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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Institution of slave

It is uncertain to give the exact date when slavery was instituted. It was certain that there were three cases that led the Zomi people into slavery.
The main target of tribal raid was not primarily to simply kill human being whether woman or children, but to kill a man. In a raid they wanted to kill as many as men they could. After killing the men, they captured women and children alive taking with them as booty including their belongings. The first medical missionary Dr. E. H. East recorded such statements of Zokhua man when they surrounded a Burmese village early in the morning while the Burmese were still sleeping began raiding the village, killing all men. They captured women and children, made prisoners of war and brought them home with cattle and grain. The women and children became their slaves and made a great feast (East 1983: 131-132).
On the other hand a person charged with capital sin or in fear of enemy could take refuge for protection at the house of the chief by embracing the central post of the building called “Sutpi.” By doing this he became a slave of the chief who gave him protection from attack. Hau Cin Khup had a big house called “Innpi” (mother house) at Tonzang which anthropologists called “Longhouse” (Daniel Shaw (1996:16).
In case of poverty, a person could borrow food grain from the chief to be repaid in due course. Failing which would result becoming slave of the chief.  Rev. J. H. Cope mentioned such a practice in relation to Hau Cin Khup. “In time of famine the poor man is compelled to borrow from the chief who charges no interest but after a certain date if the food is not refunded the poor unfortunate man becomes his shilla (slave) (J.H.Cope ltr.10/07/12). The Kachins had the same story “who had sold themselves into the servitude to a chief or wealthy individual” in poverty stricken case (Herman G. Tegenfeldt 1974:37). In such a case they became slaves by their own will or choice.
However, provisions were made for redemption from slavery.  The relatives or family members of the slaves could redeem them by paying certain amount in cash or in kind. “In early days there was no money. All payments were made in material wealth” (Copeltr.10/07/12). In case of a slave for life time the owner took responsibility for the welfare of the slave and treated him as his family member, provided him with a wife and have children.
Abolition of slave and tax
As noted above, the negative aspect of Kam Hau kingdom were slavery and heavy taxes levied upon the subjects. The conquest of the British in 1894 set a new horizon for the Zomis. The British brought tribal war to an end.  Slavery and tax took a longer time for complete abolition. Pau Khen, son of Am Thang in Tedim took initiative to approach the British officials for abolition of native slaves as all Burmese slaves were set free. The government fixed Rs.35/- per slave for redemption as currency was available by that time (Thang Za Tuan 1985:76). Finally, British government published an order of prohibition of slavery in 1925 in the whole of Burma that brought the slavery to an end (Sukte Chronicle 2003 vol. 6:16). The triennial tax came to an end by the introduction of “Standardized dues” by the Government in 1937 and “taangseu” tax was reduced to half. One taangseu was equivalent to two Tins of grain and it was reduced to one tin of grain by the same order (J.H. Cope 1937: 2). Complete abolition of tax came into effect only when the country was granted independence in 1948. At the abolition of chieftainship the tax also came to an end. The Zomis were relieved of social burdens like slavery and taxation as a result of Burma independence.

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