Armed groups of the Kuki community in Manipur have urged the Centre to settle the demands of the tribe before it strikes a deal with Naga insurgents, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday. The community began a three-day observance in Churachandpur district of Manipur on Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of a massacre of dozens of Kuki villagers allegedly by Naga rebels.

“The central government should settle the issue of the Kuki first or simultaneously, and stop giving undue attention to the Naga militants, for they are the perpetrators,” said Seilen Haokip, spokesperson of the Kuki National Organisation, an umbrella group of 17 armed groups.

Naga rebel groups have been fighting for Nagalim or Greater Nagaland for decades. In 2015, their talks with the Centre got a new lease of life after the government signed a “framework agreement” with the rebel outfit National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah). The talks are said to be at an advanced stage now.

Letzamang Haokip, who heads the committee that is holding the Kukis’ Black Day observance, said that the Centre and the state had done nothing to rehabilitate Kukis to their “ancestral home” even 25 years after the massacre. “Instead, the government reasons with culprits of genocide and [those who] threatened the very existence of the Kukis as loyal,” he said.

More than 350 villages were affected in the “genocide” and over a thousand Kukis were killed, he said. He also warned that the community would take a tough stand if the government continued to ignore their demands.

Seilen Haokip said the community should get the “opportunity to live with dignity along with its Naga and Meitei brothers”. “Although the content of the framework agreement is unknown, it is obvious that it intends to bring a solution to the Naga issues,” he said. “But, in doing so, the Kuki territory should not be affected.”

The massacre

On September 13, 1993, armed cadres of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) allegedly killed 115 Kuki villagers in different places of Tamenglong and Senapati districts of Manipur. The incident, known as the Joupi massacre, was preceded and followed by several clashes between the two communities between 1992 and 1997.

The Kukis erected three monoliths in Churachandpur district on Tuesday with names of 1,157 victims inscribed on them. Thousands of Kukis from Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Myanmar participated on the first day of the observance.