The Meetei Council, Moreh, Manipur has forwarded a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, seeking urgent intervention to address the upheaval in the town of Moreh along the Indo-Myanmar border. The memorandum highlights the historical composition of Moreh, initially established by a diverse mix of communities including Meiteis, Tangkhuls, Tamils, Punjabis, and Meitei Pangals.
The council stressed on the dire need for the PM and government of Manipur to intervene to ensure the restoration of the multicultural town of Moreh to the pre-1991 status. It also requested to direct the concerned authorities to take up appropriate measures for the return and rehabilitation of all those who had been driven out of Moreh since 1991. It urged for the identification and deportation of all illegal migrants.
The Meetei Council, Moreh on Friday in their memorandum said that the influx of Kukis occurred later, with a significant portion being deemed illegal immigrants from Burma (Myanmar). The ethnic cleansing of the various communities from Moreh by the Kuki militants and their supporters happened in the post 1991 period, it added.
“The council maintains a firm stance that all individuals compelled to leave Moreh should be not only resettled but also rehabilitated in their rightful place—Moreh. Pending the implementation of such resettlements, it is the council's position that no Kuki family, including those currently residing in Moreh, should be permitted to continue their stay. The emphasis lies on the imperative need to restore a harmonious and inclusive coexistence among the various communities that form the fabric of Moreh's rich heritage”, it mentioned.
Citing historical records, it asserted that the stand of the council is well supported by the historical records regarding the origin of Moreh town. Situated just 1 km from Tamu in Kabo Valley, currently part of Myanmar, historical ties reveal Kabo Valley's inclusion in the Manipur kingdom. The 15th-century demarcation agreement between Pong King Khekhomba and Kyamba established Kabo Valley within Manipur territory. In 1834, the British leased Kabo Valley to Burma, compensating the King of Manipur until the state's integration into India, it mentioned. Subsequently, Moreh became an officially sanctioned border post, as documented in the 1888 Gazetteer of Manipur, it said.
“The road 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 border outpost of Moreh while Tamu remained a commercial place settled and frequented by the Meitei, and Awa as well as Chinese Traders”, recalled the memorandum.
It said that after independence, the first Chief Minister of Manipur Maharaja Priyobrata Singh visited Tamu and advised to shift the commercial place to Moreh as Tamu was no longer under the jurisdiction of Manipur. Moreh was originally the land of Meiteis and Nagas (Tangkhul, Maring, Lamkang and Moyons) with a few Kukis (Baites and Zous). Amongst tribes under Kuki nomenclature, Solim Baite and his family came to settle in Moreh after 1950. Meitei Pangals also settled in Moreh at the same time as Meities. Tamils and Punjabis also came to settle in the Moreh town when General Ne Win seized power in Burma in 1962 and ordered all non-Burmese, including people of Indian origin who had been staying there for decades, to leave the country, it added.
It recalled that for a long time Meiteis constituted the majority of the population with Tamils coming next. Out of the 9 wards of the Moreh Town, Meiteis settled as majority in 5 (five) wards of 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9. The five localities of the Meiteis are known as Heinoumakhong Leikai, Turel Wangma Leikai, Khunou Leikai, Bazar Leikai and Premnagar Leikai (Leikai means locality in Manipuri). There were only Zou Leikai and Baite Leikai then from the Kuk-Zo group. Nagas lived alongside the Meiteis.
Shedding light on the town's multicultural fabric, the memorandum said that Moreh town was a microcosm of India before 1992. It was a multicultural trading town with a mixed population of Meiteis, Nagas, Kuki, Tamils, Meitei Pangals (Muslims), Marwaris, Gurkhas, Punjabis, Bengalis, Bihari, etc. Tamil festival Pongal and Meitei festival Lai Haraoba were more popular than Christmas in the town.
“In May 1990, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi registered a landslide victory in Myanmar. However, the military junta refused to recognize it, and there was a large-scale mass protest; the military junta cracked down on the protestors, and thousands of Kuki tribes migrated illegally to Manipur and settled in Moreh. Chavangphai and Kanan Veng were formed by then. The Myanmar-based insurgent group KNO/KNA came along and started operating in Moreh with active support from some powerful Kuki politicians. An ethnic clash broke out between Naga and Kuki in 1992 in Moreh, and it immediately spread out all over the hill districts. The Kukis killed many Nagas and burned down their houses in Moreh. Most Nagas were forced to flee Moreh”, it mentioned.
It recalled that after the Tribal Solidarity Rally on May 3, 2023, the Kuki militants and their supporters brutally attacked the Meiteis, Tamils, Punjabis, Meitei Pangal, Biharis and Nepalis by burning down their homes, and drove them out of Moreh. In the absence of the return and rehabilitation of all those driven out of Moreh town by the Kuki militants and their supporters, no Kuki should be allowed to settle in Moreh, it added.