Who are Kukis & Meiteis, the warring tribes in Manipur

Manipuris in Kolkata pray for peace in home state (photo:SNS)

The violence in the Indian state of Manipur bordering Myanmar began on May 3 when the tribal group Kuki clashed with a non-tribal group, the ethnic majority Meitei, over economic, social, and political benefits and quotas given to the tribes.

The ethnic conflict left more than 80 people dead, hundreds injured, and nearly 35 thousand people displaced. The state has now turned into a battle zone. Let us find out who are the warring communities the Kukis and the Meitis

Who are Kukis

The Kukis are an ethnic group inhabiting India’s north-eastern states Manipur and Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, and Nagaland. The Kuki is one of the several hill tribes in India,
Bangladesh, and Myanmar. In Northeast India, they are present in all states except Arunachal Pradesh. The Kukis, living mainly in the hills, Churachandpur is their main stronghold, they also have a sizeable population in Chandel, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal, and Senapati districts of Manipur. It is believed that Kuki people are native to the Mizo Hills (formerly Lushai), a mountainous region in the south-eastern part of Mizoram in India. Additionally, it is claimed that the Kuki tribes of north-east India are comprised of more than 20 sub-tribes.
The Kuki people have a diverse range of religious traditions. They historically practiced animism, which is the belief in the existence of ancestors.


They also practice rituals such as animal sacrifices, ancestor worship, and festivals to appease their Gods. Many Kuki people converted to Christianity, especially to Protestantism, with the entrance of Christian missionaries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Kuki people practice Christianity as
their main religion today, with some sizeable minorities adhering to animism or other religions like Judaism or Islam.

Who are Meiteis

The Meiteis also known as Meetei are the dominant ethnic group of the North Indian state of Manipur. Meiteis mainly live in the Imphal Valley region of today’s Manipur, though a sizeable population has settled in the other Indian states of Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram. The Meitei ethnic group makes up around 53 per cent of the population of
Manipur (Census of India, 2011). The Meitei people speak the Meitei language which is also known as the Manipuri language, and comes under the sub-family of the Tibeto-Burman language. One of India’s recognised official languages, Meitei, was added to the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India in 1992.
According to the 2011 census, Meiteis follow only two religions, with an overwhelming majority of Meiteis practicing Hinduism. Around 16 per cent of Meiteis traditionally believe in Sanamahi religion named after god Sanamahi. Around 8 per cent of Meiteis follow Islam.