Manipur's "Sacred" Hill Renamed As "Kuki Army Camp", Government Takes Action

The Kuki National Front - Military Council, or KNF(MC), which also calls itself the "Kuki Army", had installed a signboard at the base of the Thangjing ching (hill) calling it "Thangting camp" of the "Kuki Army"

Manipur's 'Sacred' Hill Renamed As 'Kuki Army Camp', Government Takes Action

Kuki National Front - Military Council installed its signboard on Thangjing ching (hill) in Manipur


The Manipur government has initiated action against a Kuki insurgent group for renaming a sacred hill of the valley-dominant Meitei community, and for claiming the area as its "camp".

The Kuki armed group's action could spiral into another round of violence amid the ethnic tension between the hill-dominant Kuki tribes and the Meiteis, Manipur government sources said today.

The Kuki National Front - Military Council, or KNF(MC), which also calls itself the "Kuki Army", had installed a signboard at the base of the Thangjing ching (hill) calling it "Thangting camp" of the "Kuki Army".

The Meitei community in the lakeside Moirang town had been going for pilgrimage to Thangjing ching, the home of the deity Ibudhou Thangjing. They believe the Thangjing ching site to be at least 2,000 years old. The tribes call this hill range Thangting, which falls under Churachandpur district.

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh in a post on X said the state government has filed a police case against the Kuki armed group, as the area is a protected site. The renaming by the armed group also violated the Manipur Names of Places Act, 2024, Mr Singh said.

"Immediately taken up measures to book any group or individuals involved in changing any existing names without the approval of the government. Under the Manipur Names of Places Act, 2024 a case has also been registered for changing Thangjing ching, which is also a protected site, to Thangting," the Chief Minister said.

The Thangjing ching range lies between Moirang town and Churachandpur district, 40 km apart. Churachandpur and nearby areas are where ethnic violence began on May 3, 2023. The people in Moirang - home to the northeast's largest freshwater lake Loktak - also consider the deity Ibudhou Thangjing the area's guardian.

The Manipur cabinet in October 2022 took a decision to include four hectares of Ibudhou Thangjing, two hectares of Koubru Laipham, and four hectares of Lai Pukhri under Section 4 of the Manipur Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1976, which protects these places from encroachments.

Manipur government sources said the Kuki insurgent group's blatant act to install a signboard claiming the hill as the "camp" of the "Kuki Army" would be taken as an act of hostility. They said the central government will be briefed about the escalation by the armed group, and possible course of action.

SoO Agreement Violation?

The insurgent group KNF-MC is a signatory to the controversial tripatriate suspension of operations (SoO) agreement between some 25 Kuki-Zo insurgent groups and the Centre and the state government, held together by a joint monitoring committee comprising the military and intelligence.

Broadly, the SoO agreement says the insurgents are to stay at designated camps and their weapons kept in locked storage, to be monitored regularly.

Just how the KNF-MC ventured out of their designated camps and suddenly put their name on the hill range sacred to the Meiteis as a "camp" of the "Kuki Army" will be questioned, sources said, adding this act clearly violated the ground rules of the SoO agreement.

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The Manipur assembly on February 29 unanimously passed a resolution asking the Centre to scrap the SoO agreement. Every year, the joint monitoring group reviews the SoO agreement and decides whether to end or renew it. The agreement's renewal deadline ended in February. The signatories including the Centre and the state government are yet to announce the exact status of the agreement.

This was not the first time Thangjing ching saw a controversy. In February, a cross was installed atop the hill in an act seen as destabilising in the violence-hit state. In October 2023, photos taken with powerful zoom lenses and drone footage had confirmed the installation of another cross on the hill. Moirang MLA Thongam Shanti had told NDTV the cross came up on the same spot where the shrine of Ibudhou Thangjing stood.