Monthly Archives: February 2021

A brief note on Zomi National Day

The 20th day of February 2012

Zomi Nam Ni is celebrated on the 20th day of February every year since 1948 in different parts of the Countries. The Day is observed as a day of deliverance, love, peace, unity, political retrospection and remembrance of the past history of the Zomi. The brief anecdote of how the Day actually began to be celebrated is hinted as under:

The British invaded South East Asia and from India as their base, Lower Burma was annexed in 1826 as a result of the Anglo-Burmese War, which was concluded with the Treaty of Yandaboo. Half of Burma was again annexed in 1852 and by 1885, the whole of Burma fall under the mighty hands of the Bristish imperialism.

Before the advent of the British, the Zoland, commonly known as the Chin Hills, Lushai Hills and Chittagong Hill Tract was occupied and ruled by the Zo people and had never been under the control or influence of any outside power, including the Burmese, Ahom, Chinese or Indians. They had their own sovereign self-government through their Chiefs, who administered in the form of democratic decentralization.

However, with the annexation of Burma and Chittagong, the Chin Hills and Lushai Hills was gradually penetrated and subjugated in 1890, with the formal annexation being completed in 1896. The Hills of Manipur had also been conquered and dominated after the British annexation of Manipur in 1891. The same fate befell with the other Zo peoples in Bangladesh, Tripura and Assam.

The Colonialists noticed that the Zo people were in loose confederates, many of them without any principal Chief to govern them. They had no written rule of law and written procedure of judicial code, but strong customary & traditional practices and justice system exist. The British therefore, drafted a model code of law and rules of appointment of Chief by 1907 and then installed feudal Chiefs at different places.

The autocratic rule of the British Government could neither be tolerated nor accepted by the Zo people and therefore, on the 20th day of February 1928, a new political organization was formed at Matungnung village of Mindat for the liberation of the Zomi from such undemocratic administration by foreign power. It grew, expanded, and moved forward and by 1939, the following nine points were demanded to be fulfilled by the British Government.

i. Zoland has to acquire equal share and administration as that of the Plains.
ii. The Zo natives must be consulted for any New Laws, Regulations, and Acts to be passed and enforced in Zoland.
iii. Education, health, economy, trade and commerce should be developed and expanded with an increased in their budget.
iv. Secondary and higher secondary education up to college level must be immediately upgraded and established.
v. Freedom of religion or religious secularism must be practically enforced and the Government must see to it.
vi. Transport and communication must be improved and the administration must give priority in road building connecting one village to another.
vii. The Government must chalk out ways and means for the peaceful communication between the Hills and the Plains without any hindrance.
viii. The Zo people must be uplifted economically, socially and politically at par with the other neighbouring people.
ix. The Zomi should also enjoy the same fate and self determination as and when Burma achieved its freedom.

The above Memorandum earned the wrath of the Government and instead of fulfilling them; the Organisation was also view as illegal and therefore, must be banned. Yet undaunted by the intimidation, the Zomi continued their resistance with one accord and the popular movement became so strong a tide that, the British were compelled to leave Kanpelet thereafter.

When Burma attained its own independence, it immediately drafted its own Constitution and accordingly, by 1949, the Burmese Parliament was divided into two Houses – the Upper House and the Lower House. As the general election draws nearer, the Zo people, in order to send their own representative, summoned the first General Assembly under the Zomi National Conference at Falam during February 19-22, 1948. In this Assembly of Conference the following issues were broadly discussed:

i. The high handedness and step-motherly treatment being meted out to the Zomi.
ii. Compulsory taxes and revenues levied upon them.
iii. Forced labour without any payment of wages.
iv. Illegally withholding of the wages of many bread-earners.
v. Oppressive governance and repressive nature of some political or military officers.
vi. Self-rule and democratic administration.

After a thorough deliberation of the above issues, a plebiscite was taken from all the members of congregation, each of whom was the representative of his own tribe from their respective region. As many as 4993 votes out of 5000 were cast in favour of the motion taken and hence, resolutions for further necessary action was adopted and passed. Since then, foreign domination and control, outside administration, repression in the form of forced labour and taxes, etc., etc., were annulled with the following additional ruling and declaration:

i. To celebrate the Zomi Nam Ni (Zomi National Day) for the peaceful association of the various Zo Communities.
ii. It must be a basis for the endorsement of democracy as the fulfillment of the general will.
iii. It is also aimed at building unity and cooperation with the other populace of independent Burma and India to improve justice and equality for the stabilization of the Zoland as well as to promote a helping hand among the Zo people.

Thus, the Zomi Nam Ni (Zomi National Day) is observed as a day to commemorate the end of colonialism and imperialism and to mark the liberation of Zoland from the alien rule, in other words, it signify the installation of sovereign self rule. For this, the 20th day of February is set aside and being observed as Zomi Nam Ni (Zomi National Day) since 1948 every year. It is also a national integration day for all the Zo Community of India and Myanmar. As such, the Day is celebrated with great elate every year in every parts of the globe where the Zomi settled since then. The Day was recognized as one of the National Holidays in Myanmar (Burma) and significantly coincided with the Mizoram Statehood Day.

As time pass by, the Zomi in Manipur celebrated the Day with a great zeal as an important Cultural events whereby all the tribes presented their own traditional dances, conducting various items such as Miss Zomi pageant, Musical Nites, etc., … Attempts were also being made to bring closer relationship with other communities in the state by organizing Cultural Exchange Programmes, Zomi Nam Ni Open Football Tournament, etc. Such meaningful annual event is found to have positive impact on the general psyche of the people. It also fostered mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence.

Thus, the 64th State Level Zomi Nam Ni (Zomi National Day) Celebration Committee, 2012 chose, “Cultural Conformity” as its theme and decided to organize the main events at BOAT, Palace Compound, Imphal also at Shillong and New Delhi. It is expected that, this year’s “Nam Ni” Celebrating the Zomi Culture and Heritage will strengthened peace, communal harmony, mutual understanding, and peaceful co-existence amongst all the communities in Manipur State.

Info. & Publicity Department
The 64th State Level Zomi Nam Ni (Zomi National Day)
Celebration Committee, 2012
Imphal, Manipur.

Why do we need Chin?

Some have interpreted the term ‘Chin’ as the carrier of basket, allies or comrades. The native scholars believed that the term Chin have come from the legendry root word ‘Chin. lung’, from where the Kuki-Chin-Mizo people emerged into this world, although different scholars based on various dialects and local traditions spell the word slightly different as ‘Chhinlung ’, ‘Chinn-lun g,’ Chie’nlung ’, ‘Chinglung , ‘Sinlung’ and so on.

While Major W.G. Hughes used the convention al spelling of Chin for the first time in 1881, the Chin Hills Regulation Act of 1896 legalized the term Chin. The Chins of Burma are the most diverse ethnic nationality in Burma, inhabiting one of the most impoverished regions of the country.

The Chin state is reeling in thought between Zomi and Chin. The rivalry between those who want Zomi and Chin has gone beyond verbal alteration. The acceptance of Zomi nomenclature at present confines mostly to religious aspects, as there is Zomi Christian Literature Society with its headquarters at Kalemyo and the Zomi Baptist Theological Seminary at Falam. The intention of the Christian leaders was to unite all Baptist Christians.

Lai people said they do not call themselves as Zomi. In contrast, those who support Zomi would like to replace ‘Chin’ with ‘Zomi’ in. all usages. While Zo or Zomi in the context of Chin state denotes approximately fifteen tribes in Kamhau tract, Chin as per the Chin Hills regulation Act includes Chins living in the Chin Hills, Lushai and Kukis.

While the Teddim Chins bordering Indo-Myanmar are in favour of Zomi in place of Chin, the Chins of Northern and Central parts of Chin state favours retention of Chin nomenclature as it is officially and legally accepted term in Burma. The replacement of Chin at this critical stage could lead to parting of ways between the supporters of Chins and Zomi.

Why do we need Kuki?

Col. Dalton described the Kukis as nation of hunters and warriors. Surg.Lieut . Col, A.S Reid, translated the term ‘Kuki’ as a Bengali word meaning Hill-men or highlanders and stated that the first Kuki attack on the British took place in 1777. Lt. Colonel Shakespeare, William Shaw, G.A. Grierson noted that the term ‘Kuki’ includes Aimol, Chothe, Chiru, Koireng, Kom, Purum, Anal, Lamkang, Mayan, Monsang, Gangte, Vaiphei, Simte, Paite, Thadou, Hmar Zou etc as Kukis. Similarly, William Shaw stated the Koms, Aimols, Khotlangs (Kholhangs), Thadous, Lushais, Pois(Pawis ), Paites, Gangtes, Darlungs(Darlong), Khelma, Biete etc. as Kukis.

In the part C States order of 1950, all the Kukis who were recognised as Any Kuki Tribes was deleted in 1956. With the deletion of ‘Any Kuki Tribe’ in the recognized list of Scheduled Tribes in Manipur, the process of disintegration among the Kukis took place in quick succession. Several names such as Khulmi meaning cave man, Tribal League, and Tuhbem Sawm, were proposed to replace Kuki.

In spite of the emergence of several separate tribes with governmental recognition, Kuki has the widest acceptability in Manipur, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and some parts of Burma.

Where do we go from here?

The first important step for evolving a common nomenclature is to first consolidate these identities in relation to their geographical contexts.
This would mean accepting Mizo in Mizoram, Chin in Chin state of Burma and Kuki in Manipur, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and other regions.

Mizo is Kuki or Chin, and conversely, Kuki and Chin are Mizo. Unless this strategy based on common ethnicity is agreed to and adopted, the process of converting Gangte, Thadou etc to Mizo or taking in Chongthu, Singson etc to Kuki or Chin would only exacerbate the situation. Additionally, seeking alternative nomenclature to Kuki, Chin and Mizo in their respective geographical areas at this stage would lead to further disintegration.

In the present circumstance, any of these identities trying to absorb the other is unwise which will prolong the process of evolving a common nomenclature.

A common nomenclature would gradually emerge once we are willing to suffer and support for each other’s cause and sufferings. There cannot be a common identity so long as we have the mentality of Cain and go Judas’ way. There cannot be a common nomenclature without emotional and cultural integration.

The issue of unification without a common nomenclature will be like a cry in the wilderness. The issue of evolving a common identity that beset the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people, then and now could be resolved only when policies and strategies reflect this fundamental issue.

Pu. Grierson delineated the Kuki-Chin- Mizo country in 1904. It is our duty to protect it collectively. So long as we define our socio-cultural boundaries in much narrower terms than in the past and so long as we distance ourselves from the other, celebrating Kut or Zomi Namni once in a year would not lead to us unity.