(You are a kuki, Why you reject your identity ? Love your nation, whether hardship comes stand with God)
Are Anal Kuki ? YES
The question of the Anal people being either Kuki or Naga is a recent phenomena. Based on identity, defined by ethnicity and its composite culture and customs, Anal affinity lies entirely with Kuki. Therefore, of the Anals, Prof Gangumei Kamei (Kabui), a renowned Naga academic stated in a recent monograph, ‘classified as culturally Kuki, but politically Naga’ (Kabui, G (1981), Anal: A Transborder Tribe, Mittal Publishing House, New Delhi).One could risk suggesting politician or even a pastor may not tell the truth, but an academic of integrity cannot lie, lest she or he be exposed by documented evidence of printed text and so risk being relegated a mere propagandist.
SR Tohring, a post-doctoral Research Fellow, writes about Chavan Kumhrin, an Autumnal festival, to assert Naga identity for Anal (The Anal Naga Tribe and the Chavan Kumhrin Festival, in Eastern Quarterly Vol. 5, Issues IV, January-March, 2009). In her text, Tohring, to reject the argument that ‘Anal is an old Kuki’ group, cites colonial ethnographers like EB Dalton, who refers to a British officer, Lt Col Stewart’s categorization of ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Kukis. The categorization Kukis is divisive and is duly rejected. However, one must bear in mind that the distinction was made to suit purposes of colonial administration; it has no ethnographic basis to negate the common ethnicity of the Kuki people.
Speaking of festivals, Chavang Kut, later changed to Kut on account of wider consensus, is a post-harvest festival celebrated annually on 1 November, a state holiday in Manipur. Do the terms Chavan and Chavang bear some similarity? The entire ethnic Kuki tribes, including those presently distanced from the identity for socio-political reasons, participate in Kut celebrations. Politics does not and cannot cut into culture or alter identity. For instance, the late Pu Ng Mono (Ex MLA) from Chakpikarong, Chandel, who was already an octogenarian at the time, graced the Kut Silver Jubilee celebrations (2003) as Kut Pa held at Moreh. Only prominent and highly esteemed personality from the Kuki community is entitled to the honour of Kut Pa. Such is the uniting power of common culture shared by a group of people created by God. Let no one attempt to put asunder, which God has created as one people.
According to Prof Lal Dena, who is Hmar (‘The Kuki-Naga conflict: Juxtaposed in the Colonial Context’ (paper presented at the national seminar on Dynamics of Inter-Ethnic Relationships, organised by the India Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, 1997), in Manipur the main Naga tribes included
The Kukis of Manipur included
The Kukis were categorised as ‘Old’ and ‘New’. The 1931 census shows the ‘Old Kuki’ consists of Anal, Kom, Hmar, Gangte, and Vaiphei. The ‘New Kuki’ are listed as Paite, Ralte, Simte, Sukte and Thadou’.
Similar to CA Soppit’s view (A Short Account of the Kuki-Lushai Tribes of the North East Frontier, Assam, 1884), Prof Lal Dena clarifies there is no scientific or ethnographic basis for distinguishing between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Kukis.
Tohring’s observation, ‘Manipur state, which is the abode of the Nagas, Kuki-Chins, Meiteis, Pangals (Muslims), etc. is site of contestations among different communities driven by political interests and pragmatics. Contestations get manifested largely in identity politics and land’, is fairly stated. It is precisely for the same reasons that Victor Kohring, president Anal Naga Tangpi, instigated by NSCN (IM) politicking, is also presently drawn to deny Kuki. A Tangkhul is not wanting in knowledge of identity’s indissoluble link to ethnicity. Therefore, inevitably, the protagonists of Naga expansionism resort to Machiavellian politics.
To get a clearer picture on the issue of apparent identity-flux, it may be worthwhile referring to socio-political influences that prompted certain Kuki groups to identify as ‘politically Naga’. Put squarely, clan chauvinism was the root cause, sparked by the infamous remark ‘under the wing of Thadou’ – a reference to the numerically lesser Kuki groups (Shaw, W (1929), The Thadou Kukis, Published on behalf of the Government of Assam).Chauvinism and arrogance made the innocent people of Chandel receptive to the wolf of Tangkhul greed for land, which came disguised in sheep’s clothing of Baptist missionaries. Once given entry, the emerging wolf, NSCN (IM), has tried to devour our people and land. Other added factors that induced the issue of identity include material incentives, generated by creation of Nagaland state in 1963, and NSCN (IM)’s unbridled movement for creation of Nagalim.
On the matter of chauvinism, KNO categorically rejects the notion with a view to remedy the devastating effect on Kuki nationalism. KNO, therefore, embraces principles of federalism as a part of its core ideology. Kuki groups, irrespective of population size or any other relevant criteria are regarded as of the same status and equally respected.
Political issues may sometimes cause change of political party affiliations, but politics cannot change a people’s ethnic identity. Denial of one’s identity, driven by internal differences, if permitted to persist and perpetrate, can only lead to further disaster. Take for instance, the Kuki genocide by NSCN (IM)-led Nagas from 1992-1997, which originated in Ukhrul. Curiously, concentration of casualties was not in Tangkhul areas, but in Chandel, Tamenglong and Senapati districts.
Consider the composition of the numerous Kuki groups, who are genealogically linked. Anal, for example, which is a group and not a clan, comprises a mix of several sub-clans. Numerous Mate and Haokip (especially Mangvung), including various other sub-clans from Kuki groups, constitute Anal. Similar is the case with Hmar, Simte, Paite, Vaiphei, Zou or other so-called ‘Old Kuki’ groups. Indeed, Pakan is another name for Anal.
Jecky Anal, leader of Pakan Re-unification Army, and Kopham Khaling, leader of United Minority Liberation Army, both constituents of Kuki National Organisation, are respectively Mate and Khoibu Maring, known as Poi or Lai in Mizoram. Tragically, both leaders have lost relatives and close colleagues at the hands of their own, who were indoctrinated by NSCN (IM). This means a lot of fratricidal killing is incited, till date. Victims of NSCN (IM)-led genocide were also mainly from the same community (relatively negligible number was Nagas).Thus, the term ‘Naga-Kuki conflict’ is totally incongruous.
Other attributes of Anal Kuki include origin from Khul (a subterranean dwelling of our forefathers); Pheljol, the original Anal village in Chandel, which later moved to Anal Kholen and Naphou (the names are very telling; they are distinctly Kuki names, nowhere akin to characteristics of any Naga tribes); and, similar to one of their nearer kin Lushai (now Mizo), Anals also do not consume Sasan (mountain goat). Therefore, pray tell, who is a Kuki and who a Naga?
More than two millennia ago, Socrates, the Greek philosopher, wrote, ‘know thyself’. He did not say,’let others tell you who you are. Socrates’ emphasis is on one knowing oneself, which means not to be motivated to adopt another identity owing to external agencies, even if influenced by temporal issues. Tohring also quotes that The Royal Chronicle of Manipur, ‘since the sixteenth century, describes them as Anal or Anan Naga, Lamkang Naga, Moyon Naga, Moshang Naga. Even Khongjai is also written as Khongjai Naga.’ Just as Meitei chroniclers’ error of referring to Khongjai Naga, equally erroneous is the reference to Anal or Anan Naga, Lamkang Naga, Moyon Naga, Moshang Naga.
Reconciliation with oneself and with kith and kin, and as Victor Kohring put it, ‘refrain from all forms of violence by advocating the sacrament of reconciliation and harness to live in peaceful co-existence on the basis of Christian virtue of forgive and forget,’ is the need of the hour. All concerned must adopt Kohring’s virtuous homily, sooner rather than later. This will set a political climate conducive for building lasting unity based on ethnicity. When the politics is good, everybody benefits! Such politics will help pave the way for a better future in which federalism ensures socio-economic equitability and prosperity for all Kukis. Alternatively, we can choose to remain pawns in the wider schemes of Nazi style geopolitics.
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ says, ‘the truth shall set you free’, referring to Him being the truth, the Messiah, who will set us free from bondage. The principle of truth, I dare say can be applied to more mundane issues of identity, too, for which confusion politically motivated or not, so far exists. The Bible says, ‘it is beautiful when brothers live in unity.’ Adherence to the tenets of Christianity is our way to eternal salvation, including political ‘salvation’ here on earth that God has created for mankind to share through mutual respect for one another’s identity and territory.
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