Context: Manipur’s Kuki Zomi tribes are in conflict with the majority Meitei tribe which has tolled over 60 people in the state. MLAs belonging to the Kuki Zomi tribe now demand separate administration within the state.
History of Kuki’s Homeland demand
- Demand for the separate Kuki Homeland has been burning since the 1980s when one Kuki insurgent group Kuki National Organisation (KNO) came into being.
- After the acceptance of the new state of Telangana, there was a resurgence of demand for Kukiland by the Kuki State Demand Committee. It claims over 60 per cent of Manipur’s area. They argued that Kuki habitations were not part of the British Protectorate after the Anglo-Manipur war in 1891. Hence, India cannot claim any rights over this tribal group or its habitation.
- KNO has also complained about the grabbing of Kuki land by Naga insurgent groups.
About the Kuki Tribe:
- Kukis are known by different names to different communities.
- Some called them Lushai, some called them Kukis, Darlongs, Rokhums and among the Burma border they are known as Chins.
- They called themselves Hare-ems. However ‘Kuki’ has been accepted as the generic name for the community.
- As per 2011 Census all together Kukis are 10,965 persons in Tripura. In the past they lived in hill tops and maintained their livelihood through jhum cultivation and also by producing fruits.
- Now-a-days they do plain land cultivation and rear livestock.
- Linguistically they speak a language which is closely related to the Kuki-Chin linguistic family of Sino-Tibetan race. The Kukis have many clans and subclans.
- Kukis are fond of music and dance. They work hard in Jhum field, garden and enjoy dance and music at community level.
- Normally they do not arrange any marriage alliance outside their community. Traditionally they were not Christian but animist and worship different deities and spirits. But for the last 90(ninety) years the majority of them have embraced Christianity as their religion.
- They have their own customary laws and village council.
- LAL is a term to denote village chief. This is the reason for which Darlong uses Lal before their name.
- The village chief generally looks up all sorts of social and religious disputes Including disputes related to marriage and divorce.
- Presently Kukis are socio-economically advanced then other tribes.
About Meitei Tribe:
- It is a majority tribal group of Manipur (53% of the population). They speak Meitei language (Manipuri language) which is a Tibeto-Burman language, also the official language of Manipur (written in Bengali language).
- They are primarily settled in the Imphal Valley region (of Manipur), Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.
- They are divided into various clans and do not intermarry.
- Majority of them follow Hinduism, while more than 8% are Muslims.
- Manipuri martial art Thang-ta is a combative sport which had its origin from the Meitei knights during the kings rule.
- Lai Haraoba is the important dance festival celebrated in this tribe.