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We (The Zo people) are divided against our wish

C. Lalremruata
Zo Indigenous Foum.

The Zou / Zo are a Tibeto-Mongoloid group of people, a sub-family of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo race. Our ancestral homeland of the Zo people was around the South-Eastern Tibet and Western China. They speak a common language belonging to Assam-Burma branch of Tibeto-Burman family having affinity with Filipino, Brunei, Malaysia, Thai, etc. both in the language and culture. They form a group of Tibeto-Burman peoples inhabiting the Chin Hills in Mynamar and Manipur in India. They are also recorded as Yo and Jou by many colonial civil servants.

The most accurate historical records of the Zos/Zous were written by Rev. Fr. Vincentious Sangermano, a Roman Catholic missionary who came to Burma in 1783 A.D. He wrote a book entitled "A Description of the Burmese Empire", which was published in 1835 A.D in Rome in the Latin language. Later on it was translated into English by William Tandy D.D. "To the east of the Chien Mountains is a pretty nation called 'Jou'. They are supposed to have been Chein, who in the progress of time have become Burmanized, speaking their language, although very corruptly, and adopting all their customs."

Betram S. Carey CIE, Assistant Commissioner, Burma, and Political Officer, Chin Hills and H. N. Tuck, Extra Assistant Commissioner, Burma and Assistant Political Officer, Chin Hills wrote 'The Chin Hills'. In that book, Volume I, page 140, they wrote about the Zos as follows: "The Yos (Zos) tribe three generations back occupied the tract now occupied by the Kanhow clan of Soktes, and many of the Kanhow villages are inhabited still by Yos, whose tribal name has given way to that of Kanhow. As has been shown in the previous chapter, Kantum, the Sokte, conquered all the inhabitants right up to the borders of Manipur, and Kanhow, his son, founded Tiddim village and ruled the newly acquired conquests of his father. The conquered Yos thus became known as Kanhowte, Kanhow's men, and as they intermarried with the Soktes who settled north with Kanhow, there is no real difference between the conquerors and the conquered".

"While all clans and families belonging to the tribe who call their chief Topa designated themselves by 'Yo' or 'Zo', they in turn apply their common name to a particular clan. The Yos (Zos) are most unique in the sense of the name they bear and the culture they practice in reflection of the ancient Zo tradition" ... No proper study has yet been made as to why the generic Yo as spelt in former literature was applied to them".

Our forefathers of Mizos/Zomi hailed from place to place called CHHINLUNG PUK (Chhinglung Cave) between, 300 BC to 200 B.C. and came to Chin-Lushai Land to settle there between 2nd Century to 7th Century AD. The Chin-Lushai land (our land), hereinafter referred to as Zoram or Zoland is situated between 92 ° and 95 ° longitude (East) and between 20 ° and 25 ° latitude North of Equator. The whole area is roughly about 91,000 square miles with a population of about 5 millions in 1991. The Zo dynasty or Zo Kingdom was built sometime between 200 AD and 700 AD.

S. T. Hau Go, a former Lecturer of Mandalay University and an authority on the Zomi wrote:
“Our present geographical distribution extends from the Naga Hills and the Hukawng Valley in the north to Bassein and the Irrawaddy Delta in the south, from the Irrawaddy and Sittang Valleys in the east to the Arakan coast, Bangladesh, Assam and Manipur in the West. In short, we occupy the mountainous region between India and Bangladesh in the west and the Chindwin-Irrawaddy valleys in the east, and the plains and valleys adjacent to these hilly regions.”

This Zoland is geographically contiguous, compact and has been the land where the Zomi permanently settled for centuries. Here they lived in complete independence before the advent of the British. They lived without any outside interference and domination, and no part of her territory had been subjugated. Within their territory, they were knitted together by common traditions, customs, cultures; mode of living; language and social life. They governed themselves in accordance with their customary laws. It was a sovereign land where the people enjoyed perfect harmony on their own.

The term ‘Zo People’ is derived from the generic name 'Zo'. In the past they were little known by this racial nomenclature. They were known by the non-tribal plain peoples of Burma, Bangladesh and India as Chin, Kuki, or Lushai. Subsequently the British employed these terms to christen those 'wild hill tribes' living in the 'un-administered area', and was subsequently legalised to be the names for the newly adopted subjects by Queen Victoria of England. However, they called themselves Zomi since time immemorial. They are Zomi not because they live in the highlands or hills, but are Zomi and called themselves Zomi because they are the descendants of their great great ancestor, 'Zo'. In this regards, F.K. Lehman, Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Illinois (USA), who had done extensive study on the Chin of Burma, said: 'No single Chin word has explicit reference to all the peoples we customarily call Chin, but all - or nearly all of the peoples have a special word for themselves and those of their congeners with whom they are in regular contact. This word is almost always a variant form of a single root, which appears as Zo, Yo, Ysou, Shou and the like.'

Relating to this generic name, Fan-Cho a diplomat of the Tang dynasty of China, mentioned in 862 AD a Kingdom in the Chindwin Valley 'whose Princes and Chiefs were called Shou (Zo) ' . In 1783, Father Vincentius Sangermano in his book, 'A Description of the Burmese Empire' described them as, "a petty nation called JO (JAW) " Sir Henry Yule, as early as 1508 mentioned about the YO country the location of which was"west of the mouth of the Kyen-dwen (Chindwin) the interior of Doab, between the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin, from Mout-Shabo upwards and the whole of the hill country east and north-east of the capital, towards the Ruby-mines, the upper course of Hyitnge, and the Chinese frontier" . Rev. Howard Malcolm also testified thus, "The YAW (ZO) is on the lower waters of the Khyendiwen (Chindwin) not far from Ava. The district is sometimes called YO or JO".

Another early use of the name ZO with reference to the Zomi (Kuki-Chin-Lushai), the first on the Lushai Hills side which till then was a terra incognito, was by Col. T.H. Lewin, the first white man to know the inhabitants of Lushai Hills (Mizoram). He wrote that he came to know, during the Lushai Expedition of 1871-72 that, “ the generic name of the whole nation is Dzo” Dr. Francis Buchanan also wrote of Zomi and Zomi language, while Captain Pemberton mentioned Zo or Jo in his “Reports on the Eastern Frontiers of British India 1835”. The fact that the Zomi were known as ZOU or YO or YAW, before their society evolved into clan based organisation and lineage segmentation, was pointed out by Dr. G.A. Grierson in his survey, thus, 'The name (Kuki and Chin) is not used by the tribes themselves, who use titles such as ZOU or YO or CHO'.

Rev Sukte T. Hau Go, a former lecturer of Mandalay University (Burma) also shared the same view, "Zomi is the correct original historical name of our people, from the Naga hill to the Bay of Bengal. To the north of Tedim, the Thadous and other tribes call themselves Yo; in Falam, Laizo. The Tedim people call themselves Zo; the Lushais, Mizo; in Haka, Zotung, Zophei, Zokhua. In Gangaw area Zo is pronounced as YAW, in Mindat Jo or CHO; and in Paletwa Khomi. In Prome, Thayetmyo, Sandoway and Bassein areas they call themselves A-Sho. So, inspite of slight variations Zomi is our original historical national name ".

Two British administrators, Bertram S. Carey and H.N. Tuck who place Zo people under modern system of administration record as thus: 'Those of the Kuki tribes which we designate as "Chins" do not recognise that name……they call themselves YO (ZO)…and YO (ZO) is the general name by which the Chins call their race'

Another European writer, Sir J. George Scott also claimed that, the Zomi never called themselves by such names as Kuki or Chin or Lushai. He wrote: 'The names like Kuki and Chin are not national, and have been given to them by their neighbours. Like others, the people do not accept the name given by the Burmese and ourselves; they do not call themselves Chins, and they equally flout the name of Kuki which their Assamese neighbours use. They call themselves Zhou or Shu and in other parts Yo or Lai’.

It is, therefore, no wonder that Zomi use the term Zo, Zou, Zhou, Chou, Shou, Yo, Jo, Yaw, Shu, etc in their speech and poetic language as Zo-Vontawi, Zo-lei, Zogam or Zoram, Zo-tui, Zo-fa, etc; in naming geographical names such as Zotlang, Zopui, Zobawks; and in some of the clan names like Zophei, Zotung, Zokhua, Laizo, Bawmzo, Zote, etc. All these have a common derivation from the generic name, "ZO". It is also because of this fact that scholars like Dr. Vum Kho Hau, Prof. Laldena, Dr. Vum Son, Dr. Tualchin Neihsial, Dr. H. Kamkhenthang, Dr. Mangkhosat Kipgen, Cap. Sing Khaw Khai, Dr. J. M. Paupu, Pu K. Zawla, Pu R. Vanlawma, B. Langthanliana, Dr. V. Lunghnema, Dr. Hawlngam Haokip, Pu L. S. Gangte, Pu T. Gougin, Pu Thang Khan Gin Ngaihte, Rev. S. Prim Vaiphei, Rev. Khup Za Go, Pu L. Keivom, Rev. S. T. Hau Go, Dr. Khen Za Sian, Prof. Thang Za Tuan, Rev. Sing Ling etc. concluded that ZO is the ancestor of the Zo people.

Common Race: People are easily tied to each other by the factor of common race or kinship. The Zo people are distinctly different from the Aryans of India and Burmans of Burma. All the Zomi tribes and sub-tribes resemble each other very closely in appearance, and their characteristics, behaviour and colour identify them as being of the Mongolian race. A unique Mongolian characteristic which is found among the Zomi is the ‘blue Mongolian spot”, which can be seen on the back and buttock of every new-born child, male or female. Being the Mongoloid stock, their skin colour varies between dark yellow-brown, dark olive copper and yellow olive. The face is nearly as broad as it is long and is generally round or square, the cheek bone high, broad and prominent, eyes small and almond-shaped, the nose short and flat, thick hair and usually straight and jet black. ‘The Zomi are well-built with strong limbs and good figures; the average height of the man is about 5 feet and 6 inches. Other common characteristics of the Zomi, as observed by Carey and Tuck are worth mentioning:
“………the main Kuki characteristics can be universally traced as – The slow speech, the serious manner, the respect for birth and the knowledge of pedigrees, the duty of revenge, the taste for and the treacherous method of warfare, the curse of drink, the virtue of hospitality, the clannish feeling, the vice of avarice, the filthy state of the body, mutual distrust, impatience under control, the want of power of combination and continued effort, arrogance in victory, speedy discouragement and panic in defeat are common traits throughout the hills".

These traits were quite applicable to the Zomi in the past during the period of British rule. There are some traits which still hold good today, e.g. clannish feeling, knowledge of pedigree, impatience under control, virtue of hospitality and mutual distrust. The other traits are on the wane as a result of the influence of Christianity and exposure to outside world.

Religion: Religion has played a very important part in uniting the Zo people. The Zo people were not proselytized into Buddhism of Burma or Islam of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) nor Hinduism of India. They maintained their traditional belief, viz. animism up till the coming of the British who, not only conquered but also introduced Christianity in Zo country. The efforts of the Christian Missionaries of various denominations were nowhere more successful than in Zo country, and it was estimated that by 1947, about 80% of Zomi were converted into Christianity.
Common Language: Well known linguist, G. A. Grierson in his book, “Linguistics Survey of India, Vol. III, Part III” demonstrated clearly that Zomi language is a branch of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages. The Zomi speaks numerous dialects, but linguistic affinities prevail among them, and verbal or non-verbal communication has never been too great a problem. Much less in the olden days Vum Kho Hau writes: “But in traditional songs and poetry, they still retain its original uniformity and the meaning is generally understood by the hearer regardless of whether he comes from Teddim, Tukhiang, Assam, Manipur.”

Thus, not only do the old songs preserved among different clans but even the folk songs being composed at present, reveal the extent of the uniformity of language that existed in the not-so-distant past. The small dialectical differences that are there stem from the words that are borrowed from Burmese, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Manipuri or Arakanese, so that they sound mutually unintelligible to an unaccustomed ear. They remain basically the same, nevertheless.
On the basis of slight differences, the Zomi language may be divided into two: R-Group and Non-R-Group. The non-R-Group (like the Thadou, Paite, Simte, Vaiphei, Zoute, etc) has no R-sound and is devoid of some consonant clusters like Tl, Hm,….. in their dialects. The R-Group includes Lushai, Hmar, Lakher, Pawi and all the so-called Old Kukis like Kom, Anal, Chiru which have R-sound and are closer to the Lushai or Hmar dialects.

Professor Gordon Luce analysed 700 words of Zomi Language common to at least three Zo dialects. From these 700 words 230 words are common in all dialects of Zomi. Pu Lalthangliana also estimated that the Zo dialects share about 60% of the words in common. About 40% are peculiar to the locality in which they are spoken . An illustration of these linguistic affinities are provided by Lamka Town in Manipur, where people belonging to various Zo groups live together and are able to communicate with ease, each using their own dialect.

William Shaw also wrote: “The Koms, Aimols, Khothlangs, Thadous, Lushei, Chirus, Pois, Suktes, Paites, Gangtes, etc are undoubtedly all connected. The language also has many similarities and the syntax is not dissimilar”.

In the administrative system of the Zo kingdom, the people had a king under whom there were chiefs in villages. The king and the Chiefs were assisted by village Elders. It was also assisted by village priests, warriors, artisans and youth leaders of the village community.

Our social and cultural life of the Zo people was an independent and a peaceful. They lived freely and happily for about 1200 to 1500 years till the advent of the British Expeditions in 1777, 1824, 1849, and between 1871-1782 and 1888-1890.

The British had annexed the whole of Zoram, brought it under its rule in 1890 and divided into three administrative units. They divided the eastern and southern part of Mizoram including the present Chin Hills and Arakan under the Chief Commissioner of Burma; the central and Northern part of the country comprising of the present Mizoram state and part of Assam, Manipur and Tripura states which are contiguous to Mizoram fell under the administration of the Chief Commissioner of Assam while the western area of Mizoram including the Chittagong Hill Tracts was under the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal.

We, the Zo people were divided into three countries against our will into three countries - Burma, India and Bangladesh in 1890; The British rulers had considered it very desirable to put the whole tract of the acquired Chin Lushai country under one administrative head. The Chin-Lushai Conference held at Fort William in Calcutta on January 29, 1892 had adopted a resolution to this effect:
Resolution No. 1: “The majority of the conference are of the opinion that it is very desirable that the whole tract of country known as the Chin-Lushai Hills (Zogam) should be brought under one administrative head as soon as this can be done…”

As a first step towards implementing the resolution, the North and South Lushai Hills were amalgamated on April 1, 1898 through a proclamation of the Government of India. However, the other resolution about joining the Zo inhabited areas of India and Burma was not implemented even though there are no substantive arguments against its implementation. The proposal was not forgotten, however Sir Robert Reid, Governor of Assam in 1941 made a proposal for re-unification of the Chin-Lushai country under one administrative head. The late Sir Winston Churchill, then a Prime Minister of Britain, had approved Sir Robert Reid’s plan in principle. But the Labour party which came to power after World War II did not take up the matter.

Many efforts were taken for the reunification of the Zoram,
A memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister of India by the Mizo National Front (MNF) under the leadership of Mr. Laldenga (L) on October 30, 1965 demanding full self-determination and territorial integration for Mizo people and the MNF launched its first armed offensive on midnight of February 28, 1966 against the Republic of India for securing territorial Independence for the same ethnic group of Mizo people. But the armed insurgency came to an end after 20 years.
The first political party of then Lushai Hills (now Mizoram) the Mizo Union, had submitted a memorandum to his Majesty’s government, the Government of India, on April 26, 1947 seeking to represent the case of Mizos for territorial unity and integrity of the whole Mizo (Zo) population and full self-determination and territorial integrity.

The 50 accredited leaders of Lushai Hills representing Chiefs and commoners, under the Chairmanship of the then Superintendent of Lushai Hills, Mr.L.L.Peters, had submitted a memorandum to the Adviser to His Excellency, the Governor of Assam, demanding, among others, that the Lushais be allowed to opt out of the Indian Union when they wish to do so subject to a minimum period of ten years.

1 comment:

  1. I love resding this article, it main focus on his target I mean Who are Zo and who uses Zo. When some body write our history, intentionally try to put the spelling Zou and Zo as Zou is one of the recognised scheduled tribe in India. Eventhough how hard they try to put Zo and Zou in different stream, their writings connot be completed without using the word Zou. But, in this article, the writer used it as one.


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