Demand for the creation of Sadar Hills has been a big issue since last four decades and the people of Sadar Hills had enough rhetoric and promises for a full-fledged district status. For far too long the people of Sadar Hills had been deprived of their constitutional rights. Its a time for a change and they have legitimate rights to effect such changes.
Sadar Hills is inhabited by heterogeneous communities, the Kukis are the indigenous dominant ethnic group. The Kacha Nagas migrated from the neighbouring districts due to internal conflicts amongst themselves. So they began to settle in some parts of Sadar Hills as a vassal community and also established vassal villages under the Kuki chiefs who were arbiter of the intermittent factional clashes of the Kacha Nagas. Thus, the Nagas claim for Sadar Hills as their ancestral land is rather absurd, ridiculous and unfounded. There are more than hundreds of Kuki villages in Tamenglong, and Ukhrul. If the Nagas can claim Sadar Hills as their ancestral land just because there are few Naga villages, would not it be in the fitness of things for the Kukis to claim the whole of Tamenglong and Ukhrul as their ancestral land? After all, the Kukis were in supreme command over all the hills of Manipur.
The Haokip Kuki chief under the leadership of their senior most clan called Chahsad Haokip was the overlord to the hills East of Imphal valley. His influence extended upto the Burma border contiguous to the Thongdut State and part of Somra Tract. The western and North-western part of Imphal Valley bordering the Angami belonged to the Sitlhou-Kuki chief known as Chief of Jampi. The areas contiguous to the Sitlhou country and the Lushei Hills of Assam were ruled by the Singson-Kuki Chief. Pulverised in between the Sitlhou in the North-West and the Imphal Valley in the North-East was the country of the junior clans of the Haokip belonging to the Lunkhel, Songthat and Telngoh clans where they ruled the roost. To the South of them, bordering the Teddim Chin Hills of Burma, the areas were occupied by the Manluns (Zou). While the South-East of Imphal valley extending upto the areas of Kabo Valley and Sukte country were ruled by the Mangvum-Kukis (junior clans of the Haokip-Kukis).
The Doungel-Kuki chief, the eldest among the Kuki clans was the Monarch of the North-East of Imphal Valley, extending his area of influence through Chingai sub-division of Ukhrul district to the unadministered area of Somra Tract which lies in between the Naga Hills of the erstwhile Assam Province and the Burmese territory, which became a bone of contention between the Doungel chief known as Aisan Chief and the British Raj resulting in a protracted war from 1917- 1919. The British Raj after the subjugation of Aisan Chief placed the areas partly under the Naga Hills of Assam and partly under Burma.
Thus, the Hill areas of Manipur were the domains and hunting ground of the Kukis. It was fiercely defended by the Kukis against the Mighty British invasion. There is not a single tribe in the whole of the North-East that fought the British for three consecutive years as the Kukis did in 1917-1919 to defend their lands.
The Kukis as an indigenous people of Manipur did not have any separate policy but depended solely on the successive government for their welfare including village habitation and all rights to lands. They believe in peaceful coexistence and have tried and succeeded in great measures to live in peace with their neighbours particularly the Nagas. The demand for upgradation of Sadar Hills to a full-fledged district should not be equated as a demand for sovereignty or separate state. Rather it is a demand for exercise of democratic rights by the people of Sadar Hills. It is based on development and administrative perspective and not on political game. Our Naga brothers should not read along community line and feel insecure. They should rather cooperate and show respect to the rights of the people of Sadar Hills.
Manipur is a state where coexistence is the delicate fabric of the numerous ethnic groups like the Kukis, Nagas, Meiteis and Meitei-Pangal. Therefore driving politics along the ethnic line will only lead to confrontation among the communities which will further result in the conflict of insurgency groups representing umbrella protection to the very community.
The MLAs representing the people of Sadar Hills should be practical and decisive. They should make their standpoint very clear and have the guts to stand up in the interest of their very own long-suffering people they represent. The people of Manipur wants a sincere and enthusiastic government that can be practical in solving problems and we believe the Ibobi led the government to be practical in transmuting into action his promises for upgradations of Sadar Hills to the status of a full-fledged district.
(The writer is Secretary, Political Affairs, Kuki Inpi Manipur)