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Tuesday, March 8, 2016


CHAPTER ONE| ETYMOLOGY OF THE ZOMI I will discuss about the etymology of the Zomi under sub-sections such as the generic name Zomi, Zo tribes, Migration waves, Life before British Annexation, Emergence of Kam Hau Kingdom, Institution of slavery, Abolition of Slave and Tax, British Annexation and The first Exposure to the World.
The Generic Name “Zomi”
The hill and terrain area between India and Burma has been a land of various hill tribes. Even though they speak different dialects and identified themselves as different tribes, the historical evidence reveal that they belong to the same racial group called “Mongoloid” race from central Asia.  The Zo people traced back their origin from “Jo” or “Chou” dynasty BC 1027-256 and Chin dynasty 221-207 in China (Gin Za Tuang 1973:2). Dr. Hau Za Cin a Zomi scientist currently working in Taipei reported his recent visit to National Palace Museum at Taipei. During Chou Dynasty, he reports, a dead person was buried with a necklace ball which was continued by Chin and Han dynasty (Hau Za Cin email 02/05/07). Following the Chou Dynasty a Chin dynasty existed in China (221-207 BC) and the name Chin must have come from this dynasty. The common theory that the term “Chin” as a derivation of Burmese word (carrying basket) appears to be later discovery. Chin in Chinese means “man.” In Burma the creation of Chin Special Division in 1948 and later Chin State in 1974; Chin became an official name. However, the people themselves do not call as Chin because it carries a derogated meaning of being “uncivil and unlettered” given by the Burmese. They called themselves as Zo or Zomi. J. George Scott, former British official in Burma says, “The names Kuki and Chin are not national, and have been given to them by their neighbors. Kuki is an Assamese or Bengali name given by them to all the hill tribes in their neighborhood. Chin is the Burmese name given to all the people in the country between Burma and Assam. Its origin has not been determined. The Chins call themselves Zho, or Shu, Jo, or Lai” (Scott 1921:106). The late Rev. S.T. Hau Go contented that “We ourselves never use or accept it (Chin) as our racial name. We belong to the race, generally known as Tibeto-Burman” (Hau Go 1998:559). As a result the Chin Hills Baptist Association in 1948 was later changed to “the Zomi Baptist Convention” which is the only common platform for the Zomi people in Chin State. The Zomis also live both in Manipur and Mizoram in India. The Zomis are called Mizo in Mizoram and Kuki-Chin in Manipur. Speaking about the term “Mizo” Vanlalchhuanawma says “The strongest challenge to the name has come from a proposal of the term “Zomi” by which a section of the Mizos in Myanmar has been known and which has more or less the same meaning (i.e.highlander or people of the hill)” (Vanlalchhuanawma 2006: 14).  Vumson label the Zomis in Myanmar  as Eastern Zo and Mizos in Mizoram as Western Zo which is idealistic approach (Vumson 1986: 21-25). Lian Sakhong who did an extensive research on Chin named the present Chin state as East Chinram and Mizoram as West Chinram (Lian Sakhong 2000:22-51)). This is also an idealist approach as there is no Chinram. However their approach reveals the fact that the Zomis or Chins have no common identity as they were divided by the British government at the time of India/Burma independence. The people are still struggling with this issue even today.  Lian Sakhong identified the present northern Chins as Zomis, southern Chins as Chins and grouped the Kukis among the Zomi group. However Zomi includes all the Hill People between India and Burma including Chin State of Burma, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur of India, and Chittagong Hill tracts in Bangladesh. Vumson (1986) and M. Kipgen (1996) were right when they use “Zo” in reference to the hill people of these hill tracts who are known by various names. “There is no doubt that the Kukis, Chins and Lushais are of the same race” (Lt. Col. J. Shakespear 1912: 8). The term Chin is a given named by Burmese and British officials whereas Zomi is the local name for the people of the hill tract. The meaning of Zomi is highlander being Zo–highland, Mi–people or person. Zomi means Hill people or Hillmen (Gougin 1984:12). The language is called Zopau; the literature is called Zolai; the local chicken is Zo ak; the local pig is called Zo vok and so on. Therefore the name Zomi is a local name for the people of hill area between India and Burma.
Today there emerged four streams identifying themselves according to dialect wise. The central and southern Chins like Falam, Haka, Matupi and Mindat people claimed to have been the real Chins and wanted to retain the name for them even though some of them prefer to be identified by the local name Laimi or Khumi. The northern Chin people who were known as Kam Hau people preferred to be known by “Zomi” since 1970s. They began to reject the name Chin as it was a given name by the Burmese and the British writers. The people of Lushai Hills now Mizoram are known as Mizo rejecting the identity to be Chin. In Manipur the Kukis retain the name Kuki and unwilling to accept Chin or Zomi even though their racial and dialectical identity reveals to be of Zomi group.  Undoubtedly undercurrent competition is going on among these four streams for supremacy over language and literature. The Kukis, Zomis and Chins do not enjoy political compact area where they can exercise their potentiality as a distinct tribe. The Mizos have most favorable potential as they have their political state of their own. Survival of the fittest will rule among these four streams as they began to forget their racial affinity as one family. My focus will be on the Zomi of these four streams.

Zo tribes
Zomi group belongs to the Tibeto-Burman ethnic group. It is estimated that there may be as many as thirty million speakers of languages in Burma, Tibet, China, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. In addition to Burmese other Tibeto-Burman languages are Jingphaw, Chin, Naga, Kachin and Shan languages. The total number of speakers in the Chin Hills Special Division came to almost 350,000 that is about 3% of the country’s  population in 1931 (Frank N.Trager 1956:546-547).  The current population is estimated to be 47,769 as of January 2007 in an area of 14,000 square miles (Chin directory 2007:5). On the Indian and Pakistan (now Bangladesh) sides there were at least 850,000 Chins and Nagas in 1931 (Census of India, 1931, Vol.III Pat I :182-193).  Vumson believes that the total number of population reach about two million Zo people both in India and Myanmar: 180,000 in Mizoram, 50,000 in Tripura, 400,000 in Chin State, 300,000 in the plains of Burma and 50,000 in the Naga districts (Vumson 1986:2). The actual number of population can not be ascertain due to its diverse and complexity of settlement.
The genealogy of Zo tribe as shown by Vumson numbers 25 clans and sub-clans (Vumson 1986:7). Gin Za Tuang has at least 16 sub-clans mainly of Naulak clans (Gin Za Tuang 1973: Intro.). Lian Sakhong’s family tree appears to be the most acceptable one tracing from Mongolian, Mon-Khmer and Tibeto-Burman group (Lian Sakhong 2000: 83). According to the constitution amendment seminar held on June, 1961 in Tongyee, Shan State, the recognized tribes in Burma include eight major nationalities such as Chin, Kachin, Shan, Karen, Kaya, Mon, Rakhaing and Bama. In Burma the Chin includes six major tribal groups such as Asho, Cho, Khumi, Laimi, Naga and Zomi. In the present Chin State there are only four major tribes such as Cho, Khumi, Laimi and Zomi while Asho and Naga were outside the State.  Laimi and Zomi are called the northern Chin State and Cho and Khumi are called southern Chin State. Each major tribe consists of clans and sub-clans (Cho Youth Association, Canada, dt.29.03.2006).  The complexity of clan and sub-clans indicates the complexity of dialects among the same tribe. These Zo tribes and sub-tribes speak about forty-four distinct Chin and Chin related dialects (F.K.Lehman 1963:6).

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