Everyone knows, in the violence which started on May 3 the most important target of the Kukis was total control of Moreh region and the Trans Asian highway from Pallel to Moreh. Though Kukis already have an overwhelming majority in Moreh and its surrounding areas, Meiteis have also a sizable presence in the important border town. So, their main objective was to extinguish the last vestiges of the Meiteis from Moreh as they perceive the Meitei community to be a major threat to their overarching designs in the Indo-Myanmar borderland and its accompanying advantages.
Churachandpur and Kangpokpi came along with the package of Meitei annihilation. They also feel the Meitei population in Moreh had the backing of valley insurgents having camps across the border. So, their ultimate objective became cleansing Moreh of Meiteis once for all, just as they drove away the Tangkhuls in the early 90s during the Naga-Kuki riots. They also somehow managed to align their cause with that of India’s geo-political considerations.
What they did not know was the fact that one cannot simply wish away or erase the historical footprint of a community and a nation. Manipur’s frequent interactions with the kingdom of Ava in the present day Myanmar and the Meiteis had survived the onslaught of the powerful Ava army in the Seven Years Devastation only to rise again and drive away the Ava army to the banks of Chindwin River.
Except for that dreadful period of seven years, Burma and Manipur kingdom continued to maintain deep cultural ties and relations. So, Moreh was a designated border post officially sanctioned by the Meitei King and later on by the British as one of the important posts along the border. The 1888 Gazetteer of Manipur describes Moreh as a border post (Thana) of Manipur. Officials of the King were there to guard the border zealously.
The highway from Pallel to Moreh was constructed during the Second World War by local overseers and labour under the supervision of the British and when it was finished they constructed an Inspection Bunglow under PWD. That was the first official building for government officials and there were no other permanent structures except for some Meiteis from Kakching and neighbouring areas who had come there looking for war scraps from the Second World War.
Meiteis were among the first settlers of the two border outposts of Moreh and Jiribam, as there was frequent interactions between Manipur and Cachar in the west and with the Burmese in the east. In fact, these two border outposts served as the gateway to Manipur.
After going through the history of Moreh, an economist from Manipur University discovered that the character of Moreh underwent some radical changes with the advent of the Tamils and other Indians from Myanmar. They brought capital and experience to engage in trade, largely illegal. This was the option in the absence of formal border trade which was to come in 1995 only. Tamils from Burma came to India when General Ne Win nationalised banks, shops, and factories. Some enterprising people also took up smuggling and illegal trade and with a boom came attracting various other communities to the border town.
It became a cosmopolitan town with communities bound by the common interest of trade and its benefits. In the early 90s, Kukis saw an opportunity with the onset of Naga-Kuki ethnic clashes and began their quest for total control of the border town. But, there were so many hurdles on the way and they had to deal with it one by one. The first was flooding the border town with their kith and kin from other places in the state and most importantly from across the border.
The Myanmar-based insurgent group KNO/KNA came along and started running things with active support from some powerful Kuki politicians. And now, they are claiming to be the original settlers who are facing ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the Meiteis and the state government to the world. Reality states otherwise. Just as they cleansed Moreh of Nagas in the 90s, they are trying to cleanse Moreh of the Meitei population now. When state forces move in and the border guards Assam Rifles sprung into action, they are projecting themselves as victims of ethnic cleansing. Nobody would believe you except for those who want to stoke the ethnic cauldron.