Inclusivity of Meitei society and arrival of Thadou Kukis-Part 1
Contd from previous issue
After the death of Garibaniwaza and consequent quarrels among his successors, Manipur ceased to be a strong power and the centre of political gravity in the region (Gangmumei, p312).
The First Record of Migration of Kukis to Manipur (18th Century)
During the reign of Bhagyachandra, the Burmese repeatedly invaded Manipur between 1758 and 1782 AD. It severely depleted the resources and population of the Kingdom. A large number of people were taken away to Ava. The Kukis had started penetrating into Manipur. After the return to normalcy (after setting up the palace at Langthaban), the King sent an expeditionary force towards Tuivai, the border of Manipur and the present day Mizoram; and defeated the Kuki intruders. A stone inscription was raised to mark the victory over the Kukis (Khongjais). (Gangmumei, p313, 317 to 321).
The Royal Chronicle of Manipur, “Cheitharol Kumbaba” mentioned names of two Kukis, Kuki Ahongba and Kuki Achouba, at the time of coronation of King Nongda Lairen Pakhangba in 33AD.
The Chronicle keeping stared during the reign of King Kyamba in1484 AD and during that time the term Khongjai was used to describe the Old Kuki. The former copy of the Chronicle was not available after successive Burmese invasions between 1758 and 1782 AD. The Chronicle was rewritten in 1780 AD by the order of the King Bhagyachandra. Therefore, the use of word Kuki for Khongjai was possible during the rewriting, as the terms Kuki indicates both Khongjai and New Kuki tribes at that time (Gangmumei, 41, 44).
The Consequences of the Seven Years Devastation (1819-26)
The population of Imphal was reduced to about 10,000 after the Seven Years Devastation (Gangmumei, p339). RB Pemberton said that Manipur was “… to the devastating visitation of Burmese armies which have nine to ten times swept the country from one extremity to the other with the apparent determination of extirpating a race whom they found it impossible permanently to subdue”(Lal Dena 2015, p8).
A large number of Meiteis also fled to Cachar and the hill districts. Some of them converted to various tribes to save themselves. After driving out the Burmese with the help of the British, Manipur was in urgent need of manpower to ensure the security of the Kingdom.
The Kukis (Thadou Kuki and kin tribes) arrived in Manipur in large numbers during the reign of King Nar Singh in 1830 and 1840 AD. They were driven out by more powerful groups in Burma (Myanmar). They sought for shelter and land to live in from the Manipur King. The King entrusted the work of settling them to the Political Agent, McCulloch. The King allowed them shelter by giving land free of cost at the exposed frontier. The king employed them in the Manipur Army. Thus the Kukis became good subjects of Manipur (RK Jhalajit Singh 1965, p228). It mutually benefited both the Meiteis and the Kukis.
Major MacCulloch reports on 18th July 1861 AD included the following “..The late Rajah, Nar Singh, made over the superintendence of these tribes to me. This arose from the first proceedings in connection with them for the establishment of a line of villages of the Koupooees…Beyond the Manipur boundary are the Soote and Loosai tribes. These are both powerful and dangerous…The Raja and I have established in the South villages of Kookies, to whom are given arms and whom we called “Sepoy Villages” (Mackenzie, p157).
In 1877-78 AD, Colonel Johnstone reported that over 2000 persons belonging to Sooties or Helot race living in villages of their own with the Sooties migrated during the year to Manipur (Machenzie, p171). These people were Nwite living around the present site of Tiddim, who for the last 18 years have steadily moved North. Wnite are also known as Malte and Tornglorngte. They are related to Soktes by marriage and through interactions with the plains. They became friendlier with Moirang and Shugnu; and thus became a buffer between the Soktes and Manipur (BS Carey 1896, 125).
After the Lushai expedition 1871-72 AD, about 373 Sooti or Sooktie and 392 Khongjais were rescued from the captivity of the Lushai chiefs. The Maharaja allowed them to settle in the Thanging hill range (According to R Brown, 649 Khongjais, p56). In addition 962 people, including children under the escort of Kamhow chief Nokatung were allowed to settle in the valley. (Prof. Lokendra Singh, A brief note on Manipur and Lushai Expedition 1871-72 part2). Nokatung is regarded by the Meitei and the British as a Kamhow Chief. However, some are of the view that he was a Wnite from Mwelpi or a Guite guide Chief.
The numbers of these migrants were significant at that time as the total population of Manipur in 1873 AD was only 74,000 in the surrounding hills and 65,000 in the valley (R Brown 1873, p1).
Raids by the Soktes and Migration of Thadou from the Northern Chin Hills
The Soktes took possession of Molbem from the Thadou during the reign of Nar Singh in early 1830 AD. The first well known Soktes Chief was Mang Kim’s son Kantum. In about 1840 AD, Kantum subdued Nwite, who then occupied the tract we now know as the Kanhow tract, the Yos, the Thadou, who then still inhabit the hills fringing the plain of Manipur and the Kabaw valley and the Vaipes, a tribe which has entirely disappeared from the Chin Hills. Only the Thadou offered a good resistance to Kantum (BS Carey, p118-9).
Guns began to find their way into the hands of Soktes at the end of Kantum’s reign. In 1856 AD after his death, his son Kanhow became Chief; and he raided a hill village of Manipur. In response an expedition was undertaken by Maharaja Nar Singh. Kanhow received information about the preparation of the expedition and collected all the forces, including Sokte Chief Yapow and the Siyins tribes at Tiddim. When the Manipuri forces were a few miles from Tiddim, Kanhow led out his forces. After a few minutes of heavy fire the Manipuri forces retreated and many of them were killed/drowned in the Manipur River (BS Carey, p120).
After the death of Kanhow his son Kochin became the Chief and he took part in the Lushai Expedition (1871-72). When Kochin was actively assisting the British troops by attacking Lalbur in the rear, the action of the Manipuri in arresting Nokatung alienated him.
After obtaining the bones of Nokatung who died in the prison in Manipur, Kochin raided the hill villages. In 1875, Manipur sent an expedition headed by a Major. The Soktes were not desirous to fight and the Major never intended to fight. The negotiation ended with the exchange of captives and promises of peace in the future (BS Carey, p124).
(To be contd)