BACKGROUND OF KNO’S FORMATIONThe Kuki movement against British aggression into their territory, which began in 1777 culminated in the Kuki Rising of 1917-1919. The extensive preparations for the ensuing confrontation that involved mobilisation of forces and declaration of war according to Kuki custom reflect the nationalistic character of the event. The Kuki Rising was a part of the First World War, marked by a momentous offensive against British colonial rule. In the Second World War, Kukis, under the leadership of Pu Pakang, alias Japan Pakang and the Indian National Army led by Subhas Chandra Bose, sided with the Axis powers to free their lands from British domination. The victory of the Allied forces, however, led to the division of Bose’s motherland into India and Pakistan, and trifurcation of Zale’n-gam, the ancestral land of the Kukis, among India, Burma, and Pakistan. The Kuki leaders were deeply agonized by this defeat, so much so that at the end of the War, some Kuki leaders left for Japan, never to return to their land. And so it was that a valiant attempt to regain Zale’n-gam’s sovereignty from the British remained unfulfilled. In 1949, Sadar Vallabhai Patel, the then Home Minister, asked the Meitei Maharaja or Ningthou (Chief) to sign the Merger Agreement to include Manipur within the Indian Union. The Kuki chiefs opposed this move because of apprehensions that it would entail ceding Kuki territory to India, which was administered by the British along with Meitei people’s territory, comprising the valley historically called Manipur. In opposition to the merger agreement and to lend support to the Meitei Ningthou, who was initially reluctant to sign the merger agreement, over 250 Kuki warriors were deployed at the Palace gate by the Kuki Chiefs. However, the Ningthou yielded to the pressures of a fiercely demonstrating group of Meiteis and signed the merger of Manipur at Shillong in 1949.
In post-independent India and Burma, the Kuki leaders continued to oppose the division of their ancestral land by the international boundary drawn without their consent. As a mark of protest, the Kukis of Burma did not participate in the Panglong Conference held in 1947. Instead, they proposed the reunification of their territory. In India, the Kuki National Assembly formed in 1946 initially proposed sovereignty for the Kukis. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Kukis appealed for the recognition of Kuki states; one each in Burma and India if India and Burma want to integrate parts of Kuki territory within their respective nations. However, their appeals to the Governments of India and Burma through peaceful means for the last fifty decades went unacknowledged. The Kukis have not only been blatantly ignored, their concerns and plight have also never been addressed. Feeling betrayed by the governments of India and Burma, the Kukis from both India and Burma declared the formation of Kuki National Organisation (KNO) as the provisional government of Zale’n-gam. The historic event took place in 1988 at Jangmol-Dingpi in the Indo-Burma Border region. On this occasion, as mandated by the Kuki people, Pu Thangkholun, C-in-C of Kuki National Army, the armed wing of KNO, went to the Kachin Independent Army in Kachin state in Burma to receive training in guerrilla warfare.
ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTUREPS Haokip is president of Kuki National Organisation, and supreme commander of the army, and Anton Kuki the Home Secretary. The late Brig Vipin Haokip was the first Chief of Army Staff. Col S Robert became the Chief of Army Staff of KNA in January 2005 and is holding his original post of Finance secretary. The other Cabinet Members of KNO are L Sihkil Kipgen, vice-president for Eastern Zale’n-gam in present-day Burma, Lalminthang Vaiphei, vice-president for Western Zale’n-gam in present-day India. Cabinet members of the rank of Secretary include TS Haokip, Defence; Zale’n Kuki, Foreign; Joshua Haokip, Education; TH German Haokip, Intelligence; Thangboi Karong, Forest & Environment; Thangsang Hmar, Medical; Kophan Khaling; Development, David Hangsing Parliament; Timothy Khongsai, Art & Culture; T Samuel Trade & Commerce; Helen Kipgen, Public Relations; and Johnson Hangshing, Information & Publicity Secretary.
Under Secretary to each of the Secretaries forms the second tier of the administrative structure. The third tier is headed by one Deputy Commissioner in every district, one Additional Deputy Commissioner in every subdivision, one Sub-Deputy Collector in every area (Lhang) and Village Representatives for each village. Led by educated, committed and well-trained armed persons, the Kuki National Organisation is one of the most powerful revolutionary groups in Northeast India and Burma.
KNO’S ARMED WING
|1. Kuki National Army||S Robert Haokip||CAS|
|2. Kuki National Front (Millitary Council)||TH German Haokip||C-in-C|
|3. Kuki National Front (Zogam)||Joshua Haokip||C-in-C|
|4. United Socialist Revolutionary Army||Lalminthang Vaiphei||C-in-C|
|5. Zomi Revolutionary Front||PS Hangshing Paite||C-in-C|
|6. Zou Defence Volunteer||Pakap Anthony Zou||C-in-C|
|7. United Komrem Revolutionary Army||Thangboi Karong||C-in-C|
|8. Hmar National Army||Thangsang Hmar||C-in-C|
|9. Kuki Liberation Army||Khaikam Touthang||C-in-C|
|10. Kuki Revolutinary Army (U)||George Chongloi||C-in-C|
|11. United Minorities Liberation Army||Kophan Khaling||C-in-C|
|12. Pakan Revolutionary Army||Jetky Anal||C-in-C|
|13. Kuki Revolutionary Army||David Hangshing||C-in-C|
|14. Kuki Liberation Army (Old Kuki)||Timothy Khongsai||C-in-C|
|15. Kuki National Front (Samuel)||T.Samuel||C-in-C|
Till date, the armed wing of KNO include Kuki National Army, Kuki National Front (Military Council), Kuki National Front (Zogam), United Socialist Revolutionary Army, Zomi Revolutionary Front, United Komrem Revolutionary Army, Zou Defence Volunteers, Hmar National Army, Kuki Liberation Army (Khaikam), Kuki Revolutionary Army (United), United Minorities Liberation Front and Paka Revoultionary Army (both Old Kuki), Kuki Revolutionary Army, Kuki Liberation Army (Timothy) and Kuki National Front (Samuel).
Initially, the armed wing received arms and training from the Kachin Independent Army. Today, cadres trained from Kachin give long and vigorous military training to the newly recruited cadres. One month political training during which the ideology and objectives of the KNO are imparted following the military training.
OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIESIn the aftermath of the Kuki Rising of 1917-1919, Zale’n-gam, the ancestral land of the Kuki people, was divided by the British colonialists and brought under the administrations of British India and British Burma. Based in Kuki ancestral territory, KNO’s principal objectives concern the recognition and restoration of the land of Zale’n-gam. The twofold objectives are:
1.Recognition by the concerned governments that prior to the advent of the British colonialists Kukis were an independent people.
2.Zale’n-gam’s restoration by way of according statehood, one in India and another in Burma.
Another major objective of KNO includes statehood for all ethnic nationalities in Burma, and setting up of a Union Democratic of Burma based on the principles of federalism. KNO is a member of the Federation of Ethnic Nationalities of Burma (FENB). KNO is open to dialogue along the stated objectives with the concerned governments.
In Burma, KNO have had to resort to violent means against the Military Junta from 1991 and 1999, mainly targeting patrol parties and steamers along the river Chindwin. The reasons for adopting such a strategy in Burma are as follows:
The Burmese government has disregarded the fact that Kukis live on their ancestral lands Kuki village boundaries have been removed.
Traditional form of governance, i.e. Haosa (chieftainship) system has been abolished Ethnic Burmese population, extricated mainly from Rangoon and Mandalay, have been transplanted to Kuki areas with a view to rendering the indigenous people a minority. Development works in Kuki areas is virtually non-existent.
The problems faced by the Kukis and their political demands have been brought to the notice of the Indian and Burmese governments, the United Nations and other international and regional forums.
THE NATIONAL COURTThe National Court is the highest Court of Appeal of the Kuki National Organisation. The Court is made up of 5 (five) members. Three of the members are from the cabinet. Their appointment is recommended by the Cabinet and endorsed by the President. The other two members are directly appointed by the President as necessitated by the particular circumstance, time, and nature of the case involved. In the event of the President’s trial, the Cabinet must approve the two appointees. The President or the Vice-President normally ‘Chair’ the court. The members of the Cabinet are normally present in the court proceedings.
KNO’S EXTERNAL LINKSThe Kuki National Organization maintains strategic alliances with Kachin Independent Organisation, National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang, Shan State Army and Karenni National People’s Party, Democratic Alliance of Burma, and particularly with Wa, Palaung, and Lahu and Pa-oh peoples. In 2000, as a bulwark against infiltration of alien groups into their areas, KNO initiated the formation of the Indigenous Peoples Revolutionary Army comprising of KNA, Zomi Revolutionary Army, Hmar People’s Council and Kuki National Front – Military Council.
KNO is also a member of Federation of Ethnic Nationalities of Burma. FENB membership includes Palaung State Liberation Front, Wa National Organization, Lahu Democratic Front, Pa-O People’s Liberation Organization , Chin Liberation Organisation and Democratic Alliance of Arakan. FENB’s objectives are twofold: statehood for all ethnic nationalities, and setting up a union of democratic Burma. Accordingly, FENB have appealed to the United Nations Organisation through Ismail Razali, Special Envoy of the United Nations to Burma to intervene in Burma regarding creation of statehood for Wa, Kuki, Palaung, Lahu and Pa-oh, who are currently unrepresented ethnic minorities in the country.
SUPPORT AND AREAS OF OPERATIONKNO is active in the entire Kuki areas in India and Myanmar. This area of operation includes Sagaing Division in Burma, Chandel, Ukhrul, Sadar Hills, Churachandpur districts of Manipur and parts of Assam. The organisation takes the responsibility of co-ordinating different Kuki revolutionary groups. They have also exercised concern over socio-religious issues, such as church unity, campaign against social evils such as narcotics, theft, exploitation and smuggling of local natural resources. Consequently, KNO have earned respect and support from the Kuki community. By virtue of their inclusiveness and the democratic principles they upheld, the organisation also enjoys the support of other ethnic groups settled in their areas of operation.
KNO PUBLICATIONSThe KNO has published three books authored by P.S Haokip, the President. The publications in English are Zale’n-gam: The Land of the Kukis (1995, revised and reprinted in 1996), Zale’n-gam: The Kuki Nation (1998), A Rejoinder (see
The designs of British colonialism dealt a devastating blow to Kuki. Efforts made by Kuki National Assembly and Kuki leaders in Burma to seek redressal in independent India and Burma have proved futile. KNO’s aim, whether it is the realisation of Zale’n-gam or Kuki state: one in India and the other in Burma, seem to have been interrupted by the violent activities of National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak & Muivah (NSCN-IM). In the existing circumstances, PS Haokip, in a video recording, expressed a view pertinent to the organisation’s stand:
In the 1990s, the NSCN-IM inflicted tremendous atrocities upon Kuki: over nine hundred lives have been lost, three hundred-and-fifty villages uprooted, and fifty thousand people rendered refugees. The deracinated Kuki villages are mainly in Manipur, in the districts of Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Senapati. In this scenario and particular juncture, it is immensely ungratifying that GOI should engage in dialogue only with NSCN-IM (after all Naga have already been given statehood in 1963) – the Kukis have not only been blatantly ignored in this instance, their concerns and plight have never been adequately addressed either.
GOI seems to have forgotten that the British forcibly took Kuki land and handed it over to India. This is the ancestral land for which the Kukis fought the British Imperialists in both WWI and WWII. Now, in the context of India, if Kuki is to remain a part of the union, the Kuki land, ‘Zale’n-gam’, needs to be accorded statehood. Kuki does not demand anybody’s land; they only make claim over their own.
KNO will hold steadfast to the values and traditions of our forebears and remain committed to preserving the integrity of Kuki territory. KNO believes that these aspirations are shared by the entire Kuki population. Therefore, in all its endeavours for the Kukis, KNO solicits the unstinting support and goodwill of the community, empathy of the governments of India and Burma, and other concerned parties such as human rights groups and Non Governmental Organizations.