IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


19th June, 2023 Polity

Copyright infringement not intended

Context: The Kukis are a diverse group of tribes that inhabit parts of India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. They have a long and complex history of migration, conflict and resistance.


  • The Kukis are a diverse group of tribes that inhabit parts of Northeast India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. They have a rich and complex history that spans centuries and crosses borders.

Origin and Culture

  • The term "Kuki" is not a self-designation, but an exonym given by outsiders. The earliest reference to the word "Kuki" dates back to 1777 CE, when it appeared in British records. The Kukis themselves prefer to use their clan names or the collective term "Zo" to identify themselves.
  • The Kukis are believed to have migrated from inner Asia or mainland China, along with other related groups such as the Chin, Mizo and Naga. They share linguistic and cultural similarities with these groups, as well as some differences.
  • The Kukis speak various languages belonging to the Chin-Kuki-Mizo branch of the Tibeto-Burman family. They practice a form of animism called "Inpi", which involves worshipping ancestral spirits and natural forces.
  • They also have a clan-based social structure, where land ownership and inheritance are determined by the eldest son of the village chief.

Migration and Expansion

  • The Kukis have a long history of migration and expansion across different regions. According to one account, the "old Kukis" migrated to the Manipur area at the beginning of the 11th century, and became subjects of the rajas of Manipur.
    • Another account suggests that large numbers of Kukis migrated to Manipur in the early 19th century, following conflicts with other tribes in Myanmar.
  • The Kukis also moved into other areas such as Assam, Mizoram and Tripura in India, and Chittagong Hill Tracts and Sylhet in Bangladesh. They often clashed with the local inhabitants over land and resources. For example, in 1860, a Kuki leader named Riang led a raid on the plains of Chhagalnaiya in Bangladesh, killing and looting hundreds of Bengalis and British officers.
  • The Kukis also participated in various wars and rebellions against the British colonial rule. They fought alongside the Manipuri king in the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 and later staged a series of uprisings known as the Kuki Rebellion from 1917 to 1919. The Kukis resisted the British attempts to impose taxes, recruit labourers and interfere with their customs.

Conflicts and Aspirations

  • In the post-independence era, the Kukis faced several challenges and conflicts in their quest for self-determination and recognition.
  • They have been involved in violent clashes with other ethnic groups such as the Nagas and Meiteis over territorial disputes and political rights.
  • They have also been subjected to ethnic cleansing, displacement and discrimination by various state and non-state actors.

Insurgent groups

  • The Kukis have also formed various insurgent groups to demand autonomy or statehood for their areas. Some of these groups include the Kuki National Army (KNA), the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), the United People's Front (UPF) and the Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA).
    • These groups have been engaged in armed struggle as well as political dialogue with the Indian government since the 1980s.
  • The main demand of the Kuki insurgent groups is the creation of a separate state called "Kukiland" or "Zoland", which would include all the Kuki-inhabited areas of Northeast India. They also seek constitutional recognition as a distinct ethnic group, protection of their land rights and cultural identity, and development of their region.

Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement

  • The Kuki insurgent groups signed a Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with the Indian government in 2008, which led to a ceasefire and peace talks.
  • The talks have not made much progress due to various issues such as lack of trust, political instability and competing interests.

The Kukis face various challenges and threats to their survival and well-being as an ethnic group in the contemporary world. Some of these challenges are:

 Land alienation

  • The Kukis have been losing their ancestral lands due to various factors such as population pressure, development projects, encroachment by other groups and state policies. This has resulted in a loss of livelihood, identity and security for the Kukis.

Ethnic conflicts

  • The Kukis have been involved in various ethnic conflicts with other groups such as Nagas, Meiteis and Mizos over issues such as land, resources, autonomy and identity. These conflicts have caused death, injury, displacement and trauma for the Kukis and other communities.

Political marginalization

  • The Kukis have been marginalized and neglected by the state and central governments in terms of representation, development and welfare.
  • They have been denied their rights and aspirations for autonomy and self-determination.
  • They have also been subjected to various forms of discrimination and harassment by the authorities and other groups.

Cultural erosion

  • The Kukis have been facing the erosion of their culture and identity due to various factors such as modernization, globalization, assimilation and conversion.
  • They have been losing their languages, customs, traditions and values due to a lack of preservation, promotion and protection.
  • They have also been influenced by external forces and trends that undermine their distinctiveness and diversity.

Way forward

Land rights

  • The Kukis need to assert and secure their land rights through legal, political and social means. They need to resist and challenge any attempts to dispossess them of their lands. They also need to manage and conserve their lands sustainably.


  • The Kukis need to engage in dialogue and reconciliation with other groups to resolve their conflicts and grievances. They need to foster a culture of peace and tolerance among themselves and others. They also need to cooperate and collaborate with other groups for common interests and benefits.

Political empowerment

  • The Kukis need to demand and obtain greater political empowerment from the state and central governments. They need to seek and exercise their rights and aspirations for autonomy and self-determination.
  • They also need to increase their representation and participation in various levels of governance and decision-making.

Cultural revival

  • The Kukis need to revive and revitalize their culture and identity through various means such as education, media, arts and festivals. They need to preserve, promote and protect their languages, customs, traditions and values. They also need to celebrate and share their culture and identity with others.


  • The Kukis are a diverse ethnic group that has a rich and complex history, culture and identity that spans centuries and borders. They have a significant role and contribution to the history, politics and society of Northeast India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. They also face various challenges and threats to their survival and well-being as an ethnic group in the contemporary world. They have a lot of potential and possibilities to overcome their challenges and achieve their goals as an ethnic group in the future.

Must Read Articles:

Kuki: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/kuki

Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/suspension-of-operations-so0-agreement


Q. The northeastern region of India has been plagued by various insurgent groups for decades, demanding autonomy or secession from the Indian Union. What are the causes and consequences of this insurgency, and how can it be resolved peacefully?