CHIEFTAINSHIP AMONG KUKIS -The Past, Present and the Future

IMG-20150830-WA0008By Khaikhohauh Gangte

In this chapter an attempt has been made to present the historical context of the institution of chieftainship among the Kukis of Manipur. This chapter has been presented in thee major sections. The first section presents the history in the pre British period, in the second section presents the British period and the third section presents the post independence developments and the last present the present status of Manipur and the likely outcomes.
1. Pre British Period
The Kuki-Chin-Mizo people trace their origin from ‘Khul’ a cave somewhere in Southern China (Roy and Rizvi 1990). On account of recurrent famines and in the wake of raids by the powerful tribes, they were compelled to adopt a course of migration, which brought them to the Kabaw Valley (Burma). But the Shan infiltration towards the end of 13th century and the search for hospitable terrain with large area of forest for jhum resulted in their shift towards Chin Hills during early 14th century. But, again the Chin Hills proved to be comparatively less congenial and they moved further towards the west and came to Manipur in the 15th and 16th century. According to Manipur Chronicles the Old Kuki seem first to have mentioned from as early in 1554 (Shakespeare 1909: 373).
The legendary Chief came into being after the victory during the fight with infiltrators and their subsequent occupation of their habitat. The people call themselves after the name of their Chief. In those days, the Chief was the supreme authority with the Judicial and administrative powers in dispensation of Justice. A council of elders (Upas) usually assisted him on those days. The office of the Chief by tradition passed on to his eldest son after the formers death. He was custodian of large tracts of land including the forest. By virtue of his Chiefship he held control over economic resources especially the land and the forest. And there was no written deed regarding their right to ownership. According to Renan (1931) the sovereignty of the people is marked by the fact that prior to the arrival of the British, the Kukis did not pay any tax to the existing State, except in certain cases among themselves.
Prior to the advent of the British in Manipur the Kuki Chiefs were masters of the hills surrounding the valley of Imphal where Naga also lived. According to Haokip (1988) the Doungel Chief of Aisan, popularly known as King of the Kukis ruled over the Northeast of Imphal valley, extending to the ‘excluded’ or ‘unadministered’ areas of Somre (Burma), which lies between the east of Naga Hills of erstwhile Assam and the border of Burma. Doungul, the most senior of the Haokip clan, Chief of Chahsad was the overlord of the hills east of Imphal, and along the region contiguous to the Thongdut State and parts of Somra Tracts. He ruled over the Tangkhul Nagas in these regions. The Sitlhou Thadou Chief of Jampi ruled the hills West and Northwest of Imphal Valley that border the Angami Naga country. The Singson, Thadou Chief ruled over the areas parallel to the Sitlhou country and the Lushai Hills of Assam. The region between the Sitlhou country in the Northwest and the Imphal valley was the country of the junior Chiefs of the Haokip sub-clans, the Lunkhel, Songthat and the Telngoh. To the south bordering the Teddim areas of Chin Hills, was the Manlun (Zou) Chief’s country. The Mangvum, a Haokip sub-clan ruled the region east of Imphal valley that extends to the Kabaw valley and Sukte country in present-day Northwest Burma. According to T.S. Gangte (1993) the Kuki Chiefs of the above region were the allies of the King of Manipur.
2. British Period
Though the British have conquered the valley of Manipur, the Kuki Chiefs, who have a strong tribal affinity did not recognise the British Colonial hegemony and declined to accept their order of recruiting Labour Corps. This led to the outbreak of the Great Uprising of the KUKIS in 1917 (Palit 1984). In the beginning of the revolt, the British took so lightly that they described it as ‘punitive measure’ but the highly centralised and autocratic nature of the Kuki leadership of Chiefs and the greater power of joint struggle effectively against their common enemy could easily handle the Kuki Tribal population. It was at this point that the Kuki chiefs were much feared by the other tribes and ruled the land like a king on those days. Thus the mighty British has to prepare another war of Colonialism known as the Kuki uprising from 1917 to 1919. The event was described as “The ‘Kuki rising’, 1917 – 1919″, which is the most formidable with which Assam has been faced for at least a generation the rebel villagers held nearly 40,000 men, women and children interspersed over some 6000 square miles of rugged hills surrounding the Manipur valley and extending to the Somra Tract and the Thaungdut State of (Burma Burma and Assam Frontier 1920).
According to a ‘Minute Paper’ there were 23 principals involved, 13 in Manipur under Assam, and 10 in the Somra Tract under Burma”. In a confidential dispatch, Sir H.D.U. Kerry, General Officer Commanding, Burma Division wrote: ” I therefore decided to put an end to the Kuki revolt by force of arms, break the Kuki spirit, disarm the Kukis, exact reparation and pave the way for an effective administration of their country”. However, according to Press Reports of the time ‘Peace by Fire’. A telegram Draft from the Secretary of State to the Viceroy, Foreign Department, dated 18th July 1919, includes the following notes about the Kuki Chief in Manipur. “In passing judgement on Kuki Chiefs you will do doubt take into consideration original causes of outbreak: see secret dispatch No. 9, 8th March 1918. I do not of course wish to interfere with your discretion but I hope that in all the circumstances you will find it possible to deal leniently with offenders”. Perhaps as a result of the above request, a telegram dated 6 Feb. 1919, from the Secretary to the Government of India in the Foreign and Political Department, Delhi to the Chief Commissioner, Assam, stationed at Shillong conveyed the following message:XXX
“As you agree with General Kerry that if recalcitrant Chiefs were told that their lives would be spared settlement would be considerably hastened, it is considered by Government of India that any further withholding of this announcement is impossible to justify. They, therefore desire that it would now be made and are most anxious that everything possible should be done to bring operations to an early close”.
During this raid the more than two dozens of British Officers was engaged from Burma, Assam, and Manipur. According to Gangte (1980), the relation between the Kuki Chiefs and the British were found to be not cordial right from 1777 onward and even in 1908 the areas occupied by the Kukis were put in the ‘excluded’ zone. Rules of the administration of the Hill Tribes were framed in the year 1908. The said Rules were modified in the year 1916 and with that modification the hills were administered from Imphal. And in 1910, the Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam sent expeditions against the Kukis located in excluded region. According to Shakespeare (1977: 89) two columns were sent: one from Homalin on the river Chinwin consisting of 75 riflemen another, from Kohima consisting of 5 British officers and 100 rifles. And according to Reid (1942) another expedition was sent in Somra tracts against the Kukis of the South in 1911.
The ‘Kuki rising 1917-1919’ is viewed by some scholars, as Roy (1990) or British officials, like Col. Shakespear (1929) as simply a violent reaction against recruitment attempts to the Labour Corps. But according to Gangte (1993) and Haokip (1988) and other Kuki scholars, as a cumulative offensive leading to “The Anglo-Kuki War” or “The First Kuki War of Independence” which is parallel to ‘Sepoy Mutiny of 1857’ as the ‘First Indian war of Independence’ in the Nationalist Indian History. Gangte (1980) rejected the imposition of Kuki by simplletoning to as ‘violent reaction against recruiting to Labour Corps’ by describing the efforts of Chiefs like Chahsad and Ukha Villages are not a mere violent or Labour Corps but a fight for the protection of their land from being annexed by the alien power. According to Palit (1984) the Kukis proved a formidable foe, as staunch in battle and armed with firearms into the bargain. They were better organised and better led and displayed a tribal aptitude for guerrilla operations. They certainly extracted a high price from their enemy.
After the revolt and suppression the Kukis Chiefs, the British Administration adopted a number of administrative measures to keep the Kuki people under control. The Kuki areas were brought under the civil authority. The sub-divisional offices were opened at Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Churachandpur, which are now the Hill Districts in Manipur. According to Gangte (1993) the new administrative posts were successful in achieving two planned objectives: i) ‘containment’ of Kuki activities to prevent another rising and ii) ensured Naga domination especially in Ukhrul and Tamenglong sub-divisions. It is hard to imagine why an indigenous people would rise against a powerful imperial power like the British. From the Kukis point of view, the preservation of their sovereignty and their patriotism to their motherland is the response. The event also signifies their proprietorial rights to their land and not nomadic nature.
In the aftermath of the Kuki rising, the powers of the Chiefs were drastically reduced. The Encyclopaedia of Britannica records; “After the Uprising of the Kukis in 1917-1919, a new system of government was adopted and the region was divided into three sub-divisions, each headed by an officer from neighbouring government of Assam”. This period also show the erosion of the Chief’s traditional authority due to the influence of Christianity, which brought about changes in the Kuki tribal society. ‘Democracy’ aliens to Kuki culture was gradually replacing the governance of Kuki society, hitherto held in place by the traditions and authority embodied in the institution of chieftainship.
During the World War II the Kukis joined the Indian National Army led by Subhas Chandra Bose, which was alliance with the Japanese forces, with a hope of restoring its traditional status in the event that the Axis forces won the war. Gangte (1993) and Haokip (1988) regarded this operation as the Second Kuki War of Independence.
Relationship between Kuki Chiefs and Manipuri Kings
In one mythical story it is stated that the Meitei and the hill people are the descendants of two sons of the same parents. Gradually under better economic condition in fertile land where the Manipuris chooses to stay, the Meitei become comparatively more powerful than the hill people. It is evident from the state chronicle that in their process of becoming powerful the Meitei king not only fought with other clans who lived in the valley but also with the hill people and even tried to collect tribute in the form of clothes and other products of the hill. During the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th centuries the Meitei king and the hill chiefs fought many times. The Meitei king also made the Kuki group weak by pitting one clan against the other. They also developed friendly relation with some Kuki villages and used them against the Nagas. In this way the Haokip plundered the Tangkhul Nagas for many decades. At the same time the Meitei king made Tangkhul captives as his gardeners in his palace and as slaves. Hence the relation between the Kuki chief and Manipuris kings are not cordial at the beginning but friendly afterwards. In order to maintain friendly relationship and to collect tribute from the subjugated groups of the hill people, the then Manipuri king Garib Nivas organised ‘Haochongba’ (tribal dances) in the palace. In this Haochongba the king received offerings and tributes from them and in turn the king offered drinks and food to them.
3. Post Independence
When the British supremacy was lapsed, the administration of the Hill areas was handed over the Maharaja of Manipur. In response to the demands for the introduction of a democratic responsible government in Manipur, the Maharaja of Manipur framed the Manipur “State Constitution Act, 1947”. Another Act for the administration of hill areas, the Manipur State Hill Peoples (Administration) Regulation Act, 1947, was also framed.
3.1. The Manipur State Hill Peoples (Administration) Regulation Act, 1947
The Act provided for the establishment and regulation of village authorities in the hill areas. The primary function of the village authority was to maintain law and order. It was authorised to arrest certain criminal offenders without any order from a magistrate and without a warrant. In case there was any dispute in the village, the village authority informed the sub-divisional magistrate. It also had to furnish any information required by any officer of the state government. The village authority was responsible for the administration of justice. It was guided by customary laws of the village in the discharged of its judicial function. The administrative system in the hills continued till Manipur was merged into the Indian Union in 1949. Even after the merger, the administrative system under the Hill Peoples regulation Act, 1947, continued to remain in force though the hill bench and hill courts were abolished in 1950. The Circle bench was abolished in 1955.
3.2. The Manipur Village Authorities (in hill areas) Act, 1956
The Parliament passed the Manipur Villages Authority (in Hill Areas) Act, 1956, for the administration of the hill areas of Manipur. It was implemented in 1957. This Act determined the numbers of members of village authority on the basis of the number of tax-paying houses. This Act may be regarded as one of the first important steps towards the Democratisation of hill administration in Manipur. By placing certain restrictions on the powers of the Chief and by introducing the franchise at the lowest level of administration, i.e., the village authority, the common villagers’ became aware of democratic values and practices.
3.3. The Manipur Hill Areas Acquisition of Chief’s Rights Act, 1967
Through this Act, an attempt was made to abolish chieftainship in the hill areas of Manipur by paying compensation. There was a difference of opinion between the Hill Area Committee and the Legislative Assembly regarding passing of the bill. While the former did not agree with several provisions of the bill, the latter passed the bill and with the assent of the governor, the bill became an act. But the act has not been implemented properly and the chieftainship continues to exist with all its rights and privileges in the hill areas of Manipur.

3.4. The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act, 1971
On the eve of Manipur’s attainment of statehood, in 1971 the Parliament passed the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council Act of 1971, to establish autonomous district councils in the hill areas of Manipur. According to the act, all the hill areas of Manipur were to be divided into sib autonomous districts each with a district council of its own. Each district council was to consist of 18 elected members and two nominated members. These autonomous districts are:
Sl.No. District Headquarters Population
1 Manipur South Churachandpur 98,114
2 Manipur North Senapati 38,424
3 Manipur East Ukhrul 62,229
4 Manipur West Tamenglong 44,775
5 Manipur Sadar Hills Kangpokpi 68,751
6 Tengnoupal Chandel 38,723
Source: Census of India, Manipur, 1981.
The act was finally implemented in August 1973. The members of the district councils are elected on the basis of adult franchise. Members of the district council elect the chairman and the deputy chairman. The council has the power to remove a chairman by a two-thirds majority of the total strength of the council. But if a resolution is passed by less than a two third majority but by an absolute majority, it is left to the discretion of the government to remove the chairman. Such a resolution shall not be brought before the district council within one year from the date of chairman’s election. The chairman may nominate from amongst members of the council a panel consisting of not more than two-deputy chairman.
3.5. Powers vested in a Kuki Chief
The chief of a Kuki village enjoys the right over the land within the specified jurisdiction bestowed upon him. He also enjoys the right over his subjects who would pay him tributes of paddy, whether big or small, out of their annual harvests. The chief, in turn, helps the villagers with paddy whenever famine breaks out in the village.
With India’s Independence, the Maharaja of Manipur granted individual ownership of land to his subjects and collected land tax from every individual according to the size of his land. The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act 1960 regularised such a land holding system. But this act could not be extended to the hill areas of the state, unfortunately depriving the hill people from enjoying the benefits of the popular act.
3.6. Purchase of Land
By custom and tradition, the genealogical head of a chief’s family is the right person to establish a new village. He can purchase a specific land on his own and establish a new village, inviting his near and dear ones to settle down in his village where he himself shall enjoy maximum power in every aspect. Here every villager has the liberty of tilling the soil within the boundary of the chief as long as he pleases the chief and wins his confidence. Whenever the chief finds insufficiency of land for the year’s cultivation for the entire households of his village, he would divide the areas of land and distribute according to the size of the family by stretching out ropes across the land. The chief, however, would not give fertile land to any person of the village who did not sow seed, who did not harvest or who did not clear out the weeds of the green field in the last year’s tenure of jhuming.
3.7. Chieftainship Politicised
Since India’s Independence, there has been a move to convert the formerly autocratic villages into democratic villages by the Manipur Village Authority Act. But the move proved unsuccessful. In fact, chieftainship in the hills has been politicised. The electoral system of a village is controlled by the villagers with the advice of the chief in favour of a particular candidate. In the 1989 Assembly election, certain families of the Aihang village in 41 A/C exercised their franchise individually in favour of a candidate whom the chief did not favour. As a result, the disloyal villagers were threatened that they would not be allowed to continue tilling the land. These villagers begged for forgiveness from the chief with a promise not to displease him in future. They were pardoned and permitted to continue tilling the soil. The practices of a Kuki village are subject to changes from time to time however, in different forms with the changing times.
3.8. Checking of Economic Growth

As Kuki chief control the affairs of land and politics, the land- use system hinders the economical growth of the villages. They could debar the villagers from taking up permanent, and semi-permanent, land development projects. As a result, producing cardamom, tea, rubber, mango, orange, pineapple and lemon is very rare in Kuki soil.
Looking deep into the matter as discussed, it would be preferable to switch to the MLR & LR Act 1960 to improve the lot of the hill people and protect their land holdings. Declaration of village avenues for permanent settlement for the villagers will certainly accelerate economic growth much faster than before when every villager could claim ownership of land and take up self-developmental steps. Further, with the extension of the Act of 1960, the chiefs of the Kuki villages could be paid land compensation in a lump sum as a compensation for the loss of their traditional privileges.
3.9. MLR & LR Act, 1960 and Sixth Schedule in Relation to Hill Areas
The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 (MLR & LR Act) is enacted by the Parliament to consolidate and amend the law relating to land revenue in the state of Manipur and to provide for certain measures of land reforms. The state legislature made rules, i.e. MLR & LR Rules 1961 (under the act), to carry out the purposes of the act.
3.10. Application of Assam Land & Revenue Regulation 1886
The Assam Land and Revenue Regulation 1886 and the rules framed therein were applied to Manipur by the state durbar resolution No. 5 of 23. 5.47. Subsequently, it was again applied by the Manipur Government Notification, 15 may 1952, and survey operations were started. In this operation, lands were classified according to productivity and location and different rates proposed for different classes.
The Assam Land and Revenue Regulation, 1886 was replaced by the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 (MLR & LR Act). The MLR & LR Act, 1960 is modelled on the pattern of the Tripura Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960, but the MLR &LR Act was amended several times electing new provisions which further widened the gulf between the legislation of Manipur and Tripura.
3.11. Restriction of Transfer of Land
For the protection of tribals, there is special provision under Section 158 which prohibits the transfer of a tribals land to a non-tribal without the prior permission of the deputy commissioner and the previous consent of the district-council, but unlike the Tripura act, the MLR & LR Act, 1960, has no provision for regulating transfer by a non-tribal of his land situated in the predominantly tribal inhabited villages.
See. 158: No transfer of land by a person who is a member of STs shall be valid unless-
a) The transfer is to another member of the Scheduled Tribe; or
b) Where the transfer is to a person who is not a member of any such tribe; it is made with the previous permission in writing of the deputy commissioner who shall not give such permission unless he has first secured the consent thereto of the district council within whose jurisdiction the lies; or
c) The transfer is by way of mortgage to a co-operative society.

Many attempts have been made to remove the restriction of transfer to a member of non-ST by inserting the provision to clause (b) of the section (miscellaneous amendment) ordinance 1976. The next attempt to remove this restriction on transfer is the MLR & LR Act 6th, amendment bill 1989, wherein the proposed amendment bill seeking insertion of new sections i.e. 159-A, 158-B, 158-C and 158-D, after section 158 of the principal act, namely: –

158-A. Restriction on Transfer of Land
No agricultural land shall be transferred to any person except for his personal cultivation
158-B. Restriction on transfer of land to non-residents
No land shall be transferred in favour of any person unless he has been ordinarily resident in the state: provided that the deputy commissioner may permit transfer of land in favour of a person who has not been ordinarily resident in the state if he has been a resident of the state for not less than 30 years.

158-C: Restriction on new settlement, etc.
There shall be no new settlement or formation of any machete in the hill areas without the permission of the state government and no such permission for new settlement of formation of any machete in hill areas should be given unless the new settlement or formation of any machete has 50-75 families. This part of the amendment bill is contradictory to the District Council Act, and V.A. Act.
This amendment also proposed to repel the Manipur Hill Areas (house tax) Act, 1966, by inserting under section 16-A, of the MLR & LR Act, making liable to payment of an annual tax in lieu of land revenue at the rate of such tax determined by the state government having regard to the rates of land revenue and the assessed tax be realised in such manner as may be prescribed. This amendment further attempts to regulate and control jhum or migratory cultivation by making rules in the name of protection of environment. There was much talk in this amendment bill about the proposed amendment in sub-section (2) of section 1 of the said act, where the terms “except the hill areas thereof” and the provision thereof shall be omitted.
In order to understand the meaning better, the legal wording of the section of the act is reproduced below-Section 1 (of MLR & LR Act 1960).
i. This act may be called the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960.
ii. It extends to the whole of the state of Manipur except the hill areas thereof- provided that the state government may by notification in the official gazette, extend the whole or any part of any section of this act to any of the hill areas of Manipur also as may be specified in such notification.
iii. It shall come into force on such data as the state government may, by notification in the official gazette, appoint, and different dates may be appointed for different areas and for different provisions for the act.
The new sixth amendment bill intends to remove the word except hill areas thereof: and the provision thereto, in sub-section (2) of section (1), above, which means that the extension of the act is to be made absolute or be made the statutory authority including the hill areas of Manipur. At present the act provides in itself the provision for extension of the act to hill areas under the said provision, by notification in the official gazette to extend the whole or any part of any section of this act to any of the hill areas of Manipur also as may be specified in such notification. And the same shall come into force on such date as the state government may, by notification in the official gazette, appoint.

But at the time of considering the bill, the said proposal of removing/deleting the word except hill areas thereof was dropped. But the provision for extension was already there since the 1975 amendment act. The hill people, the students and other political parties vehemently opposed the proposed amendment bill, submitted memoranda and representations to the governor and other high dignitaries to withdraw and not to assent to the bill. It is also said that during the consideration/discussion of the said bill some tribal MLAs walked out from the assembly in protest. Due to such opposition from the hill people the amendment bill has not been implemented. Various organisations opposed the amendment bill and among them ATSUM (All Tribal Student Union of Manipur) was one.

3.12. District Rural Development Agency
In Manipur there is a separate Rural Development Department headed by a secretary; there is also a Directorate of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj. Besides, for each district there is a District Rural Development Agency. The chain of command however does not appear to be well defined.

In the hill areas of Manipur, there are Autonomous District Councils constituted under the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Acts 1971. The Council has several civic and social services management functions. Besides they can initiate action in matters of social legislation. But they have extremely limited role under the statute in the matter of resource mobilisation. At the village level there is the village authority constituted under the Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas) Act 1956. Section 3, Clauses 4 of the Act provides that
“where there is a chief or Khulakpa in a village, he shall be the ex-officio chairman of the village authority of that village; and where there is not such chief or Khulakpa in the village, the chairman of the village authority of that village shall be elected by the member of the village authority from among themselves”

4. The present status of Kuki Chieftainship and its likely consequences
Putting Decentralization, Development, Chanenelizing Fund, Democracy etc etc as bait, the Government of Manipur, proposed to amend the so call controversial act in the state from time to time. The proposed proposal amendment is given below:

1 March 2011
The Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Second Amendment Ordinance, 2010 Under verbal instruction from Hon’ble Minister (Hills) for amendment of the following section of the above mentioned Act is hereby proposed.

To make the village Authority/Council function in a more democratic fashion and the village to be a viable unit for development purpose.
The long title of the Act itself are required to be changed to Village Council as Council is in vogue in the decentralized grass root level.
Increase in the number of Village Council Members would not only provide more representative but would also likely to attract more enlightened person to become Village council members and
The provision of the Ex-officio Chairman is considered un-democratic in a democratically elected institution.
2. As the Assembly is not in session it is also proposed to issue Ordinance as under.
1) Short title and commencement :-
(1) This Ordinance may be called the Manipur(Village Authorities in Hill Areas)
Second Amendment Ordinance 2010.
(2) It shall come into force at once.
2) Amendment of Long Title :- In the Long Title of the Manipur(VillageAuthorities in Hill Areas) Act, 1956(hereinafter referred to as the Principal Act) for the words ” Village Authorities”and wherever it occurs in the Act the words”Village Council”shall be substituted.
3) Amendment of section 2.- Clauses (c) and (e) of section 2 of the Principal Act shall be deleted.
4) Amendment of section 3.- In section 3 of the Principal Act,-(a) in sub-section(1),-
(iii) in clause (b), for the words “seven members”, the words “eleven members” shall be substituted;
(iv) in clause (c), for the words “ten members”, the words “fifteen members” shall be substituted;
(v) in clause (d), for the words “twelve members”, the words “seventeen members” shall be substituted;
(b) for sub-section (4), the following shall be substituted, namely,- “(4) The Chairman of the Village Council shall be elected by the members of the
Village Council from among themselves.”
5) Amendment of section 7,- In section 7 of the Principal Act, for the words “twenty one years of age”, the words :eighteen years of age” shall be substituted.
3. The matter may be referred to Law Department for vetting of the above proposed Ordinance, thereafter the matter be placed before Cabinet.
Accordingly, the draft Cabinet Memo is placed opposite for approval please.

( L.P Gonmei)
Principal Secretary(Hills)
(Source:Discussion in ‘Manipur News’ started by Kangleicha, Mar 2, 2011)

The proposed amendment triggered the rises of many frontal organisation in the state, like Committee for Protection of Tribal Areas Manipu (CoPTAM), Kuki Chiefs’ Association Manipur (KCAM), Kuki State Demand Committee (KSDC), Zomi Human Right Organisation, etc.

Several Memorandum have been submitted to the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of Manipur. Several agitations, strikes, bandhs, Peaceful rallies, etc. were called/organised throughout the state against the Government of Manipur policies. One of such latest memorandum is given belows:

Office of the
HO: B. Vengnom, Churachandpur, Manipur – 795128

Ref. No: KCAM/NIS-01-03/2012 Date: 27/10/2012

Hon’ble Sir,

We the undersigned on behalf of the Kuki Chiefs of Manipur and the whole population of Kuki people in Manipur would like to draw your kind attention and immediate action that,

Prior to being incorporated as citizens of the Union of India in 1947, the Kuki people governed themselves under the institution of traditional chieftainship. In post-independent India, the status quo continued uninterrupted. The Kukis are pleased that the union Government of India and the state Government of Manipur duly recognize the traditional form of Kuki government in keeping with the constitution of India to regard and preserve identity, customs and traditional practices (e.g. Institution of Chieftainship) of its diverse peoples.

Therefore, the Kuki Chiefs’ Association of Manipur (KCAM) and the Kuki public seriously object to the current move of the state Government to conduct elections to replace the authority of Kuki chiefs. This move is not only a departure from previously respected status quo, but also a deliberate design to grab Kuki ancestral lands. It would, therefore, be very unwise to proceed with such an attempt because the entire Kuki people would not tolerate it under any circumstance.

Kuki Chiefs’ Association Manipur appeals to the good sense of the Chief Minister to retract the present move to conduct elections to replace the traditional authority of the Kuki chieftains. An ambiguous statement negating the surreptitious Government’s design and affirmation of the institution of Kuki chieftainship would be appreciated.

In the light of the above facts, if the Government of Manipur fail to protect our traditional Institution and Customs in conformity with democratic governance and promotions of the welfare of Kuki people, any serious untoward incident arises for the protection of our chieftain rights will be the sole responsible of the Government of Manipur.
Yours Sincerely,

President Gen. Secretary
Kuki Chiefs’ Association Manipur Kuki Chiefs’ Association Manipur

Copy to:

1. The Hon’ble MP (Outer Manipur).
2. The Hon’ble Ministers & MLAs of Hills, Manipur.
3. The Hon’ble Chairman, Hill Area Committee, Manipur.
4. The Hon’ble Chairman, all ADC in Manipur.
5. The Chief Secretary, Govt. of Manipur.
6. All the concern Deputy Commissioner, Manipur.
7. Guard File.

Gen. Secretary Kuki Chiefs’ Association Manipur

(Source: KCAM)

Another Press statement against the proposed amendment from Zomi Human Right:

2nd Amendment Act, 2011 & Manipur
25th April, 2011

On the proposed Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas), 2nd Amendment Act, 2011 & Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council, 4th Amendment, Act, 2011

The Government claimed that the proposed Amendment Acts are intended to institute a democratic village administration and would immensely help in channelizing Fund from the Ministry, particularly the Ministry of Urban Development once there is Municipalities in Tribal areas/Hill areas of Manipur. However, a closer examination of the Acts reveals that it was nothing but an attempt to rape the rights of indigenous people over their land, resources and traditional institutions. The Acts are highly objectionable on the following grounds:

(i) It sullied the significances of traditional Chiefship among the Tribal. The proposed Acts reduced the hereditary tribal Chiefs to a mere villager. It fails to specify the future status and function of the Chiefs and remain silent on the issue of compensation payment for the lost. It is important to note that the Tribal Chiefship was an established tribal institution ever since very remote past, and thus, its abolition without providing alternative Statutory Constitutional safeguards is a cruel act and unjustifiable.

(ii) The proposed Acts ignored the importance of land for the Tribals. Tribal economy has traditionally centered on land and other land based resources. Even today, land continues to be the mainstay of 90 per cent of the tribal population. Thus land is the only tangible productive asset which members of scheduled tribes possess.

Land also occupies a pivotal place in the tribal psyche. There are a number of social factors and religious rituals connected with land, which establish emotional ties between the tribal and his land. Thus, land is much more than merely a source of livelihood to the tribes.

(iii) Restriction on Land transfer from tribal to non-tribal in Manipur is not an isolated case. Today most of the states have enacted laws through their legislatures restricting transferability of tribal lands to non-tribals. As early as 1879 the Bombay Province Land Revenue Code also prohibited transfer of land from a tribal to a non-tribal without the permission of the district collector. In 1901, in Gujarat, some measures of protection were provided (when it formed part of the Bombay Province) by amendment of Section 73-A and 79-A in the Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879 and a ban on transfer of land of tribes in those scheduled villages in which survey and settlement had not been introduced, without prior permission of the collector. In Tripura, the Tripura Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 imposes similar restrictions. In Assam, the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1964 was enacted. In Himachal Pradesh, the HP Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1968 was made. In Manipur, the Manipur Land Reforms and Land Revenue Act, 1970 was made. The Maharashtra Land Revenue Code and Tenancy Laws (Amendment) Act, 1974 and the Maharashtra (Restoration of Lands to Scheduled Tribes) Act, 1974 (and second amendment in 1976) also prohibit alienation and ensure restoration of alienated lands to the tribes. In Sikkim, which became an Indian state only in 1974, the Sikkim Revenue Order, 1977 and the Sikkim Agricultural Land Ceiling and Reforms Act, 1977 was enforced.

(iv) There are legal precedence on such restrictions. It is settled in law that the transfer of immovable property between a member of the ST and a non-ST member in the scheduled area in states where protective land legislation exists is null and void. The non-tribal transferee acquires no right, title and interest in that behalf in furtherance of such sale. The Supreme Court in Machegowda vs State of Karnataka had declared such sales to be voidable. In Lingappa Pochanna Appelwar vs state of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of similar provisions of the Maharashtra Restoration of Lands to STs Act, 1974. In Rami Reddy vs state of Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the aims of the regulation to restore the lands to the tribals which originally belonged to them but passed into the hands of non-tribals. It would be unjust, unfair and highly unreasonable, merely to freeze the situation, instead of reversing the injustice and restoring the status quo ante. Today the tribals, due to handicaps and ignorance of modern law, are unable to prove their right to the land.

(v) The Government has Constitutional obligations to protect tribal lands. The Constitution demands that legislative or executive measures for the reconstruction of the unequal social order by corrective and distributive justice through the rule of law. The Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles are the means to achieve the above object of democratic socialism. The word socialist used in the Preamble must be read from the goals in Articles 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 23, 38, 39, 46 and all other cognate articles. Pragmatic, broad and wide interpretation of the Constitution makes social and economic democracy with liberty, equality of opportunity, equality of status and fraternity a reality to we, the people of India who include the STs. All state actions should be to reach the goal of establishing a socialist, secular, democratic republic under the rule of the law.
Similarly, when Article 39(b) of the Constitution enjoins upon the state to frame its policy towards securing that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to serve the common good, what it connotes is a duty of the state for building a welfare state and an egalitarian social order. The object is that the basic needs of the common man must be fulfilled and that the state should endeavour to change the structure of the society. There cannot be any dispute that the neglected tribals do not get equal opportunity with their counterparts in other developed parts of the state and the state should be empowered to make laws for protection of tribals from being exploited by the non-tribals. The state should take all effective steps to eradicate inequalities. This is also to make socio-economic justice, assured in the Preamble and Articles 38, 39 and 46, a reality to the tribals.

(vi) Unique case of Tribal issue in Manipur: The legislative power of the state under Article 245 is subject to Schedule V. In other words, as the scheduled tribes come under the purview of Schedule V, it is constitutionally obligatory on the part of the state government that the state legislation does not violate the objects of Schedule V and that state legislation is required to be enacted to fulfill the objects of the Schedule V. The constitutional scheme embodied in Article 15(4) and Article 46 as well as the power conferred upon the governor of the state under Schedule V are intended to preserve and protect the interests of the tribals. Considering the past experience and the exploitation of the tribals ignorance by the non-tribals, it became imperative by statutory safeguards to preserve the land which is their natural endowment and mainstay for their economic empowerment.

The Schedules V and VI constitute an integral scheme of the Constitution with direction, philosophy and anxiety to protect the tribals from exploitation and to preserve valuable endowment of their land for their economic empowerment, to elongate social and economic democracy with liberty, equality, fraternity and dignity of their person. The predominant object of para 5(2) of Schedule V of the Constitution is to impose total prohibition of transfer of immovable property to any person other than to a tribe, for peace and proven good management of a tribal area and to protect possession, right, title and interests of the STs held in the land at one time by the tribals. In addition to the applicability of Schedule V to the STs, through the formation of scheduled area, the object is also to preserve tribal autonomy, their culture and economic empowerment to ensure social, economic and political justice for the preservation of peace and good government in the scheduled area.
However, it is unfortunate that the laws framed to safeguards tribal interest in Manipur are neither under the Fifth Schedule nor is under the Sixth Schedule. Such fundamental flaws led to tribal unrest today. The Hill Area Committee( under Art 371C) is designed to be the Tribes Advisory Council consisting of scheduled tribe (ST) legislators that was to advise the Governor of the state who was given the responsibility for overseeing the administration of these scheduled areas. But it fails to function as intended due to non-incorporation of the said tribal areas under the Fifth Schedule.

Today the state continues to flout the rule of law and mete out injustice to the tribals. It uses another set of anti-people laws developed by the British the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code to relentlessly stifle the legitimate protests of the tribal for the protection of the tribals.

(vii) Finally, land has today become a precious commodity in this country. For many years now the tribals have been continually short changed and deprived of this resource by the power-ful sections in the country through the mediation of the state and its colonial anti-tribal laws. Do the Government who use its laws to cheat the tribals have the will to stop doing so and make them equal partners in progress. If so then it is high time that the Government give Statutory Constitutional Protection to the tribal in Manipur.

(Source: Information & Publicity Department, Zomi Human Rights Foundation: HQ)

Adverse effect of Manipur (VA in Hill Areas) Act, 1956
By Titus Kamei *
The proposed Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas) (Amendment) Act, 2011 should be affected at the earliest if the amendment is to be made regarding the post of Chairmanship of village authority. It may be pertinent to mention that the Hill Commissioner, Govt of Manipur in its letter No.9/26/92-CHA(i) dated 31st August, 1992 addressed to the Deputy Commissioner, Tamenglong had clearly mentioned by clarifying the confusion created by the Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas ) Act, 1956.

It is undeniable fact that there is no uniformity or common system of village administration between the Kukis and Nagas. The khunbu is the head of the village in Tamenglong district whereas chief is in the kuki village and khullakpa in Ukhrul district.

However, the khunbu, who is the founder of village in Tamenglong district was inadvertently failed to incorporate or mention in the said Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas ) Act, 1956 wherein the chief/khullakpa was found, due to unaware on the part of the law department, Govt of Manipur during the time of drafting of the law of the said Act of 1956.

The said Act also mentioned that the khullakpa should be the Ex-officio chairman of the village authority. But the mistake and unawareness was later realised thereby issueing clarification in this regard in the said letter by stating that the Khunbu is above Khullakpa.

As far as my own village is concerned Khullakpa is appointed to any elder person for specific period following the decision adopted by the people of the village from time to time irrespective of the background of the person whereasKhunbu is permanent, undisputed and exclusive right for village founder hereditary clan. This fact can be proved with historical evidences as and when needed.

The mistake of the law department, Govt of Manipur has created great confusion especially in the matter of chairmanship for village authority. In Tamenglong district, as mentioned above, khullakpa is appointed by the people of the village to discharge specific assigned duties on behalf of the village.

The interpretation of meaning of the word itself, ie ‘khunbu’ which means the village founder and ‘khullakpa’ which means the administrator of the village is self explanatory of weightage and difference between the two different characters. Before the enactment of the said Act of 1956, khunbu is the overall authority of village in Tamenglong district.

Therefore, this Act of 1956 is inappropriate to continue further operation in villages of Tamenglong district as the Govt had also issued clarification already in this regard long ago. It is universally acceptable if the principle of justice is enforced accordingly but the said Act of 1956 has adversely affected the traditional system and authority of Khunbu, the village founder legitimate rights.

Many villages of Tamenglong district have challenged against the order issued as per the said Act of 1956 in the competent law court and it cannot be ruled out that no village will do so in future unless there is strong, vibrant, acceptable and applicable Law/Act is amended/enacted at the earliest considering the gravity of necessity.

Law recognising khullakpa to be the Ex-officio chairman of village authority in Tamenglong district is akin to the law recognising/declaring the housemaid of a family to inherit the properties and whatever of the houseowner totally depriving the children’s legitimate rights to inherit his father.

In such a situation and circumstances how can we imagine that the village affairs is smoothly functioned? It is better and as good to make law reserving the post of President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister or any other Minister posts to the kin of father of the nation considering his contribution.

Opposing the proposed amendment of the said Act to be affected is nothing but imposing the unacceptable Act of 1956 against the will and interest of the people who are already discriminated, aggrieved, deprived legitimate rights and greatly suffered since the operation and enforcement of the said Manipur (Village Authority in Hill Areas) Act 1956.

The best method in pursuing one’s aspirations, objectives and purposes is not to affect the other’s legitimate rights. It is appealed to tribal leaders to have deep thought and be fully aware of the factual context of reality if your expression, views, opinions, suggestions and efforts are for the welfare and in the real interest of the tribal people as a whole.

Otherwise, it will be considered as willful, deliberate and intentional act on your part against the democratic citizens’ legitimate rights in the biggest democratic country.

(source: epao)


Keeping in mind with the above aspect, facts and figures, if the state government of Manipur continues to ignore the right of the Kukis especially in Manipur, the future course of action is predicted to be Social/Mass Movement or Civil War in the state.


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– :,1211199+1+111210.00.html, Manipur History.

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BL/1920 : British Library, Burma and Assam Frontier, ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC). Political Proceedings, Oct. 1920, No. 13: Extract from the Proceedings of the chief Commissioner, Assam, in the Political Department Number 8856 p, September 1920.
BL/7/1919 : British Library, Burma and Assam Frontier, ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC). Political Department, From The Hon’ble Mr. J.E. Webster, C.I.E., ICS, Chief Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Assam, To The Secretary to the Government of India, Foreign and Political Department, Shillong, the 27 June 1919, and 8 July 1919.
BL/HDU : British Library, Burma and Assam Frontier, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC). CONFIDENTIAL, File No. 4895 Field Operations, Simla, ‘Dispatch On the Operations Against the Kuki Tribes of Assam and Burma, November 1917 to March 1919’, From Lieutenant General Sir H. D.U. Kerry, General Officer Commanding, Burma Division, To The Chief of the General Staff, Army Headquarters, India, Simla. (Diary No. 69190) No. 1762-K.P.M., Maymyo, June 1919.
BL/Kr : British Library, Burma and Assam Frontier, ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC).
BL/LKR : British Library, Burma and Assam Frontier, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC). Resolution on the Late Kuki Rising, Extract from the Proceedings of the Chief Commissioner of Assam in the Political Department, NO. 8856 P, 27 September 1920.
BL/N : Newspaper clippings included in British Library, Burma and Assam Frontier, ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC) (rough pp.577 – 578).
BL/PF : British Library, Burma and Assam Frontier, ‘Kuki rising, 1917-1919’, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC). Political File ‘A’, 61-129, No. E-3P, 10 August 1910.
BL/R : British Library, Burma and Assam Frontier, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC). (Retamilla) M25807 1919.
BL/T : British Library, Burma and Assam Frontier, L/PS/10/724, Oriental and India Office Collections (OIOC). Telegram No. 135-S (rough page mark: 469).
CC/1947 : Resolution of the Thanlon Area Chiefs Conference, 6 July 1947.
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1947 : Daiho, A., ‘My views on the Tendency of the Future Hill Administration of Manipur or the Demand of the Hills’ General Public’, The Resistance, 28 December 1947.
FD/1908 : The Rules for the Administration of the Hill tribes were framed in accordance with letter No. 1081 E, C., from the Government of India in the Foreign Department, 18 March 1908.
1980 : Gangte, T.S., ‘Anglo-Kuki Relation from 1849-1937’, Churachandpur, Manipur, 1980.
Gangte (FNSK) : Gangte, T.S., ‘Footprints of the Noble Sons of Kukis’ [n.d.].
GoI : Census of India, Manipur, 1981.
GoM : The Manipur Act No.10 of 1976 inserted the provision to clause (b).
1997 : Hangshing, W. Lalkholam, ‘The Kukis Then and Now: The Kuki War of Independence (1917 – 1919)’, Seminar Paper Presentation, SSS Auditorium, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, 19 December 1997.
1999 : Haokip, P. ‘Ethno-Nationalism and Democracy Movement in Myanmar’ (Unpublished dissertation submitted to Jawaharlal Nehru University [New Delhi] in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the degree of Master of Philosophy, 1999).
1995 : Haokip, T.T., ‘The Kuki Chiefship and its Changing Dimensions’ (unpublished thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirement for the award of the degree of Doctor in Philosophy to the Department of Political Science, School of Social Sciences, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong, 1995).
1997 : Dr. K. Kipgen, 12 Worcester Road, Hatfield, Herts AL10 0DX, 17 October 1997.
1958 : The Rules for the Administration of the Hill tribes were framed in accordance with letter No. 1081 E, C., dated the 18th March 1908, from the Government of India in the Foreign Department, cited by Roy (1958)-History of Manipur.