by Dr. Joseph Suantak, Tuibuang Bazar Churachandpur
Isolation from the rest of the world made the Chin+Kuki+Zo people to continue the Stone Age lifestyle until the Whiteman landed. It is likely that they must have been dispersed, wandering and settling around within the clime of 92× and 97× E (longitude) and 20× and 27× N (latitude) from the past more than 3000 years ago. Hypothesizing based on the results/findings of the recent/latest human genome mapping and DNA test of Asian people, the Chin+Kuki+Zo people too might have been branching out from one of the Neolithic people of present Thailand, northern Vietnam, or Myanmar. However, it is sad that without much effort nor thought most of the earlier ethnographers/officials/writers/authors/scholars/Christian missionaries, &c in the study of their past had penned them as some boorish nomadic tribal who migrated or take refuge in this side of the world. Not only in Bangladesh and Myanmar, even in India for instance, in the report of the first Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, L.M. Shrikant gave three features, which according to him are applicable to all the Scheduled Tribes of India, which are: a) Primitive way of living; b) Habitation in remote and less easily accessible areas; c) Nomadic habits and love for drink and dance [James Massey, 2006:49]. Strangely, in this report their ‘indigenosity’ has no place for reason best known to the Indian think-tank of the time. Beside this, some scholars particularly among the Chin+Kuki+Zo unmindfully went further and contended that their prehistoric ancestor were migrating [came from outside] from somewhere in the Middle-East or China and then into Nuaigam/Tuitawbing/Kawlphai/Kawljang [i.e. present Kale-Kabaw valley in Myanmar] much later than some of the races in present northern Myanmar; in the same way, in the southern Bangladesh and northeast India too.
It is disheartening that, due to absence of written records and the effort to conduct a vast and intensive archaeological investigation, there has been a number of confusing and controversial subjects related to their past, particularly their genealogical root before 1100-1250 CE and sites of establishments before 100 BCE. Regarding their genealogy it is believed that the less important ones, who have no remarkable feat, were forgotten with the passage of time and only those great warriors, chiefs & village headman [Hausalian/Ukpi], clan elders and braves were remembered and retold by all [see also Vumson,1986:74].
As has pointed out above, archaeological findings/sources particularly in China and Southeast Asia are great help to arrive at the historical root of the Chin+Kuki+Zo people. Yet, the data presented in the form of websites and other electronic medias, reports, articles, seminar papers or books, which are organized or published by renown archaeologists, have not been printed bearing the Chin+Kuki+Zo people in mind.
Worst of all, in the context of tracing back the past, some varsity scholars of theology & secular education [particularly among Chin+Kuki+Zo, in their zeal to hold B.Th/B.D./M.Th/M.Div/M.Phil/Ph.D/D.Litt degrees?] depend/based too much on the write-ups of the valley people and European ethnographers and colonial officials which are mostly in their favour. For instance, Bertram S. Carey & H.N.Tuck too concealed their heinous atrocity in their “The Chin Hills” by taxing the Suantak sept [Vaipheis & Sijangs] at Khawsak as burning down their own houses in these words: “The enemy then set fire to their own village, which, with the exception of six houses, was reduced to ashes before the arrival of the troops” [Reprint in India, 1987:29]. Unfathomable thanks to Chungmangpa for I was made to unearth such filthy lines and release my brethren from perennial shame. Let us remind ourselves that burning down of one’s own dwelling place is deadly against the mores of those non-Christian primitive Chin+Kuki+Zos.
Since the dawn of the 19th century CE the White colonialists begin to disturb the territory of the Chin+Kuki+Zo people from all directions via the bordering plains/lowlands. Progressively with no consent or knowledge of their braves and political leaders [ukpi,hausa, khawpa, siamang, pachong, pajang, tuallaipau, etc] of those days, the British officers [administrative and political] demarcated and carved out any part of their homeland and subjected it under the administrative unit of their neighbouring lands, which they [British] had already occupied partly or entirely. By the end of the 19th century CE, the entire inhabited area of their ‘pu-pa gam’ or ‘fatherland’ falls under the foot of the White colonialists more or less to the advantages of their neighbouring valley peoples. As a result, some valley kingdoms begin to impose land taxes upon their ignorant ‘pu leh pas’. For instance, “The border line between the Chin Hills and Manipur has carved the Thado tribe into two…” [Carey & Tuck, (reprint) 1987:112]. And taking advantage of such divide & rule policy of the British: “…my plans were hampered by Manipuris who entered that tract and collected tribute on behalf of that State…” [ibid: 101]. Undeniably, unlike to their other neighbours [in present Chittagong, Arakan, Assam, Tripura, Kale-Kabaw & Yaw valley], it is presumable that the Chin+Kuki+Zo were at peace with the valley kingdom/people in the now Manipur state until the White Colonialists’ intrusion.
Indeed, as a result of the extensive and intensive campaign of the White forces; the sovereign country of the Chin+Kuki+Zo was ultimately occupied, shredded and shared among the neighbouring valley administrative units under the initiative of some shrewd British officers with their perceptive sidekicks, who were mostly from the already colonized valley territories. In this way the Chin+Kuki+Zo were, ad infinitum, segmented into a number of voiceless minorities even within the geo-political realms of the present Third World Nations, which I have conveniently labelled them as “Neo-Colonialists”. Subsequent to this, family, clan/sept and village names further evolved into divergent “Tribe” names and thereby filled the list of the newly adopted constitutional classification Scheduled Tribes, Backward class, or Minorities.
It is quite unfortunate for all the indigenous peoples of what is now called Northeast India in general, and particularly for the Chin+Kuki+Zo people that the government of India refused to sign the ILO Convention 169 of 1989 by arguing that it is not easy to identify indigenous peoples in India, and that tribal and non-tribal peoples have lived in close proximity for over centuries leading to much acculturation and even assimilation into the larger Hindu society [a clip from Dr.L. Lam Khan Piang paper “Imagining community beyond tribes: The way ahead” 2009:6]
The Chin-Lushai Conference (1892), at Fort William, Calcutta. Its main issue, “re-unification/amalgamation of the whole tract known as Chin–Lushai” under one administrative unit remains unfulfilled and had died down.
Even though the Burmese and Indian leaders supported and promised the principle of self-determination on the eve of Independence, it steadily dwindled away in the post independent period. For instance, the Panglong [a village in Shan state, Myanmar]Agreement 1947.
The much expected Greater Mizoram in the 1960s-70s ended into a mere Statehood for just one pocket of the Chin+Kuki+Zo country now renamed as ‘Mizoram’.
Even today, in the 21st century CE ‘unreceptive nomenclatures’ and ‘clannishness’ continue to linger and overrun nationalism directly or indirectly, at least to some degree. True, too many fratricidal bloodshed for giving undue role to ‘regionalism’ and ‘clannishness’ over unification and nationalism has slowed down the process of reunification and oneness [see also Seilen Haokip, 2010:41].
Dearth of politicians. Holding the offices of Political Party [regional or national], MDC, MLA, MP, or Minister doesn’t make us a politician. Sanctioning/providing the properties of the neo-colonial governments such as tin roof, volley-ball nets, computers, solar lamps, few bundle of bucks to some clubs or community, constructing community-halls, etc, etc, seem to be the scales which are quite enough to measure a capable political leader! To me, a politician should able to draw/sketch a clear pictorial map of the political future/destiny/end of his/er people; who could dream dreams for his people, and who never sleep but go on fasting and keeps awake and alert to realise the dreams of his people…and more.
The true principles and conducts of ‘khankhua’ [or traditional etiquette/daily mores?] and ‘tawmngaihna’ [or altruism?] are increasingly decreased/faded day after day. To me, they are the solid foundations of Chin+Kuki+Zo culture and society. And if revive [at family, clan, community, civil society, NGO and Church levels]; rather than any other belief/doctrine/principle practiced in this blue planet, they would certainly play a vital part in reconstructing the already demolished or crumbled ‘morals/ethics’ and ‘oneness’ in the society.
New breeze of “hope” blew with the scent of MDC and the SoO for the colonised Chin+Kuki+Zos.
After a number of fratricides amidst the rutted and foggy revolutionary road during the 20th century AD, the Chin+Kuki+Zo revolutionary groups could arrive at a luminous chapter. For the people of Chin+Kuki+Zo country, indeed, an historic unison surfaced with the dawn of the 21st century.
Perpetual “Glory” for the Chin+Kuki+Zo people would be materialized only if “emotional unification” could be deep rooted within our prayers, hearts, words and actions rather than nomenclature issues based on fertile theories, and might.
(The writer of this article can be reached