hills in 1872 and also drew a map, where there were 25 Kuki villages, with a population of 2599 people in 21 villages (4 villages not accounted for). The Census of India 1901, also shows that there were about 26 Kuki villages with 128 persons per village approximately which brings the Kuki population in the Naga Hills to 3328.

The beginning of the 20th century saw the emergence of Naga Nationalism which led to the formation of Naga Club in 1918. The real birth of the Naga ‘Nation’ was ushered by the formation of the Naga Club.

On 10th January, 1929, the Naga Club submitted a memorandum-SIMON COMMISSION- which sought that the Naga Hills be left out within the reformed scheme of India but be directly under the British government, Naga Hills district was declared as ‘Excluded Area’ in the Government of India Act.1935. Among the signatories from the six tribes, Lengjang Kuki (Head Dobashi) was one. It was not by accident that Lengjang Kuki signed for a Naga political document. He was citizen of Naga Hills, a Naga in the generic sense, a name which loosely connected the diverse Naga tribes. The Simon Commission which is the ‘Bed Rock’ on which Naga politics stands and has been our magna carta in formation of our struggle for identity, sovergnity and foundation for all other negotiations in the days to come of our Unique history and kindling our self determination to be a free Nation.

Kuki’s during the NNC Era: Lengjang’s contribution to the Naga Club and his legacy was continued by the Kuki’s of Naga Hills with the feelings of being a Naga Politically sharing the dreams and aspiration like their other Naga bothers of different Tribes. Paochung Kuki, Dr. Lenjalal Kuki, Onpao Kuki, Jangkhusei Kuki, Subedar Khupjalet Kuki etc continued where Lengjang left. Two leading Kuki social and intellectual stalwarts of the time- Seikhohen Kuki and Jangkhosei Kuki- were elected as members of the Kuki Tribal Council under NNC.

Sir Akbar Hydari, the then Governor of Assam visited Kohima in 1947. He had long discussions with the NNC and the following tribes were present: Western Angami, Eastern Angami, Kuki, Kacha Nagas, Rengmas, Semas, Lothas, Aos, Sangtams and Changs. The result was the ‘Nine Point Agreement’ between the governor and the NNC.

Seikhohen Kuki was a member of the first Naga delegation to meet Jawaharlal Nehru for Naga independence and was one of the founding members of NNC. When NNC was first formed, every Naga citizen was supposed to directly contribute towards it but only seven tribes namely Ao, Sema, Eastern Angami (Chakhesang), Angamis, Lotha, Rengma and Zeliang-Kuki contributed to it.

During the Naga Plebiscite on 16 May 1951, the Kuki leaders of the time like Onpao Kuki (President, Kuki Union), Paochung Kuki (Chief of Khaibung), Dr Lenzalal Kuki (Chief of Bungsang, father of late Seikhohen Kuki) and Subedar Khupjalet Kuki pressed their finger and took the lead amongst the Kuki people and mobilized its people within Nagaland in favor of Naga independence.

The Kuki’s were part of the Federal Army in the NNC initiated by stalwarts like Vomkhothang, president of KUC and Hemjangul, secretary of KUC, and Simson Haolai. The initial Kuki leaders in Naga Federal Army were Kailet Singson, Henkho Haolai, Paokhoseh Chongloi, Tonglen Singson, Haokhoseh Kholhou, Haokholet Kholhou, Padal Kuki, Jacob Doungel etc.

Under the Federal Government, Semas, Kukis and Rengmas were under one district under the Patkai state of ‘Nagaland’ and called it SE-KU-RENG taking the first syllable of the name of each tribe.

When the Naga People’s Convention (NPC) was convened and started having parleys with the Government of India for settlement, Jangkhusei Kuki became a member of the Drafting member to prepare a draft for the Naga Political Settlement. The NPC had asked the Zeliangs and Kukis to be represented as Zeliang-Kuki Tribal Council in the NPC. Finally, when the 16 Point Agreement was signed between NPC and Government of India, Thinuowholie Leigiese signed as a representative of Zeliang-Kuki. Lutjakai Kuki went on to become the Kuki member in the Interim Body.

Kuki’s after Nagaland Statehood: The declaration of full statehood for Nagaland on 1st December, 1963 led to the dissolution of the Interim Body and fresh elections were held for the 45 member State Legislative Assembly.

The Nagaland State Legislative Assembly of 1964 included two Kuki Member -Langkam Kuki representing Ghaspani and Lalkholam Kuki representing Tenning. In the 1982 Assembly election, Henlun Singson won from Tening Constituency and was the sitting MLA/Minister till 1989. Henlun Singson was also inducted into the Council of Ministers with the status of Minister of State (Independent Charge-Forest Department) but ever since then after the pogrom and mass killing and uprooting of the Kuki’s from their Villages and land we could not marshal our tribe into organized entity.

Kuki’s during the NSCN Era: In the early 1990s, a POGROM was launched against the Indigeniuous Kuki’s of Nagaland where hundreds of innocent Children’s, women and people were massacred all over Nagaland along with burning and uprooting of several villages and its people. Altogether 15 Kuki villages were either fully burned or temporarily Vacated, Worse than that was the large scale migration of Kukis from Nagaland to neighboring states, scampering for survival since NO ONE or TRIBE(s) came to our rescue in time of our dire needs, we were left totally isolated and abandon by our fellow tribesmen from Nagaland due to fear of death and destructions that has fallen upon us.

Till the early 1990’s, a considerable number of Kuki’s were still there in the Federal Army/NNC.

On 12th August 1992- 12 NNC cadres were killed in Chalkot Village. Kuki’s were still supporters of NNC then but this incident shook their beliefs and security when the NNC could not protect themselves and the people who supported the organization, the Kuki’s of Nagaland decided to join the NSCN-K lead by stalwart like the present Advisor to Collective Leadership-GPRN/NSCN-Chungkhojang Singson (C.Singson), Luna Chongloi- Kilonser-GPRN/NSCN, Col. Lenglam etc, In the NSCN(IM) it is lead by Paohao Kuki-Member Steering committee, Haolim Kuki-Executive Steering Member etc and many cadres from all over Nagaland, wearing the insignia of Naga Army proudly in their Uniforms and swearing by the principle of Naga Nation as we proudly did way back from the day of Simon Commission to the era of NNC. Till date there are more than hundreds of Cadres both in the Civil and Army set up in various factions of our Naga Political Group walking shoulder to shoulder with our other Naga brethrens in our quest for a final honorable and respectable solution.

Conclusions: The Kuki’s of Nagaland from the time of Naga Hill, formation of Naga Club, submission of Memorandum to Simon Commission, being part of the NNC, part of the Historical Plebiscite, the Naga People Convention, Interim Government and became members of the first State Legislative Assembly and till date we the Kuki’s of Nagaland continued to be part of our Naga movement in various capacities whether it might be in Civil or in the Army. The Kuki’s of Nagaland has always considered ourselves as Politically Naga’s from the day of the formation of Naga Club and has Stood with our brothers and sisters through the Historical evolutions of our time in determination to achieve our freedom and sovereignty in whichever forms we –Naga’s-believed.

The recent development of alienations and sidelining of the Kuki’s in various platforms of discussions and consultations within the state of Nagaland by our brothers -read Tribes and not considering us-Kuki’s-as Non-Stakeholders, in the threshold of another historical landmark has found ourselves abandon and alienated in our own Land in Nagaland.

The Kuki’s of Nagaland has been part of our Naga Movement right from the start GO whether it may be in the erstwhile NNC era or in the era of the NSCN lead movement. Kuki’s had always considered ourselves Physically, mentally and by deeds as Politically Naga’s, to undermine the contributions and participations of the Kuki’s of Nagaland is as good as undermining our Naga National movement itself-we were neither Johnny come lately or hunger for power and positions, we contributed as per our beliefs and convictions for an honorable and self-determined rules for our Naga people from the time of the formation of Naga Club till date.

Lun Tungnung, Social Activist, Dimapur

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