In the year 1964 the Kuki National Assembly and Manipur Mizo Integration Council passed a resolution to achieve a single administrative unit for the ethnic group. The resolution was signed by Holkhomang Haokip, General Secretary of KNA and Ex-MP, and KT Lalla, Chairman of MMIC. On a similar theme, from 15 to 18 January 1965, a convention of the various ethnic groups took place at Kawnpui, in Churachandpur. The late LB Thanga (Chief Secretary, Manipur, 1980-1982) notes that the event was attended by over one hundred Mizo leaders from various political parties. LINK, a news magazine from Delhi reported on 13 March 1966 [1995]: 'After three-day long deliberations, the meeting adopted a plan for direct action with the aim of securing a 'Mizoram State', comprising all the areas inhabited by members of the Mizo tribe. The status of this State whether it would be totally independent of India and neighbouring countries was not spelled out. It was decided that a convention for this purpose would meet in April.' In the words of late Vumson, creation of a single administrative unit for the Kuki-Mizo people called 'Mizoram State' was the underpinning objective of the convention.

            The organisations present at the Kawnpui convention are: Paite National council, Vaiphei National Organisation, Simte National Organisation, Zoumi National Organisation, Mizo Union, Mizoram, Mizo National Front, Chin National Union, Mizo National Union, Hmar National Union, Kuki National Assembly, Gangte Tribal Union, Kom National Union, and Biete Convention Council. 


Common ethnicity:


            The genealogy traced to the Lentlang era include the clans Lusei, Ralte, Chawngthu, Khiangte, Hauhnar, Chuaungo, Chuauhang, Ngente, Punte and Parte. Haokip and other Kukis, trace their lineage to Chawngthu. These names represent the progenitors of the clans. The signatories of the Kawnpui convention represent groups, who are broadly composed of a mix of the various clans and sub-clans. A clan or sub-clan is defined by the name of their progenitor; conversely, those composed of a mix of sub-clans is identified as a group. For example, Lusei and Chawngthu represent clans, and Hmar and Paite represent groups. A broad classification applicable for the ethnic people therefore is clans and groups. The people are genealogically linked; their culture, custom and traditions are the same, they share a common past and speak in dialects that are mutually intelligible. In contrast, a tribe is distinguished by its distinct custom, culture and language, as in the case of Ao, Angami, Sema and other Naga tribes. By this definition, the signatories of the Kawnpui convention represent groups or in totality a single 'tribe', not separate tribes as listed in the Constitution Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Lists (Modification) Order, 1956. In the same context, the entire ethnic people may be referred to as a 'tribe', not different tribes.


            'Any Kuki Tribes' of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) (Part C States) Order, 1951, Manipur, includes names that represent sub-clans and groups that can be listed from A - Z: Aimol, Anal, Biete, Changsan, Chongloi, Chothe, Chiru, Doungel, Gangte, Guite, Hangshing, Haokip, Hmar, Kipgen, Kolhen, Kom, Lamkang, Lenthang (Telien), Lhanghal, Lhangum, Lhouvum, Lhungdim, Lunkim, Maring (Poi in Mizoram), Mate, Milhem, Misao, Monshang, Moyon, Paite, Simte, Singsit, Singson, Sithlou, Tarao, Thangeo, Touthgang, Vaiphei, Zou. 'Any Kuki Tribes', which was deleted in 1956, was reintroduced in 2003 by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 2002, No 10 of 2003.


            With regard to the composition of the mix of sub-clans referred to above, as an example, those included in the category of 'Any Kuki Tribes' may be viewed as characterising a micro-model of the ethnic stock; the macro-model is present in the state of Mizoram and the Chin Hills state in Burma. To illustrate the micro-model, I like to use Haokip as an example: Among the Hmar group there is a sub-clan named Seimang. Seimang belong to the lineage of Tellang, the youngest of the seven brothers that make up Haokip. Thangsing and Tonsing, who are among Simte and Paite, respectively, belong to the same lineage as Seimang, as do Mangvum, who, are also among Lamkang, Anal and Moyon and Monshang. Haokip is also among Kom and Vaiphei. Other examples include Guite, Chongloi and Hangshing, who are among Paite. Guite and Doungel are of the same lineage, and their relation, the siblings Chongloi and Hangshing, are uncles of the twin brothers Haokip and Kipgen. In Kuki folklore, Khochungte, in general meaning the highlands, was used to refer to this line of sub-clans: Pu Chawngthu and Pu Lenthang, who emerged from Khul, their subterranean dwelling, cleared the forest for a new settlement, which is khochung (translated from the vernacular). 


            Khochungte refer to their kindred as Simte and Hmar, which means respectively those residing to the southeast and northwest. During British rule, a greater part of the hills surrounding Churachandpur was accorded the status of 'Haokip Reserve'. Seilmet, where the Reverend Rochunga Pudaite, who is Hmar, has set up a college and a hospital was part of the Haokip chief, Teisheng pa's land. Among the Kukis, a certain custom in which zu (traditional rice beer) plays a central role is observed when a chief gives land to kindred. Normally, a tall earthen jar (zubel) filled with zu is brought by the applicant to the chief and consumed together while formally striking the deal. Monetary transaction does not figure unless the land is being acquired by a non-Kuki, or vice-versa. Pearson Veng, inhabited by the Paite community, where the late Tiankham Tonsing's eldest son Vunga has established a school in memory of his mother, was given by the Haokip chief of Songpi. Tonsing, as mentioned above, belongs to the Haokip clan. These specifics are cited to highlight the bonds of clansmen and common ethnicity.


Parting of Ways :


            The armed-movement that began in 1966 to bring to fruition the political aspiration of the people was spearheaded by the Mizo National Front, led by Laldenga. Demkhoseh Gangte represented the Kuki contingent as leader. Col Demkhoseh led the first successful MNF mission to China in 1974. After returning from a three-month long mission in China, Demkhoseh surrendered to the Government of India at Imphal on 30 June 1975. The circumstance surrounding this development is murky. Various versions exist. According to Bareh, Rev Zairema met Demkhoseh in Manipur. The Reverend is supposed to have enquired whether it was proper for Demkhoseh to utilise funds and material collected on behalf of MNF from China for his personal benefit. Apparently, the reply was: if Laldenga could use all the money received from Pakistan for his personal use, why should he not use small amounts received from China after the 3000 mile march, 'longer than the long march of Mao Tsetung.

            The view of the MNF cadre who returned with him from China is that Demkhoseh had no option but to surrender. Apparently, decision had been taken to have him eliminated, as revealed under intense emotional distress by Demkhoseh's personal Lusei body guard, who was ordered to carry out the deed. This corroborates the allegation that Laldenga was 'considerably engaged in eliminating other leaders who were coming up in the party [in order] to retain his position and hold. He did not hesitate to get rid of his old colleagues and one time friends who had left him and returned to Mizoram to live a peaceful life. The revelation by Demkhoseh's body guard took place at Molvailup, in Ukhrul district, bordering Burma. The incident is said to have nearly created two opposing camps, Kuki and Mizo, almost sparking off an encounter. Curiously, the wives of four MNF leaders, and Kapthuami, the wife of Demkhoseh, surrendered to the DC at Lunglei along with her children on 11 May 1973, almost two years before her husband's surrender in 1975. This would suggest that Demkhoseh caught whiff of a possible conspiracy against him  and thus the inevitability of having to relinquish himself to the authorities upon his return from China.


            Graphic detail of the bitter horrors suffered by many from 1966 to 1986, when the Peace Accord was signed, perhaps does not need to be recounted at this juncture when the focus is 'twenty years of peace'. Nevertheless, to enlighten and sensitise the present generation blissfully reaping the fruits of the movement, it is, perhaps, one's moral obligation to inform that the suffering was shared, in experiences both physical and emotional, by the people represented at Kawnpui, as by those in the former Lushai Hills, which now alone make up Mizoram state. This outcome, after twenty years of fighting, leaves the nagging feeling that those outside of the former Lushai Hills were perhaps utilised during the MNF movement, only to be excluded at the end.


A state of development:


            Twenty years of peace in Mizoram has borne commendable results. It has earned the enviable reputation of being the oft-repeated 'model state' in Northeast India, a region endemic with turmoil of every conceivable hue. Comparatively, too, development is progressing at a remarkable rate, and the people are perceptibly at ease and quite content. Whereas potholes are the rule of most highways and byways in Northeast states, they are an exception in Mizoram. Motor vehicles, which include the latest models, are in abundance.  It is no exaggeration that these mawtawrs plying the narrow winding roads are normally well maintained and spanking clean. On week-days, in the state's capital, Aizawl, mawtawrs may move at a snail's pace, but it is heartening to find that a traffic culture exists. For instance, a polite beep yields a courteous slowing down and pulling aside by the vehicle in front to facilitate quick and smooth over-taking. Horn blaring just does not happen.


            Litter on the streets is pretty rare, thanks to the prevailing civic sense. It is also remarkable that hawkers and dawr keepers are conscientious about using appropriate receptacles for their rubbish. On the other hand, tobacco smoke wafts through the atmosphere and spit-missiles randomly fly, including in public places. Perhaps these irritants could be tackled by locating spittoons in strategic places (which could minimise the spread of communicable diseases), and if possible, ashtrays, too. Interestingly, while prohibition on alcohol is heavily emphasized at the cost of precious revenue loss and in contradiction to our age-old tradition, consumption of tobacco in its various forms - despite proven devastating health risks involved - is patently compromised.


A fading memory:


            The discontentment that inspired the armed movement in 1966 is now a fading memory for the populace of the 'model state'; in the adjacent states, including the participants' of the Kawnpui convention of 1965, it lingers. Clause 10 of the Peace Accord, signed on 30 June 1986 states:


The question of the unification of Mizo-inhabited areas of other States to form one administrative unit was raised by the MNF delegation. It was pointed out to them on behalf of the Government of India that Article 3 of the Constitution of India prescribes the procedure in this regard but that the Government cannot make any commitment in this respect.


            Although the people that make up 'Mizo' are an ethnic group, the MNF government's true stance on the subject of a single administrative unit - despite the fact that it figures in the party's constitution or manifesto - is made conspicuous by a deafening silence. If the armed-movement of MNF gained momentum by virtue of the people's widespread support, it is unabashedly contradicted by only a section privileged to identify with what is deemed 'twenty years of peace' and its dividends. Recall that in the course of the twenty years of fighting, hundreds and thousands, mostly committed young men, had to abandon their home and hearths, were later killed, maimed, arrested, tortured, and many of the villages they were from burnt down.


            Referring back to the 1986 Peace Accord, certain related queries have remained unresolved. A clear response to these would help the present generation - and those to follow - reconcile with the recent history of which their kith and kin was a part. It would also help them to chart their future independent of that past.


i)          Was the Mizo delegation fully represented, and if not, why not?


ii)          Why was Clause 10 not challenged at the time, or the issue ever raised, thereafter?

iii)         Is the present-day Mizoram state a success story of the MNF; if so, who is to be held responsible for the original proposed state being left unfulfilled?

iv)         Is Mizoram, which is now a divided dream, the price for 'twenty years of peace'?

The future with a past:


            Where are they to go from here, those who are not included in Mizoram and Chin Hills? The state of affairs is so dire that these militants dole out rations to the people, after which they are at the militants' mercy and beck and call. In the process these militants use the village people as shield from the Indian army. The army, whose cadres get killed by bombs placed by the militants in Kuki areas, get rough on the villagers. When the militants suffer losses, they torture, rape and kill the village folk, and also subject the chiefs to perform menial tasks. Many innocent lives have also been lost to landmines the militants have laid in the jungles, where the village people go daily to collect wood for fuel and vegetables and herbs for food. This is the extent of their predicament. Most recently, Hmars from Parbung were forced to leave their hearth and home to become refugees in Mizoram.


            Would identification with Mizo or Chin be the way out of the quagmire? At this stage it is doubtful that the answer would be in the affirmative. It is perhaps now time that a new paradigm is considered. Given the background, it is time now for the population in the two states to reciprocate and promote consensus among the ethnic population not included within the boundaries of Mizoram and Chin Hills, which is critical for the future of the concerned group. A section of a tribe or two being subsumed by Chin or Mizo undermines this potential, leading to no feasible end.


            In a nutshell, it would be beneficial to set aside differences prompted by clan domination diplomacy that caused fragmentation of Kuki in Manipur. Such sectarian tendency is no longer a popular sentiment. The obfuscation of the past fifty-odd years has made many realise not to let clannishness raise its ugly head again. Sectarianism ought to be replaced by an appropriate sense of nationalism. Given the present predicament, it would be unwise to ignore Kuki completely despite its certain shortcomings. In other words, let the baby not be thrown with the bathwater! To conclude, it would be politically prudent to invest on Kuki's historical, political and cultural capital with a view to actualising a positive future.


In conclusion, a reiteration on consensus and reciprocity: 


            Consensus, which was exercised in relation to Mizo and Chin, which yielded favourable outcomes, now needs to be reciprocated in relation to Kuki to sustain a political solution. Events in the past have proven that transcending the identities Mizo or Chin to refer to the ethnic entity beyond their respective state boundaries have been politically counter-productive. As stated earlier, the Mizo problem has been solved, and perhaps at the expense of Kukis. Drawing away what is part of Kuki now to Mizo will only exacerbate the situation. If taking in Gangte as Mizo would solve the problem in Manipur, then duly the entire lot of the Kawnpui signatories should have been included in the 1986 Peace Accord, not left out.


            Based on the principles of consensus and reciprocity, a general formula that would help the entire ethnic group is to adopt the identity in relation to their specific geographical context, e.g. accept Mizo in Mizoram, Chin in Chin Hills and Kuki in the regions not included within the other two. Existing conditions necessitates this pattern of shared ethnicity. By the macro-model of ethnicity, Kuki is Mizo or Chin; conversely, Mizo and Chin can accordingly be Kuki. This prototype again exemplifies common ethnicity. In the present circumstance, any of these identities trying to absorb the other will only prolong the catastrophic state of the other - in this respect the other is Kuki. With regard to Manipur and the Sagaing Division in Burma, therefore, promoting the identity Kuki will be an act of exercising consensus and reciprocity for a viable political conclusion. The identity incorporates historical legitimacy necessary for any political action to be favourably conclusive. The Kuki chiefs, who altogether own more than half of the existing state of Manipur, possess legal titles for their land. Consolidating Kuki unity provides potential to solve the crisis the people currently face and usher in a new era of hope, peace and development.


            In the context of this discourse, and in particularly Christian semantics, 'consensus and reciprocity' should also mean being 'charitable' towards Kuki, and in the local vernacular translate into Tlawmngaihna.