Vocal for justice : Pandemic makeway for the observance of Kuki Black Day ‘Sahnit Ni’ 2020

TS Haokip
The year 2020 thus far has been a rough year for everyone. While people are busy acclimatizing themselvesto the new normal, somewhere in the nook corner of the country, the villagers of Joupi, Janglenphai, and the surrounding villages in Tamenglong District of Manipur, silently wiped away their tears, perhaps much more in exasperation for the failure in the deliverance of justice to them than the unthinkable fate of having their beloved fathers, brothers, and husbands being butchered right in front of their eyes.
For those who came in late, 13th September every year has been observed since 1993 by the Kuki people as a tribute to more than a thousand innocent Kukis killed allegedly by the NSCN IM; 103 people on the 13th of September 1993 alone. The 103 Kukis were killedwhile on their way, as they left their villages after being served quit notices ( an order to leave their homestead) by the Manipur Naga rebels. The NSCN IM’s agenda of taking the lives and lands of Kukis to stake claim for their greater Nagalim dreams have resulted in the loss of more than a thousand innocent Kuki lives including women and children.
In as much as the observance of Sahnit Ni is about remembering the departed souls, who were mercilessly killed just because they were Kukis and they have lands, it also concernsthe noble quest of demanding justice to the victims of the NSCN IM massacre. ‘Sahnit is a sacred tradition of the Kukis, wherein the observance lasts until justice is delivered. In the case of the Kuki people, the justice we demand is that the victims and their families should be physically, emotionally, and economically rehabilitated and criminal proceedings have to be initiated against the perpetrators for their gruesome genocidal acts,’ said a Kuki Inpi Leader.
Churachandpur Sahnit Ni
The 27th Sahnit Ni (Kuki Black day) was observed in all the Kuki villages in Manipur and different cities in India with the theme, ‘Lest we forget- Seeking for Justice and the way forward.’ A programme was held at Kuki Inpi Churachandpur, organised at the memorial site where monoliths were erected on the occasion of the 25th years of Sahnit Ni in 2018. In the event, the Kuki Chief Association paid a gun saluteto the thousand massacred Kukis. Pu Khaimang Chongloi, President Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) delivered a brief speech on the significance of ‘Sahnit Ni’ and gave a rundown of how Kuki Inpi has been relentlessly pursuing justice for the victims of Kuki Black Day. Pu PS Haokip, President of Kuki National Organisation(KNO)- a conglomerate of 17 Kuki militant organisations, narrated how the Kuki people, who have a rich history of fighting the Britishduring the Anglo-Kuki war 1917-1919  and whoaided Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA in the Indian Freedom Movement were caught unawares by the onslaught of Tangkhul led NSCN IM. ‘First, they attacked us in Ukhrul District, then in Chandel, Churachandpur, Tamenglong, Sadar Hills, and even in Assam and Nagaland. It was a premeditated and systematic attack on the innocent Kukis.  They continued in 2020 and attacked Chassad. Many people blamed me for my silence. But I want to assure the Kuki people that we are doing the right thing by talking to the Government of India. Our concerns are well represented,’ he said.  Various tribe representatives from -Zou, Paite, Vaiphei, Simte, Mizo and Gangte Tribes also delivered short speeches on the occasion. Upa Doungam Touthang, Asst. Secy. Relief and Rehab, KIC made a benediction to end the programme.
Mumbai Sahnit Ni
Undeterred by the pandemic, the Kuki Welfare Association and Kuki Students’ Organisation Mumbai organized a virtual programme to observe Sahnit Ni 2020. Professor TT Haokip of NEHU, Shillong graced the programme as a resource person. Speaking on the theme, Dr.TT asked the 76 online attendants to imbibe a sense of love and unity. He further urged the youths not to inculcate feelings of enmity but to work hard and be successful in life. On being asked by Pu Lett Lhungdim, Jt.Secy. Kuki Welfare Association Mumbai, about the concerns raised by some people and the allegations levelled against the observation of ‘Sahnit Ni’as being an act of vengeance and thence unchristian-like, Dr. TT Haokip explained that the gathering of people with an intent to remember their beloved bygones andthe act of praying and seeking God’s blessings cannot be termed ‘unchristian’. ‘Government of India is open to address our political concerns. It is not our duty to avenge the wrongdoings. The best way we can pay back to our enemy is to excel in ourlives,’ said the Professor who is also author of the book ‘The Kuki-Naga Conflict; issues and solutions’. After a worthwhile discussion, Kuki Welfare Association Mumbai Secretary, Pu John M Neihsial gave a vote of thanks to all the attendants and the resource person. The Pastor of KWS, Pu Rev. Mangminthang Haokip then led the prayer for the victims and their families.
Pune Sahnit Ni
The Kuki Students Organisation Pune organised a webinar to observe Sahnit Ni 2020 from 15:00 hrs to 17:00 hrs on 13th September 2020. Pu Rev. Onkho Haokip, the guest speaker for the day, explained how the observance of Sahnit  is a non-violent traditional practice of the Kukis to seek justice for unnatural deaths and put to rest the conspiracies hatched by a few people that Sahnit Ni is a day of spreading the message of enmity and vengeance. The Development Co-ordinator of the Kuki Baptist Convention, Pu Rev. Onkho also stressed the importance of seeking God’s intervention for Justice. ‘We have a God who can do anything and everything; but in His own timing,’ he said. He further said that God promises His help to those who seek and cited a  Bible verse as a reference; Psalms 50:15 ‘ Call upon me in times of trouble, I will rescue you and you shall glorify me.’
Shillong Sahnit Ni
Under the aegis of Kuki Inpi Meghalaya, the Kukis in Shillong too observed the 27th Sahnit Ni 2020. The virtual programme was attended by around 100 participants. Honorary Captain Jamkhai Chongthu delivered the Sahnit message, briefly narrating the significance of the Kuki Black Day. A one minute silence was observed to pay tribute to those innocent Kukis massacred on the 13th of September 1993 as well as the more than thousand Kukis killed from 1992 to 1997, which is also infamously known as ‘Ethnic cleansing’ or ‘Genocide’ of the Kukis by the NSCN IM.  Pu Pastor Seiminthang Chongloi of Kuki Worship Service Shillong rendered the benediction to seek God’s intervention to bring justice to the Kukis and to reform, reunite and revive them spiritually and physically.
Hyderabad sahnit Ni
Pu Rev. Lamkeng Lhouvum, who is one of the victims’ families of Joupi and Janglenphai incident on 13th September 1993, spoke as a Guest speaker at Sahnit Ni 2020 organized by Kuki Students’ Organisation Hyderabad. The Kuki Baptist ConventionPastor narrated the whole incidents of the massacre in detail and expressed his displeasure over how Kuki society has of late embraced clannish politics and said, ‘the enemy didn’t selectively killed any particular clan. They saw us as one. Today, we havetoo many internal conflicts amongst us.’ Heurged the members to commemorate the day as a day of forgiveness, unity, and most importantly a day to seek HIM. ‘We should ask ourselves why the Government has not answered our pleas for justice; is it our lack of unity?’ said Pu Lhouvum. ‘It is time to retrospect and take a unified stanceto achieve our goals,’ he further added. The programme concluded with a blessing prayer from Pu Rev. Bishop Paothang Haokip, who prayed for the victims’ families and the Kuki people in their pursuit of justice and seek God’s blessings to shower the Kuki Society.
Delhi Sahnit Ni
Pu Dr. Michael Lunminthang Haokip, Pu Luntinsat Kipgen, Pu Paolenlal Haokip, and Pu Dr. Paothang Haokip graced the Delhi Sahnit Ni 2020 programme organised by KSO Delhi & NCR as the main speakers. Pu Dr. Michael Haokip based his speech on the historical and societal roots of the Kukis while Pu Dr. PaothangHaokip discussed the prevailing  Kuki society’s problems and how practical solution is the need of the hour to address the issues. Pu Dr. Paothang explained how a simple initiative such aspromoting schools in remote Kuki villageswill go a long way in shaping the future of the Kukis. Pu Luntinsat Kipgen expressed the importance of rebuilding and reinventing the political structure and its significance including chieftainship to reconstruct the Kuki society. ‘As justice is in the hands of the Chief, this system of justice in our society must be upheld rather than to just lie and wait for external interference,’ he added. Pu Paolenlal Haokip underscored the importance of Justice and said, ‘The Government of India must set up a tribunal for the trial of Th. Muivah and the collective leadership of NSCM-IM and UNC for the crime of Genocide. To be contd...