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The Original Inhabitants of Moreh were Meiteis and Nagas – Meetei Council Moreh

Last Updated on January 6, 2024 by SPN Editor

The Meetei Council Moreh has submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, advocating for the settlement and rehabilitation of individuals who were forced to leave Moreh due to the actions of the Kuki Militants and their supporters since 1991. The memorandum implies that the original inhabitants of Moreh were primarily the Meiteis and Nagas (including the Tangkhul, Maring, Lamkang, and Moyon tribes), with a minority population of Kukis (specifically the Baite and Zou tribes). The same memorandum which was sent by General Secretary of Meetei Council Moreh, L Brojendro Meetei was copied to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Minister of Manipur, N Biren.

The Meetei Council Moreh, Manipur, has issued a pressing appeal for intervention concerning the volatile conditions prevailing in Moreh town, situated along the India-Myanmar border. Highlighting the historical composition of Moreh, initially established by Meiteis, Tangkhuls, Tamils, Punjabis, and Meitei Pangals, the Council addresses the subsequent influx of Kukis, notably some labeled as illegal immigrants from Burma (Myanmar).

The Meetei Council Moreh laments the distressing events post-1991, pointing to ethnic cleansing orchestrated by Kuki Militants and their allies that resulted in the displacement of several communities from Moreh.

In a firm stance, the Council emphasizes the imperative need for the resettlement and rehabilitation of those forced to leave Moreh, advocating for their return to their rightful place. Pending the execution of such measures, the Council firmly asserts that no Kuki family, including those currently residing in Moreh, should be allowed to continue their stay. Their goal is to reinstate a harmonious and inclusive coexistence among the diverse communities that constitute Moreh’s cultural tapestry.

Citing historical records, the Meetei Council Moreh elaborates on Moreh’s origins, tracing its ties to the Manipur kingdom, specifically the inclusion of Kabaw Valley in Manipur territory through a 15th-century demarcation agreement. The subsequent lease of Kabaw Valley to Burma by the British in 1834, compensated by the King of Manipur until the state’s integration into India, led to the official sanctioning of Moreh as a border post, as documented in the 1888 Gazetteer of Manipur.

Additionally, the Meetei Council Moreh highlights the construction of the road from Pallel to Moreh during the Second World War overseen by local laborers under British supervision. Notably, the first official building for government officials was the Inspection Bungalow under PWD. Initially settled by Meiteis, Moreh served as a border outpost while Tamu retained its status as a commercial hub frequented by Meitei, Awa, and Chinese traders.

The Meetei Council Moreh’s urgent plea for intervention stems from their dedication to restoring Moreh’s historical fabric and safeguarding the rights of displaced individuals, emphasizing the imperative need for resettlement and the restoration of communal harmony in the region.

After India gained independence, Maharaja Priyobrata Singh, Manipur’s inaugural Chief Minister, visited Tamu and suggested relocating the commercial center to Moreh since Tamu no longer fell under Manipur’s jurisdiction. Historically, Moreh belonged to the Meiteis and Nagas (including Tangkhul, Maring, Lamkang, and Moyons), alongside a small population of Kukis (specifically Baites and Zous).

Notably, Solim Baite and the family settled in Moreh post-1950, while Meitei Pangals, Tamils, and Punjabis arrived when General Ne Win seized power in Burma in 1962, prompting non-Burmese individuals, including long-time residents of Indian origin, to leave the country.

For a considerable period, Meiteis constituted the town’s majority population, followed by Tamils. The population of Moreh Town was a mere 108 in 1951, which surged to 690 in 1961 and remarkably reached 3,581 by 1971. Achieving Small-town committee status post-statehood in 1972, Moreh’s population escalated to 7,678 in 1981.

Meiteis predominantly settled in five out of nine wards—3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9—known as Heinoumakhong Leikai, Turel Wangma Leikai, Khunou Leikai, Bazar Leikai, and Premnagar Leikai, respectively. At that time, only Zou Leikai and Baite Leikai represented the Kuk-Zo group, while Nagas cohabited with the Meiteis.

Before 1992, Moreh epitomized a microcosm of India, functioning as a multicultural trading hub housing a diverse population, including Meiteis, Nagas, Kukis, Tamils, Meitei Pangals (Muslims), Marwaris, Gurkhas, Punjabis, Bengalis, Biharis, and others. Festivals like Tamil’s Pongal and Meitei’s Lai Haraoba of Ima Kondong Lairembi were more popular than Christmas in the town.

In May 1990, Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, secured a massive victory. However, the military junta refused to acknowledge the results, triggering large-scale protests. The subsequent crackdown forced thousands of Kuki tribes to illegally migrate to Manipur, settling in Moreh and forming Chavangphai and Kanan Veng.

Concurrently, the Myanmar-based insurgent group KNO/KNA began operating in Moreh, backed by influential Kuki politicians. This led to an ethnic clash between Nagas and Kukis in 1992, spreading across hill districts. The violence resulted in numerous Naga casualties, house burnings in Moreh, and the forced exodus of most Nagas from the town.

Following the Tribal Solidarity Rally on May 3, 2023, Kuki militants, along with their allies, launched brutal attacks on Meiteis, Tamils, Punjabis, Meitei Pangals, Biharis, and Nepalis in Moreh. This resulted in their homes being set on fire and their forceful expulsion from the town.

As a result, the Meetei Council Moreh urgently petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Government of Manipur to aid in restoring Moreh to its multicultural state as it existed before 1991. Meetei Council Moreh implores the relevant authorities to take immediate action to ensure the safe return and rehabilitation of all individuals displaced from Moreh since 1991. Additionally, it requests the identification and deportation of all illegal migrants.

Meetei Council Moreh also expressed that if the individuals who were displaced from Moreh town due to the actions of the Kuki militants and their supporters are not returned and rehabilitated, the settlement of any Kuki in Moreh should not be permitted.

[Memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister of India by Meetei Council Moreh on 5th January 2024 urging the settlement and rehabilitation of individuals displaced by Kuki Militants and supporters since 1991, prohibiting any Kuki family settlement in Moreh in the absence of such rehabilitation.]

1 thought on “The Original Inhabitants of Moreh were Meiteis and Nagas – Meetei Council Moreh

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      Lai Haraoba Festival serves as a cultural cornerstone for the Meitei community in Manipur, embodying their spiritual beliefs, agricultural practices, and social cohesion. As a celebration deeply rooted in tradition, it not only preserves the cultural identity of the Meitei people but also provides a platform for the passing down of ancestral knowledge from one generation to the next. The festival’s significance lies not only in its religious undertones but also in its ability to foster a sense of community and shared heritage among the Meitei people, making Lai Haraoba a timeless celebration of cultural resilience and unity.

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