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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

British Annexation



Unlike other national annexation, the motive for annexing the hill region for the British was not for power or extension of kingdom. The main target was to subdue them from disturbing the neighboring areas for killing and kidnapping, bringing insecurity as they
were looked at as “notorious” (Lalsawma 1994:19). In India, the East India Company had taken control of the north east area including the Chittagong Hill Tracts in 1760 (now in Bangladesh). Their interest was in trade and established trade relationship with Assam in 1792. Since 1813, the East India Company looked for any possible means to enlarge its enterprise in the area. In the mean time the first Anglo-Burmese war broke out in 1824 and a peace treaty between Burmese and British was signed known as “Treaty of Yandabo” in 1826. Lower Assam and Lower Burma were annexed in 1838 and 1852 respectively. Upper Burma came under British domination in 1886 and Lushai Hills was annexed in 1890 (Vanlalchhuanawma 2006: 73-74).
On arrival at Kalemyo as Deputy Commissioner, Capt. Raikes immediately called chiefs of Siyin, Kam Hau, Hakha and Tlaisun for a meeting at Kalemyo. They were told not to make any more raids on the people of Kale and take any captives as slaves. The Hakha chief refused to comply with his order and did not attend the meeting. Capt. Raikes sent six delegations to call the Hakha chief. But the Haka chief killed two of them; arrested three alive and one escaped. This enraged Capt. Raikes. The next year Capt. Raikes, General Sir George White and General Faunce made a raid on the Chins with the help of the 42nd Gurkha Light Infantry, Assam troops and Punjabi military Police. They built a strong stockade at Thangmual between Kale and Thuklai which was named “Fort White” after General White (Gin Za Tuang 1973: 23). On hearing the march, the Siyin, Kam Hau and Tlaisun chiefs gathered a big force consisting of 1200 Siyins, 400 Kam Haus and 30 Suktes to resist the advancing force. The encounter took place at Phatzang for some hours. The British force were beaten and retreated to the plains. Between 1888 and 1889 the British lost 36 lives and 44 were wounded. B.S. Carey the political officer stated the nature of Chins in the war as
Catlike people in their movements soon learnt that their power to annoy us lay in their skill in creeping inside the fort between sentries, and night after night the cattle pens inside and the piglets … were found to have been vanished and stolen. On one occasion a whole herd of seventy heads was carried off… Another time a “drabi” was shot and decapitated in the middle of the fort, the Chin escaping through the sentries” (Carey and Tuck 1976:32).
The Chins were enraged for demand of coolies from villages and building of roads for British use, heavy fines for opposition, demand to release slaves and collection of guns.
The Zomi chiefs blackmailed the British by sending a word for surrender, to present an elephant tusk, a rhinoceros’s horn and 150 guns to the Fort White camp. The target was to kill the commissioner B.S.Carey. Fortunately Carey being out of station the township officer was sent to meet the Zo chiefs (Ngulh Khaw Suan, 1998:207). The British sent the Township Officer (Myo-ook) Tun Win with two interpreters accompanied by 30 riflemen as body guards to Pumva to received the Zomi leaders and presents. On Oct.9, 1892 while approaching Pumva the appointed place for negotiation the Zomi people laid an ambush killing all including Tun Win the Myo-ook but five escaped. It was recorded as the “Myo-ook Suam” (plot of the Township Officer).  In retaliation the British government sent Brigadier General Palmer with a force of 2,500 riflemen. Villages were burned, livestock were taken and fields destroyed (Vumson 1986:132). The Siyins and the Suktes surrendered to the British force. Acknowledging the tactics of Zomi people in jungle, General Palmer adopted two measures in order to subdue the Zomis.
1)     Attack them during summer so that they could not cultivate farming that would result in famine.
2)  Set fire on their villages. (Gin Za Tuang 1973: 27).
They started setting fire on villages one after another. In 1893 Kam Lian and Thuamngo, of Thuklai, Dolian and Kam Cin of Buanman, Kham Hau of Heilei, Lal Nang of Muizawl laid down their arms and surrendered to the British force.   In 1894 Khup Pau, Khai Kam, Vum Lian and Suangson gave themselves up who were the last group who surrendered to the British force. In October of that year 49 Chin chiefs were taken to Yangon (Gin Za Tuang 1973: 27).
The British government collected all guns from Chin Hills numbering 7,000 (Gin Za Tuang 1973: 28) and “released 5,000 recently captured Shan and Burman slaves from the Sizang, Kam Hau, Tlaisun, Zokhua and Haka areas (Lian Sakhong 2000:189). These flintlock guns were known as “Zo thau” (Local gun) and were believed to have been captured from Manipur Raja and Shans of Kale valley. There were single and double barrels.  Zomis were vying to own the so called “Olan Gun” meaning gun made in Holland. By this time Zomi/Chins already knew how to handle guns in addition to their traditional arms like Shield,  Bow, Spear, and Sword.
The Chin Hills Regulation was adopted in 1896 drafted by B.S. Carey and approved by the British government. By this regulation the whole Chin Hills was under political officers designated as Superintendent, Deputy Commissioner, District Magistrate and Collector (Chin Hills Regulation Act 1896). The seat of Superintendent was at Haka and Falam, Tedim, Tonzang and Matupi were the seat of Deputy Commissioners.  Carey himself was promoted to be the first Superintendent of the whole Chin Hills. The Chin Hills Regulation of 1896 became the basic constitution of colonial British regime in the Chin Hills (Lian Sakhong 2000: 185). The British annexation had its positive and negative effects on the Zomi population.
The positive effects are:
1)     When Zoland came under the British control, the Zomi chieftainship was recognized and the British did not interfere with the powers and functions. They were granted official permission to rule their own respective areas as before adopting hereditary chieftainship called “Tribal Feudal Administrative System” (Carey and Tuck 1976: 201).
2)      British annexation opened up the door for entry of Christian missionaries to   the Chin Hills. The first missionary couple the Rev. A.E. Carsons reached Haka in March, 1899.
3)     It was the beginning of Zomi history because following the annexation the western scholars began to write the history, life, customs and language of the Zomi people.
4)     Inter-tribal raid came to an end.
The negative effects are:
1)     The Zomis were divided between India, Burma and Bangladesh. The Chin Hills Regulation Act of 1896 promulgated to form Zomi region including Lushai Hills into one administrative unit (M. Kipgen 1996:142). Instead Zomis were divided into three administrative units: the Chin Hills District of Burma, the Lushai Hills District of Assam (India), and the Chittagong Hills Tract of Bengal (Bangladesh).  As a result the Superintendent B.S.Carey resigned himself from the office (Lian Sakhong 2000: 183-186).  This is something that the new Zomi generation found hard to appreciate the colonial regime even today.
2)     Under the Colonial rule the Zomi chiefs were unable to exercise power as before. Before British annexation the chiefs had virtual authority over their subjects. Their authority was reduced to the level of village headman (Lian Sakhong 2000: 188).
3)     The Zomis lost their right of ownership of land. The land belongs to the government and individuals had no right to acquire land without government permission.
The significance of the British conquest lies in the fact that Zomi people were united in resistance. In the past they carried out inter-tribal wars and raids among themselves. During the British annexation the Zomis stood as one body and fought against the British forces. The Myo-ook Suam was a corporate plot of the Siyins, the Kam Haus, and the Tlaisuns. It was the first time that the Zomis came into contact with other world especially the white people called “Mangkangte” (white rulers).
The First Exposure to the World
The British Foreign Labor department recorded that during WWI, over 300,000 foreign laborers were employed to support the men of the British Labor Corps. Some of these men were “black” soldiers from the Empire countries (Fiji, Seychelles, Mauritius, Bermuda, British West Indies and Cape Colored Labor Battalion) who were used as laborers rather than fighting soldiers. The majority of foreign laborers were civilians from Egypt (100,000), China (10,000), South Africa (20,000), and India (21,000) who were recruited in their own countries and transported to France for a fixed term ranging from 9-months to 3 years. 2,000 Chinese died while serving in Labor Corps in France (www.1914-1918.net/labour.htm).
The recruitment for labor corps was launched by the War Committee in London in 1916.  As the war progressed, the Great Britain required more manpower for their forces to assist at the docks unloading necessary supplies and war materials. The British Labor Corps was formed in April 1917 to meet the need for unskilled labor in large numbers for handling stores, constructing rear lines of defense, making and repairing roads etc.  The shipment by the French steamship “Athos” shank in the Mediterranean in February 1917 with the loss of 543 Chinese lives (Fawcett Brian :33-34).
Even though they were not regular military personnel they had to go through all formal physical and medical tests. They were given serial numbers, with their names written down in Romanized letters and Chinese characters. Difficulty arose when the men did not know their names or surnames. Problems arose also when trying to ascertain the recruit’s address as most of them illiterate. A bracelet, stamped with his number was securely fixed to his wrist.  As this was “considered degrading system” it was eventually discontinued.   Though recruited as civilians they were subject to martial law, including field punishment and court-martial, sometimes including death penalty. They were regarded as mercenaries (Brian : 35).
In addition to being clothe, fed and accommodated, the laborers also received a small daily payment, part of which was remitted to his nominated party at home. Invariably gambling was rife, on pay day, some debts could not be honored. Fightings were common even killing of companions. Pay to start on arrival in Franch Francs was:
Laborers -1.00, Skilled laborer -1.50,            Gangers (equi.corporal)-1.60, Skilled blacksmiths – 2.00, Skilled fitters- 2.50, Assistant Interpreters- 2.60, Interpreters -5.00, Compensation –death or total disablement -100Partial disablement not exceeding -50. Pay deductions was applied in case of sickness, misconduct or offences. (Brian : 36-39).
Before the British annexation, the Zomis were unknown to the world. The WW I in 1914-1918 brought the world view of the Zomis turned upside down. The recruitment of Labor Corps was on voluntary basis to the British government but it was compulsory recruitment by the order of the Chin Hills Superintendent to the chiefs to supply certain number of labor corps from their respective jurisdictions. They reluctantly joined the recruitment offering themselves to die in a foreign land and with no hope of returning alive.  Indian Labor Corps included the following tribes: Hindu Mohammedans from the United Province, Shyntengs and other tribes from the Khasi Hills, the Lushais, the Nagas, the Manipuris, the Santals from Bihar and Orissa, the Pathans from the North-West Frontier, the Burmans and Chins, the Bengalis and Kumaons.
Out of 3,000 from the Chin Hills, 1,000 came from the Zomis of northern Chin Hills leaving Tedim on May 27, 1917 to Gunkhawm and proceeded to Yangon by train (Vum Kho Hau 1990:152). Those Zomis from India went to Syhlet in Chittagong, to Akyab and then to Yangon meeting their friends from the Chin Hills in Yangon. Leaving in a Ship from Yangon to Kolkata, Mumbai, Eden, Suez Canal the groups reached Marseilles in France on Aug 15, 1917.  Their position was on the border of France and Belgium about 25 miles away from the war zone.  Their duty was to pick up the wounded, loading and unloading of military supplies etc.  They worked with whites, blacks, Indians and Nagas (Gin Za Tuang 1973:43). They were in 61 & 62 (Burma) India Company. Their place of duty is recorded in the Chinese Labor Corps as : moved from Marseilles to Meaulte Farm, then to Fricourt – Salvage, moved from 3rd Army to Abancourt,  then Rouen, and back to Marseilles until repatriation from Taranto (Brian : 39-40).
Due to cold weather and illness 21 of 1,000 Zomis died. Suan Thawng, Zuan Pum, Kai Gin, Ma Ha Peng, Gin Dam, Ngul Gin, Pau Pum, Son Neng, Thang Eng, Tut Lang, Tuang Pum, Vial Dam, Vum Dai, Gin Neng, Kam Nang, Go Kam, Sian Lut, Lang Za Khen, Kam Ngul, Tual Kim, Lun Kap were buried in a foreign land in the war cemetery in France.
Upon the invitation of King George V the following persons Mang Pum, Thawng Za Kai, Song Theu, Kam Za Mang, Vung Za Kham, Thuam Pau, Vial Zen, Hau Za Nang, Hang Khaw Cin and Cin Kam met the King led by Capt. E.O. Fowler on March 27, 1918 in Buckingham Palace, London (Gin Za Tuang 1973:43). They returned home after one and a half years in France due to the “native insurrection” at Haka in November of 1917 (Laura Hardin Carson 1925:226-231). It was known as “Piantit Pai” (A trip to France, Piantit – Burmese term for France). They expressed their excitement to return home in a song.
a)  Pian tui a gam lei aw e, sial zatam tuang a tunna,
b)  Sial zatam pian tui ngak hen aw, I sau lam zong ta ni e.
Translation (mine):
a)     Oh land of France, the land  where unending worries amounted,
b)  Let all worries remain with France as we found our way home again.
(Gin Za Tuang 1973:44)
They were impressed by the war, the planes, the ships and the guns. It was undoubtedly an immense exploration for the Zomi boys. They had endless tales of their experience and adventures. On their return they brought enough money to pay for the bride they want to marry. Their world view was completely changed and some even changed their belief to Christianity. It was the first exposure to the modern world for the Zomis after meeting with English King in London. One report after the war says, “Indian Labor Corps as a whole was somewhat disappointing. Certain companies such as Burman and Chins are good at Forestry work” (National Archives, Kew W0 10633 in the History of Chinese Labor Corps).  The King praised the Zomi labor corps for their commendable service and told them that their good service would be remembered (Pau Za Gin 1972: 4). There were negative and positive results of Labor Corps in France.
The Negative results are:
1)     As the recruitment was on voluntary basis in the sight of the British it was compulsory in the sight of the native people. The Haka people refused to send their men to France. In 1917 they raised an army of 5000 and siege the Haka camp. They cut off the road between Falam and Haka. The “relief column” of the British party was attacked by the Haka party on their way to Haka in which “there were thirty or forty casualties” and 18 villages were burnt. (Laura Carson 1927:230). This was called the “Anglo-Chin war” 1917-1919 which resulted in the withdrawal of the Labor Corps from France.
2)     In Indian Territory, the Kuki people in Manipur refused to send their men to France. As a result the British forces of 100 rifles were sent to subdue them. The Kukis defended themselves from the attacked. The combat took two years from later part of 1917 to 1919 in which 86 villages were burnt. It is known as Anglo-Kuki War 1917-11919 (Vumson 1986:135-137).
The Positive results are:
1)     Economically the people who went to France were better off than those who did not. They were not only exposed to the world but they earned money which was unknown in the past (Vumson 1986:134).
2)     It promotes Christian growth among the Zomis.  In 1918 there were 500 Christians in the whole of Chin State and by 1926 the Christian population reached 4,046 and most of the Christians come from the Tedim area in the north. “Around Haka the work has been difficult and most of the converts come from the Tedim and the north” where most of the “Labor Corps” converted to Christianity” (Lian Sakhong 2000:253).
3)     The British government had recruited the returnees from France into regular army to form the “First Chin Battalion” soon after the WWI. The officers of the First Chin Battalion like Major Son Kho Lian (1962) and Lt.Col. E.K. Kim Ngin (1988) became prominent and influential leaders in the Zomi Baptist Convention (Lian Sakhong 2000:252-254).
4)     Modern dress has been introduced among the Zomi people as the Labor Corps returnees adopted short pant for dressing for the first time. Following this experience Zomis adopted western dress as more and more young Zomis joint military service (Gin Khan Khual 1998:57).

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