Manipur, one of the northeastern states of India, lies on the ancient silk route and serves as a meeting point between Southeast Asia and South Asia. The origin and migration histories of Naga and Kuki tribal populations are not clearly understood. Moreover, Kukis have been traced to two different ancestries, which has created confusion among the people. The present study examined genomic affinities and differentiation of the Naga and Kuki tribal populations of Manipur, Northeast India. Twenty autosomal markers (8 Alu insertion-deletions, 12 restriction-fragment-length polymorphisms) were analyzed. Findings show genetic differences between Naga and Kuki tribal populations with respect to the allele distribution pattern, which was substantiated by genetic differentiation (GST = 5.2%) and molecular variance (AMOVA), where the highest percentage of among-group variances was observed between Naga and Kuki tribal groups (7.09%). However, genetic similarities with respect to allele distribution patterns in most of the loci were seen among their respective groups (Rongmei and Inpui, Thadou and Vaiphei). Rongmei and Inpui tribal populations (Naga group) belong to the Naga-Bodo linguistic group, and Thadou and Vaiphei (Kuki group) belong to the Northern Kuki-Chin linguistic group, suggesting that genetic similarities may not be independent of linguistic affinities. Despite differential genetic affinities, both Naga and Kuki tribal populations in Manipur show more proximity with Southeast Asian populations and Northeast Indian populations than with other Indian populations and global populations taken for comparison.
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Vol. 92 • No. 2