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.