Archive for May, 2007

Anglo-Kuki War (1917-1919)

By Dr. T.S. Gangte

With the commencement of the First World War in 1914, the policies of Governments in Europe were obsessed with hate and suspicion and were blinded with powers of obstruction and resistance in their hands. The war became an inferno round and about the world, causing losses both to victors and vanquished out of all proportion to the issues. The armies were millions strong and behind them entire population were organised for supply of food and munitions to the front. There was cessation of every sort of productive activity except such as contributed to military operations. All the able-bodied manhood of Europe were drawn into the armies and navies or into the improvised factories that served them. There was an enormous replacement of men by women in industry. Probably, more than half of the people in the belligerent countries of Europe changed their employment altogether during this stupendous struggle. They were socially uprooted and transplanted. Education and normal scientific work were restricted or diverted to immediate military end, and the distribution of news was crippled and corrupted by military control and propaganda activities.

Manipur to contribute 2,000 non-combatants:

As part of British Empire, India was to contribute 50,000 non-combatant force in order to augment combatant force by those employed in labour battalions in France and to husband as much manpower as possible in France and England of which Manipur was to contribute 2,000 non-combatant force vide telegraph dated 28th Jan 1917 from the Secretary of State for India, London addressed to the Army Headquarters, Simla, followed by letter no. 110-14 dated 31st Jan 1917 from BC Allen, ICS, Special Officer, Shillong to Lt. Col. HWG Cole, Political Agent, Manipur asking the Kukis to join recruitment thereof. the Kukis took strong exception to the manner of imposition and refused to accept the orders, and, instead, decided to declare war against the British.

March 17, 1917: Red Letter Day (D.O. No. 5c dt. 17/03/1917) As decided earlier, the Kuki chiefs declared war against the British according to their customs and traditions on March 17, 1917, sacrificing Mithun in token war-rite and oath-taking ceremony by four senimormost clan head chiefs. This is called Hansa-Neh and Sajaam-Lha. Colonel Cole, HGW, Political Agent, Manipur in his confidential D.O. No. 5c. dated March 17, 1917 addressed to BC Allen, ICS. Special officer, Shillong said that Mithun sacrificial war-rite was performed by the following four Kuki chiefs

– 1. Chengjapao, chief of Aishan Village, Piba of Kukis. 2. Khotinthang (Kilkhong), chief of Jampi village and Piba of Sitlhou clan, 3. Lhukhomang (Pache), chief of Chahsad and Piba of Haokip clan and 4. Ngullen, chief of Khong-jang, Piba of Singson clan.

And so, was the war-cry of the Kukis performed by Tintong, chief of Laijang village, cutting the tail of sacrificial Mithun. He was declared commander of the Kuki warriors.

Anecdotes of war theatres: The Mithun oath-taking war-rite ceremony performed by the above four chiefs was spread like wildfire that led to spread of attacks on the British subjects and their loyalist Kukis with intimidation, threat, harassment etc. beginning in April, continued in July and September that resulted in direct confrontation of the British forces and the Kuki warriors of Lonpi-Longja axis when

– a) The first battle occurred in September 1917 at (defeat of British)

Chakpi river-crossing, near Sugnu, one mile before Lonpi, constructing a strong stockade right in the middle of the road. The British force led by the Political Agent, Manipur was under the command of Captain Halliday with a strength of 80 Assam Rifles. In the fierce fighting that ensued three British soldiers were killed whose bodies were left behind when retreated to Imphal. There were several wounded British soldiers who were taken along by the retreating column said Shakes-pear, LW Col. (1929: p213: History of Assam Rifles).

b) Oct 7, 1917 (Longpi burnt – turning point of event)

Not being satisfied with the defeat in the hands of Lonpi-Longja warriors in September, Higgins JC on his return from Octal meeting with the Western Kuki chiefs, marched against Lonpi once more where he was greeted with already evacuated village. Anger grip-ped him and sent emissaries to Ngulkhup and Ngulbul to surrender before him. The latter refused to comply with his command. Instead, they sent insolent reply to the effect that they have closed the Kuki country (hills) to the white men, being incensed, said Palit KD Major General, (1983: p 63: The Sentinels of North East). Under the situation, Higgins had no alternative, but had to resort to burning Lonpi on 17th Oct 1917. This incurred the anger of the Kuki warriors and their attacks on the British, their subjects and Kuki loyalitis intensified and widespread all over the hill areas of Manipur including Naga hills, North Cachar hills, Somra hills, Chin hills etc.

c) Lt. Molesworth killed and Lt. Kay Mauyatt seriously wounded: (Chahsad Theatre in March 1918)

In mid-March 1918, a combined columns of 150 strong of 2, 3 and 4 Assam Rifles under command of Captain Coote along with Lt. Parry and Mr Higgins, JC, ICS and one column of Burma military police under command of Captain Pattrick that met at Kongkal Thana on Mangha river marched together to attack Kamjong, principal fort of Pache where pitched battle ensued. In the course of fierce fighting, Lt. Molesworth was killed and Lt. Kay Mauyatt seriously wounded. But Pache could not be captured who made his escape to Somra hills.

After this, the entire scene became very tense. The Maharajah of Manipur, Sir Churachand Singh, in his letter dt. 22-5-1918 addressed to Cosgrave, WA Political Agent, Manipur described the entire valley as being gripped with fear-psychosis, tension, nervousness of attack and rumours of war and that panicky unrest etc. reigned in capital city of Imphal. All the same, anarchy prevailed in the hill areas. Even Imphal was being rumoured of beseized which prompted Higgins to rush back to Imphal from Bishenpur, abandoning his march against the south western Kuki chiefs. The Raja could not think anything as to what to do. His head reeled with sorrow and grief and asked Cosgrave to do whatever was considered best under the situation.

November 7, 1918 (Army took over) The situation now completely went out of the hands of civil authority. The Chief Commissioner of Assam and the Deputy Inspector General of Assam Rifles rushed to Simla in June 1918, to meet the Commander-in-chief of the British Indian Army.

(a) British Indian Army Formation:

The meeting of the Chief Commissioner of Assam and the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army resulted in the decision to hand over the entire operation to the army from the 7th November, 1918. However, actual movement of the troops could only start from November 25, 1918.

Accordingly, the operations were handed over to General Sir Henry D ‘U, Keary, KCB, KCIE, DSO as Burma Division Commander, controlling the operations, was posted at Kendet, Sagaing division, Burma, as his divisional headquarters. His Chief Staff Officer at Kendet was Lieutenant Colonel JLW ffrench-Mullen, CIE, IA. Similarly, he was assisted by Brigadier General CE Macquoid, DSO as General Officer Commanding, stationed at Imphal together with Colonel LW Shakespear, CB as Deputy Inspector General of Assam Rifles. He was also assisted by Political officers from civil authorities such as,

i. In India

1. J.C. Higgins, ICS, Imphal and2. J H. Hutton, ICS, Kohima.

ii. In Burma 1. J.B. Marshall, ICS, Mawlaik and2. H. Parker, ICS, Homalin.

The Division strength under his divisional command, called, Burma Division command, was 7,6050 combatant force with 208 officers other than the ones mentioned above. The areas covered under the operations were above 6,000 square miles with civil population affected around 35,000.

b) Kuki Warrior formation (Higgins no. 705 Ms. dt. Nov 24/25. 1917)

The areas occupied by the Kukis are so widely scattered all over Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram etc in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar (Chin Hills). Each area is under the control of one senior clan head among the Kukis. In consideration of the jurisdiction and influence extended in the area of each chief, Higgins, political officer, Manipur, divided formation of Kuki warrior as given below:

1. Eastern hills under Chah-sad area under command of Lhukhomang (Pache), chief of Chahsad assisted by Paokho-len, chief of Bongbal Khulen and Paboi, chief of Sita village.
2. North Eastern Hills under command of Chengjapao, chief of Aishan village covering the north easter areas including Somra tracts.
3. Southern Hills under Longpi areas under command of Ngulkup assisted by Ngulbul, chief of Longja. The area include south-eastern side of Imphal extending upto Chin hills area bordering on Myanmar.
4. South-western hills, under the command of Pakang, chief of Henglep assisted by Semchung of Loikhai, Haoneh of Nabil, Paosum of Songphu and entire chiefs of the Manlun and Manchong clans (Zous).
5. Western hills of Jampi areas under the command of Jampi chief assisted by Tintong of Laijang, Lhunkholal of Chongjang, Khupkho of Langkhong and Heljashon of Loibol. The areas cover that lie in the North-Western hills between Imphal valley and North Cachar and Naga hills.

Indian resistance to British imperialism:

Contemporary Indian Nationalists looked at it as Indian resistance to British Imperialism. Major General, Palit, DK said that the Kukis had been encourage by emissaries from Bengali Nationalists in Assam but any thought that the German had also had a hand in it did not occur to any one, that Prof Borpujari, HK an Assamese historian said that the German spies had a secret hand in formenting the war and that the Kukis were the influence of activists of the revolution from Bengal. Similarly, Col. Shakespear said that it was the most serious military involvement in the NE and that Bengal seditionists in Sylhet and Cachar encouraged Kukis to rebel against the British and gave example of an instance that occurred in Tammu among the Indian sepoys where some of them were found to have possessed photographs of two German on the back of which were written that if captured the photograph would sage them when shown to the rebels.


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The Forgotten Sons

By Seikholen Thomsong

‘A Saga of Valour and Sacrifice’ Dedicated to hundreds of Kukis hurt, killed, scarred or maimed for life just because they fought for a cause to help their brethren achieve self respect. Dedicated to the brave men and women who had undergone deprivation, hardship, and even physical and emotional torture for Mizoram but found no mention anywhere. Nobody wants to remember of admit the contributions of the brave Kukis but their saga lives on in the hearts of people.


This piece of work has been cobbled up to find out the truth about the reasons why the two cousins of the Tibeto Burman stock viz. the Mizos and the Kukis who had fought side by side against the British and later against the Indian government for obtaining a state for the Kuki-Chin-Mizos in the 1960s became so divided and unconcerned about each other.

Also it is aimed to generate public discussion and debate over the issue and if possible mend the broken bridges between the two communities or at the least stop future misunderstanding from occurring in this part of the country. This article of mine would at best generate discussion and explain why the feelings that have been perpetuating in the Kuki society were so.

The Kukis* might have been too sensitive about the inability of the Mizo Accord to include their areas in the state of Mizoram. Or they might have been expecting too much from a one time ally when they were facing the wrath of the NSCN(IM)(It was not all Nagas) in the bloodbaths between 1992-1996.

The hundred million dollar question, which should be asked is, “Did the Kukis* fail to measure up as an ally to the MNF in its movement for self governance?” If so, where or what were the deficiencies? Was it because it was a hardline and more chauvinist of the MNF that negotiated with the Central Govt and later captured power after statehood was granted that Mizoram was considered only for the MIZOS/LUSHAIS? Was the surrender of one man, who supposedly felt he was going to be killed because he was a Kuki, an actual betrayal of the cause? If it was not true why was it not clarified to the person? If the individual or group has sinned what exactly were its sins? Why had the MNF kept mum when its former ally needed its good offices to stop bloodshed against them?(* By KUKI here I am talking of all non Naga tribes of Manipur because they were all known as Kukis at one point of time 1950-1970s (or at least for some time in their tribe certificates as “Thadou-kukis”, when they wanted to avail quotas and scholarships from the govt.)- The Writer.


The Historical Backdrop

Towards the end of the British rule in India, like the princely states, there were many tribal communities on the periphery of the Indian nation. They had the same dilemma as that of the princely states – to integrate and be a part of a single Indian state or to secede from the prospective Indian state and seek its national destiny independently.
The Mizos residing in the Mizo Hills, Assam and part of Manipur and Myanmar, were divided into two camps. The group that favored to secede was the group consisting of the various local chiefs. They saw that their future was bleak in joining the democratic and socialistic new Indian nation. The group favoring to integrate was the group of newly educated middle class of the society. The newly educated middle class got their education from the English missionaries and the schools they started. They were aware of the winds of change sweeping across the continents post WW II and the new impetus given to democracy and modernity against authoritarian or autocratic or Nazi like governments and their administration.

In Mizoram, this middle class saw that the restoration of the old order meant the reversion to the oppressive rule of the Chiefs and the endless continuation of their tyranny on the commoners. This enlightened middle class formed a political party called the Mizo Commoners Union (subsequently called Mizo Union) and organized a social movement for integration with India as it would mean the abolishment of the institution of the chieftainship which was a promised agenda of the Indian National Congress. The traditional elite of the Chiefs formed the United Mizo Freedom Organization and propagated a position against merging with India.[1]

The new middle class prevailed over the aspirations of the chiefs, the Mizos settled down to peace and order within India. However, the Indian state allegedly failed to meet the aspirations of this new middle class. Constituted as a district within Assam, the Assamese leadership was said to have ignored the developmental needs of the tribals. Despite its promise, the Indian state was seen as delaying the abolishing of the institution of Chieftainship. Hindu and Assamese chauvinism also reared its head and the Mizos who are proud of their culture and language felt threatened of their culture and language being overwhelmed in the long run; the District Council, the governing body of the Mizos, was without any financial empowerment. Lastly, the periodic bamboo famine, ‘MAUTAM’ hit the hills resulting in starvation deaths of hundreds. The Assamese leadership appeared unconcerned. All these developments prompted the traditional leadership to re-emerge and vigorously propagate the idea that the marginal tribes like the Mizo would always be treated unevenly by the Indian state.

The famine gave the opportunity for the rise of Laldenga, an ex soldier of the Indian Army, who was a member of the District Council. He formed the Mizo Famine Front during the time of the famine and later changed it to Mizo National Front (MNF) to spearhead a movement for secession from the Indian union.

The Composition

The Mizo Separatist Movement was able to mobilise almost all echelons of society due to the growing disappointment with the Indian state. This enabled the leadership to transform their agitation into a social movement. “The myriad sub-tribes inhabiting the Mizo Hills, the generic Mizo identity and the Lushai (Dulian) language became easily acceptable. This greatly integrated the Mizos as one entity with the formation of Mizo Union.” [2]

Electoral Politics

Laldenga had left his job in the district council and had taken over as president of the Mizo National Famine Front. He initially tried to build up his power base and popularity in the Mizo Hills. He turned the MNFF into Mizo National Front by dropping the ‘F’ for famine from its name. In 1963 it contested elections in the Assam Legislative Assembly. Its candidates John Manliana and LH Lalmawia won from Aizawl West and Lungleih respectively. The MNF also won 145 seats in the Village Council; however it could not dislodge the Mizo Union which had won 228 seats.

The failure to capture power made Laldenga leave the country to look for other avenues. By then, he had widely publicised his interpretation of the Mizo history – of the need for secession. During Christmas in 1963 he along with Sainghaka and Lalnunmawia headed for Dhaka. The Assam Police detained him for some time on his return, but the CM of Assam Mr. Chaliha released him. Within a week, 20 Mizos crossed the border and went to meet Pakistani officials for an arms deal. By the end of 1964, Laldenga was ready with the drafting of the Mizo case for international audience, while Zamanna and Sainghaka had prepared the armed base. The first battalion of the MNF was organized and named after Vanapa, a mizo folk hero. It consisted of about 200 men and the strongest and fittest 50 of them were made the Special Forces whose main duty was to shadow Laldenga and save him from danger or capture.

Laldenga’s visit to Manipur and Mobilization

In 1965, Laldenga visited Churachandpur district in the southern part of Manipur and pleaded the case of ‘Greater Mizoram’ among the hill tribes there, which have sizeable Mizo presence or their cousins Kukis, Hmars, Paites, Vaipheis and Zous. Many had sympathized with the plight of the Mizos and would extend food, shelter and sanctuary for fugitive MNA volunteers in the near future. Many even joined the MNA, among them the Thadou-kukis joined in the largest number.

The Structure and Command of the Mizo National Army

By beginning of 1966, four more battalions of the MNA were organized and they all werenamed after Mizo heroes such as Chawngbala, Taitsena, Zampuimanga and Vanapa. The MNA was organized into five commands.

The MNA had a well-defined military structure and even had their Military law on the lines of the Indian Army. A point to be noted here is that the bulk of MNA was formed by jawans of the Indian Army who had deserted their units because of alleged mistreatment meted out by the officers. This explains the planning in terms of administration, logistics and tactics of their operations.[3]

The MNF had a senate of six members and a house of representatives consisting of 24. The membership of MNA would swell after OP JERICHO when college students joined en masse from the colleges of Shillong and other places. Some even left govt jobs and joined the fight for secession. But the bulk and leadership of the MNA was still in the hands of Laldenga and the people he trusted – the ex-jawans and many of them were not highly educated.

Operation Jericho

By February 28, MNF was ready with its declaration of independence. The declaration with 60 signatories emphasized separate identity of the Mizos and alleged suppression of their faith- Christianity and the hardships faced by the Mizos such as the famine etc in order to strike a sympathetic chord in the hearts and minds of all Mizos. On the night of the 27th February 1966, 1000-armed volunteers encircled Aizawl in a brilliantly conceived, planned and rehearsed drill. General Sawmvela had issued a very clear directive, to flank and pin down larger outpost of Assam Rifles by accurate fire and the smaller ones were to be over run and captured. The targets were the state treasuries and the government offices for the cash and other assets, which they could use.

The same operation was carried out in Lunghleih and Champhai. While the MNF failed in the capital city of Aizawl they were successful in the other two places and captured about Rs 18 lakhs from Lungleih and from Champhai, both the treasury and the Assam Rifle post fell to the MNF. The MNF could capture six light machine guns (LMGs), seventy rifles, eighteen Sten guns two 2 inch mortars, 38 pistols, six grenade firing rifles and plenty of ammunitions.[4]

Deployment of Indian Armed Forces

The Indian army responded swiftly though initially they were caught unaware. In the words of Gen Manekshaw, GOC-in-C (Army Commander) Eastern Command, with its HQ at Fort Williams, Calcutta, “The Indian army was caught with its pants down.” The army set up a Brigade HQ at Aizawl, recaptured Lungleih on 14 March, Champhai on 17 March and Demagiri on 20 March. A young Maj, VK NAYAR of the Para regiment led the Indian army column of paratroopers who were sent to retrieve lungleih. The city of Aizawl was strafed by the Indian Air Force sorties for days, to soften the target and finally the Army was sent in to capture ground.[5] The counter insurgency force began cracking soon after and almost all lost ground were recovered by 20 March 1966.

Flight to Dacca

“After his peace and negotiation initiatives were rejected by the Assam and Indian govt, Laldenga held a cabinet meeting in the Reiek Caves, the MNF HQ in Mizoram. The meeting decided to send Laldenga to embark on a diplomatic sojourn to convince sympathetic nations to take up the case of Mizoram.” [6] On 3 July 1966, Laldenga left for Dhaka. There he went to various embassies of foreign countries and pleaded for monetary and political help from the western nations. But though nations of the western world were sympathetic they did not want to embroil themselves in the internal affairs of India. Moreover they had come under severe criticism when they had extended support to the Nagas fighting for freedom. Laldenga stayed there till the time it was safe for him to venture back.


By 1967, the glory of OP Jericho had waned. The might of the Indian Army counter insurgency operations had started to yield results. The Indian Army took a leaf out of the British army’s successful clamp down of the insurgency of Malaya in the 1950s. The Indian army applied what was known as the Brigg’s plan in Mizoram.

Brigg’s Plan

Mike (a.k.a. Mad Mike)- a member of the British Special Air Services (SAS) the special forces of the British army, submitted a detailed analysis of British CI efforts in Malaya. A new approach was started which the British called Counter Insurgency (COIN) Ops. It was called the “Briggs plan” named after Sir Harold Briggs who was the high commissioner of Malaya that time. [7]

Restructuring of Villages

As per this plan, half a million Chinese squatters from 410 villages were resettled in new fortified villages called KAMPONGS. These kampongs have schools clinics and agricultural land in them and thus the people resettled in such need not go out or meet anyone.The basic features of the Brigg’s plan that was applied in Malaya were as follows. First, it isolated the guerillas from source of recruits, intelligence and supplies. Second, it consolidated by creation of Chinese political party “Malayan Chinese Association” to give an outlet to the Chinese community in the coming independence of Malaya. In the case of the Mizos it was the congress party and the political party of Brig (retd) T Sailo- Peoples Conference. Thirdly, efforts were on to break communist organization in the unpopulated areas, by dominating the ground and forcing the guerillas into the battle with the security forces. Fourth, The British Special Forces of the army were to support the “Briggs plan”. The Special Air Services (SAS) let the guerillas come to them by ambushing well-used jungle tracks supply caches, jungle clearings used by the guerillas to grow their own food. Fifth, the Briggs Plan also used surrendered guerillas and victims of guerilla actions in its Counter Insurgency. In the case of Mizoram, Randhawa the ex army brigadier who was made the head of the Police after Arya, IGP was slain applied this and managed to kill many MNF activists by tricking them to come near him and his gang of surrendered militants or civilian victims of violence perpetrated by the MNF. Sixth was the “operation Hearts and Mind” the humane operation, which sought to help the civilians in their civic needs, was launched.

The application of The Brigg’s Plan was so successful that for some time the MNF leadership had to cool its heels in Bangladesh or hide away in the dense jungles of neighboring Manipur.

Around 105 villages were regrouped into 18 Protected and Progressive Villages (PPV) (they were not called KAMPONGS, thanks to Indian army ingenuity). Only the name was changed. The tribal institution of Tlawbawk (lou Buh) was discontinued. Identity cards were issued to the settlers of PPV who had to have it checked daily on leaving for the fields and on coming back. So much time was wasted in checking and frisking that the farmers’ working hour decreased drastically. To make matters worse, daytime curfew were enforced most of the time. The men who had not joined the MNA (many had left for Dacca or hidden in the dense jungles) were herded up and sent to Kashmir to work on construction of border roads. Even locally, they were made to work as porters for the army. As a result, food production was decreased and the people had to survive on government rations supplied to them, which could be cut off at the whim of a soldier.

The MNA decided to re-organize into smaller groups to conduct small-scale offensives. The MNA was now composed of 7 battalions under 2 brigades – the DAGGER Brigade and LION Brigade. The Mizo hill was organized into four sectors. The MNA at this time realized that it was necessary to carry out major diversionary actions in order to disperse the security forces and disrupt the reorganization of the villages. Thus Operation Crusade was formulated.


The MNF leadership felt the need to widen its area of operation as they were virtually immobile in Mizoram. Laldenga, when he visited Manipur in 1965, had managed to garner not only sympathy but also managed to recruit more men. The MNF had four main reasons to hide away in Manipur firstly, influence and recruit fresh fighters from among the tribals in Manipur sympathetic to its cause. Secondly, it was to spread its area of influence and thus somehow disperse the Indian army and thirdly, to open a route to China. Fourth, to find new source of tax and find sanctuary in case the situation in Mizoram becomes too hot as it was post OP JERICHO.

Entry of the Kukis

Manipur has a sizeable population of the Kukis, Hmars, Paites, Zous, Vaipheis and others who are ethnical cousins, though speaking a different dialect. It was here that Laldenga raised hundreds of volunteers. The bulk of the volunteers were from the Thadou-Kukis, of which Demkhosieh Gangte rose to prominence and recognition later. He was described as “one of the most battle seasoned captains in the Eastern Hilss” by certain journalists and writers who covered the Mizo national movement closely. There were also many brave women of the Thadou-Kukis who became active fighters in the MNA. They were Hekim, Hoinu and Hevah and names of two more women who joined the MNA could not be obtained. “The Kukis were very co-operative, brave, kind and helpful.”[8]

Demkhosieh was born on 11 June 1926. He did his schooling from NEIG Mission School at Haflong, NC Hills, Assam. Unfortunately, in 1935 his father Ngulkhopao passed away and he could not continue with his studies. He followed a maternal uncle Hawllen to Moirang in Manipur. Not much was known of his childhood but an incident that occurred when he was a young lad fed the legend that he had become- once he was found sitting on the teacher’s chair in the classroom. When asked why he did so, he replied nonchalantly that he had learned enough and he was fit to become a teacher himself. That was the characteristic confidence that set him apart from the rest.

In 1943, at 17 he followed Hav Thangtinkham, Non Commission Officer (NCO) in charge of recruitment in the Assam Regiment Centre at Shillong. With nine (9) rupees, which his aunt had given him he reached Shillong and was taken to see the Commandant, Lt Col HE Mack. The Commandant felt he was too young and kept him at his home as an orderly so that he could be recruited later. Within a year, the commandant noticed his abilities and skills at arms and thus he was recruited in 1944. He left the army in 1950 and the next year he joined the Manipur Police. He was transferred to the SIB in 1953.He married in 1956.

In 1960, he had become the president of the Kuki National Assembly. The first time he met Laldenga was when he led a delegation of KNA leaders to Aizawl to settle differences with the Hmar community. The Hmars and the Singsits were in conflict due to alleged mistreatment of the Hmars at the hands of their Singsit chiefs. There is no record of the exact date when he joined the MNF but scholars like Dr TT Haokip, who actually met him and spoke to him, said that Demkhosieh joined the oath taking at Chaltlang in 1960, where new recruits swore in the name of the blood of their forefathers for the Mizo cause. In 1968, MNF leaders sent him to Bangladesh to train in advanced army training. A Pakistani officer called Iqbal Khan trained him, along with other cadres.

By now, the Shanti/Mukti Bahini(Bengali separatists in East Pakistan) movement had started in East Pakistan and there were rumours that India would someday come to the aid of the Bangladeshi rebels who wanted to overthrow the Pakistanis. Some RAW official, actually remarked to his subordinates in 1971, that cutting East Pakistan into two would prevent a Sino-Pakistani axis and help protect India’s north east. This reveals that the objective of the Indira Gandhi government was to take advantage of the Pakistani’s military actions on Bengalis to achieve a strategic advantage in the area.[9]

In 1968, Demkhosieh was sent along with four men of the MNF who hailed from Falam in the Arakan hills of Myanmar to reconnoiter for a new HQ there in case the Indian army invades East Pakistan. This far sightedness of the MNF proved useful when in 1971 the Indian army actually marched into Dacca. The first thing that the paratroop regiments did was hit the training centre of the militants. Fortunately the top brass of the MNF wereable to bundle off Laldenga, though reluctantly,[10] and his wife to the safety of the new HQ in Arakan Hills which Demkhosieh had reconnoitered.

Operation Chin Hills

Demkhosieh was sent to the Arakan hills in in 1968, this means that he would have taken part in the Operation Chin Hills. This was one gem of a military operation undertaken by the MNF. The MNF came to learn of the not so secret intelligence that Indian army would invade Dacca and that it was only a matter of time till D-day. Thus it wanted to send its cadre to China to enlist Chinese support and to train its men in jungle warfare. China was sympathetic to all insurgent groups emanating from the area. The Indian secret services were training Tibetan separatists and thus China had no qualms about training insurgents from the NE India.

The contingent that was to be sent to China consisted of the following officers – Senator Bualhranga, self-styled Brig R Sangkawia as the commander, self-styled Col Sapbawia, second in command (2IC), self-styled Maj Thanchungnunga, self-styled Capt James Lalhmingliana, self-styled Lt Ramtharlawna, self-styled 2nd Lt Thangkhuma. A meeting was conducted in Sihmit valley and about 527 MNA volunteers were selected.

The route chalked out in the meeting at the Sihmit valley was – Start Point (SP) Sihmit valley –Haimual village- Bukphir village- Lentlang village- Hawlkawn village, where they slept overnight- Run river- Than Mountain- Samtal village- Moreh- Charaw(Ukhrul district)- Kabaw valley- Mualvailup village- Chindwin river- Kachin area – Yunan( China).[11]

The fact that the route to China runs through part of Manipur and Kuki inhabited areas of Burma (Myanmar), apart from the fact that the MNF needed recruits and safe sanctuary in the vast dense hills of Manipur, could not be ruled out as one of the reasons why the MNF cultivated the friendship of the Kukis. Also, when the Mizos faced starvation in 1960, the Kuki National Assembly, the political organization of the Kukis of Manipur, (KNA) under the leadership of Demkhosieh Gangte had collected Rs 3800/- from the kukis of Manipur and Nagaland and sent it to the MNFF as famine relief.[12]But the problem facing the MNF going to China was that the Burmese army would not just let the MNF pass through their territory. So the MNF leadership, without the knowledge of Laldenga planned the OP CHIN HILLS. The broad objective of this operation was to create a smokescreen that would provide a safe passage, to the 527 officers and men of the MNA going to China, without any skirmish with the Burmese army.In this operation, cadres of MNF attacked various Burmese army posts in Burmese territory. There were in total five battalions taking part in this operation and their area of responsibility were as follows. The ‘L’ battalion had to attack Rihkhawdar camp and another camp near the Rih lake. The ‘S’ battalion had to attack Tiddim army camp. The ‘C’ Chawngbala battalion had to attack Falam camp. The ‘K” battalion were earmarked to attack Halkha camp. The last, ‘T’ Taitsena battalion had to attack Tuibual camp to divert the attention of the Burmese army so that the China contingent led by Bualhruanga could reach the Yunan safely. They were supposed to regroup and re-organized at their rendezvous- codenamed “FORT WHITE”, a place they had chosen somewhere in the interior part of Myanmar.

The operation met with minor success and in some case the MNA suffered casualty. The casualty list was like this- ‘L’ Bn nine injured none killed. ‘T’ bn injured nil, two were killed. ’Ch’ bn one injured and one killed. ‘S’ bn one injured and none killed. ’K’ bn, was the one attacking Halkha camp resulting in fifteen injured and four killed.[13]. The contingent reached the Chindwin River but could not proceed further. They stayed put there considering asking the KIA to help them cross into China but a famine broke out there and thus the MNF leaders decided to come back home.

Later, Demkhosieh Gangte would lead a contingent consisting of about 27 kukis and 20 Mizos to China. Of the 27 Kukis, most were stalwarts of the society who later played crucial roles in the politics of Manipur. Some of the stalwarts were Late Lalkhohen Thangeo, who later became president of Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM), SL Paokhosei, Ex-MLA, Lalkholun Kipgen, TN Haokip, speaker of the Manipur Assembly. PS Haokip, fondly recalled how TN Haokip, who was just a lad at that time, wanted to join the MNA very much and was inconsolable because there were no uniform left for him. A Mizo Indian army jawan, on leave at home, was approached but he would not part with his army uniform. So elders like Demkhosieh convinced him that he would be given the first uniform that they could lay their hands on from then. Thus TN Haokip, finally mollified, stopped playing truant and went with the others.

The MNF spreading its area of operation in the hills of Manipur was a tactically very sound idea. The MNA could find shelter in the hills of Manipur and Nagaland (they had cordial relation with the Naga insurgents too). Thus by widening their area of operations and influence they could scatter the Indian armed forces and engage them in smaller groups. The terrain due to its vastness and presence of dense jungles provided safe sanctuaries to the MNA. The civilian population was sympathetic to them. Thus they could hide and operate against the Indian army with impunity from the villages.

Operation Crusade

Having persuaded a sizeable chunk of the tribes to join them in the movement, the MNA started its operations in the Hills of Manipur. The first was named as Operation Crusade. This in fact consisted of the political and emotional parleys that Laldenga had with the elders of different tribes in Manipur. The MNA soon launched military operations, first in the Tamenglong district where a detachment of Indian army were ambushed, arms and weapons seized. The enormity of success was paralleled if not surpassed, later by the NSCN attack of Oinam Assam rifle camp in the 1980s.

The backlash was furious and the Kukis suffered from the counter insurgency conducted in their areas. In fact elders of the Kuki society narrate, till today, how the Kukis had allegedly undergone various hardships in the course of sheltering and hiding MNF from the Indian army. Many young men were allegedly arrested and tortured for alleged abetment of the Mizos. Some allegedly succumbed to the beatings and torture of the Indian army. Many are said to be either physical or emotional cripple till today.


The March to China

In Nov 1972, the first batch of MNF to successfully reach China started out under the leadership of Demkhosieh Gangte. The MNF numbered 47 including volunteers from Manipur. Demkhosieh himself was a Thadou-Kuki volunteer from the south – west district of Churachandpur. The party did not have maps but only one compass with them. [14] They set out from Mizoram and reached Manipur where the Kukis gave them food and shelter and hid them from the Indian Army patrols. Then they went to Moreh and proceeded to the Arakan hills in Burma. From the Arakan the MNF took the degree of march to China to be 10 degrees and set out for the Yunan, China. They marched and confirmed the correctness of the route from each village that they passed by. In the march to China they were given shelter, food and protection by many of the Kuki villages in Burma and safely guided up to the Kachin region.[15]

Navigation is not simple, as one has to know how to study a map and follow it on ground in tandem with the use of a compass. First, start points and end points/destination are chosen on the map and marked. Distance is calculated, by calculating the number of squares. And with the help of a protractor the degree for marching is measured. Now the degree is measured with the help of a compass and the march commences. After every halt, the navigator measures the compass and takes you in the direction of the degree on the compass. The degree has to be verified after every 2-3 hundred metres because if you veer off an inch at the start, when you reach your objective rest assured you would have missed your destination by minimum a mile. While marching a person counts his footstep and measure the distance that has been covered in kms. This man must have measured how many normal steps of his can cover, say, a hockey field whose length is 100 metres. Thus he can roughly say how many steps of his makes a km. Another man has a rope or stones in his hands to keep record of how many kilometers they have walked or covered.

So it was sheer determination of the men and the fact that Kuki villages were there along the route to Kachin area that they could reach their destination in thirteen months. Otherwise, they never would have reached at all. They passed through the Kachin area in Burma and were mistaken for agents of the Burmese army by the Kachin Independence Army who seized their weapons and made them prisoners. However the KIA provided food, shelter, clothing and escort till the Chinese border when they were confirmed of the bonafides of the MNF. This was in lieu of 50 % of the arms and ammunitions received from the Chinese, which the MNF has to give the KIA. The MNF entered China in Dec 28, 1973 and stayed there for three months and ten days.

The return from China

The MNF started back in April 1974 and crossed the river Chindwin in Burma in January 1975. The KIA took only a few gold chains and let them proceed on their way. The MNA was ambushed on their way back and lost two men. They found their way back safe and stayed at the Kuki village of Molvailup in Manipur.

The MNF came back with 3 radio transmitters, 32 light machine guns (LMGs), 12 pistols, 4 rocket launchers (RLs) M-40, 78 rockets, 28614 rounds of ammunition, 32000 US dollars, 62000 Burmese Kyats, 69 gold chains (more than ten ounce each), 10 inflatable boats, books written by Mao Tse Tung and personal clothings. It was said that the MNF were so disillusioned with the system they saw in China that on the way back home they used the covers of the books written by Mao for binding their diaries and the inner pages as toilet tissue paper.[16]

The China contingent had been away almost three years from Mizoram and by then many reverses had taken place. After the 1971 Bangladesh liberation, the ISI could no longer give them support. Laldenga had to flee to the Arakan hills and then to West Pakistan. Many of the MNF leadership had surrendered and there were widespread suspicion that many more were going to desert the leader. It was at this time that the MNA hitman Capt Lalheia became notorious. He was responsible for the daring assassination in 1975 of GS Arya, IGP, LB Sewa, DIG and the SP Mr Panchapagesan in the police headquarters in broad daylight. He was known as the “hitman” and between 1972 and 1974 he had assassinated most of the moderate leaders who had come over ground or deserted Laldenga.There were rumors that a death warrant for Demkhosieh had also been issued around this time. It was not known whether an order to that effect i.e. to kill Demkhosieh was actually passed by Laldenga. Like Laldenga himself, Demkhosieh was an ex soldier, trained and disciplined in the same Indian army and a professional soldier’s loyalty can never be in doubt, at least to Laldenga. The Kukis of Manipur, Demkhosieh and the others were greatly hurt by such a development. Thus Demkhosieh wrote a letter to the newly elected CM of the union territory Mr Chhunga and suggested peace talks with the Government of India.


The Misunderstanding

Demkhosieh surrendered with 27 of the group consisting mostly of Kukis, to the Indian army in Imphal, Manipur. The reason is still an issue of debate till today. Demkhosieh was supposed to have lost his desire to continue as he was already disillusioned from the trip to China and more so when he purportedly learnt that the MNA High Command had issued an order for his assassination. The way the Chinese treated the Tibetans were observed by the contingent as they trained in the Yunan. Also those were trying times for the MNF Supremo, who had barely escaped from Dhaka and most of the moderates (DUMPAWLS) had surrendered and ditched him. Thus he might have been paranoid about who was loyal to him and who was not.

The only logical explanation could be that the MNF High Command might have passed a decree that all moderate leaders and deserters should be killed. Capt Lalheia, (code name MC 351), the hitman and his men in their zealous enthusiasm might have carried the order too far and tried to kill anyone and everyone whose loyalty they doubt. Demkhosieh, a Kuki from Manipur might not have been trusted very much. Other factors could well have been possible for the fall out. The Mizos, 20 of them who formed a portion of the group going to China might have resented the leadership and how all the goods, gifts and the leader Demkhosieh controlled monetary help given by the Chinese. However, there is no proof of that angle available anywhere in written records.

Realisation and Beyond

Demkhosieh realised now that it would be impossible to continue to fight for Mizoram after the fall out. He now wanted to take Thadou-kuki recruits to China for training. So he gave some money, sent some of his men and asked them to go the interior of Manipur and raised young recruits to go to China. The men that he sent could find no fresh recruits and came back empty handed after having spent all the money. Thus Demkhosieh decided it was futile to go on and surrendered to the Indian Army in Imphal.


Later, after Mizoram attained its statehood, certain Kuki leaders querried the MNF leadership why the kukis had been ignored, some Mizo leaders allegedly replied, “Whatever rewards that were for the Kukis has been wasted by Demkhosieh by surrendering to the Indian government”. This logic however is weak and holds little justification. If the Kukis have forfeited their inheritance because Demkhosieh surrendered, then how do the MNF explain the tens and hundreds of Mizos moderates who surrendered even before Demkhosieh did! Was Demkhosieh the only MNA who surrendered? Why the differential treatment?

To the kukis, the only explanation and conclusion was that the clever Mizos befriended them when they needed taxes, food, shelter, sanctuary and recruits but quickly forgot the bonds of friendship as soon as the fruits were ripe and well within their grasp.

But to give the Mizos their due, the question of Greater Mizoram was indeed raised in the negotiation between Laldenga and the Powers that be in Delhi.[17] No one knew how seriously the MNF representatives pursued it. The fact that the hardliners were the ones who actually had gone to the negotiating table would also have killed any scope for communities other than the Lushais to benefit from the fruits of settlement with the Indian government (look at where the Hmars stand today). No one knew if that Greater Mizoram was supposed to include all Kuki inhabited areas or just South West District of Churachandpur.

Perhaps, Pu Zoramthanga and certain leaders of the MNF who were part of the coterie surrounding Laldenga would have inside knowledge of the whole issue. The fact is that Kuki men have lost their lives and some are crippled physically and mentally till today. How many women were raped because they were helping the MNA? None of them were given even a mention anywhere forget about being included in the statehood.

In the not so distant past when the KNA and NSCN (IM) clashed, the MNF leadership could have used their good offices to usher in peace as both the KNA and the NSCN had helped them in their quest for political self – governance. A simple gesture would have gone down really well with the Kukis. But the MNF chose to distance itself from playing any role in the KNA – NSCN (IM) fights.

Lessons Learnt

This serves as a reminder to the Kukis/Eimis that henceforth if they have to make any struggle for any political advancement it has to be calculative and shrewd and not be fooled again.

[1] Sajal Nag: “A comparative analysis of Naga, Mizo and Meetei Insurgencies.”
[2] Sajal Nag: “A comparative analysis of Naga, Mizo and Meetei Insurgencies.”
[3] Subhir Bhaumick – “Insurgent Crossfire”
[4] Subhir Bhaumick: Insurgent Crossfire.
[5] Shekhar Gupta –“Seccesionism in Modern India”
[6] Nirmal Nibedon – The Dagger Brigade.
[7] Taken from the book ‘Swords of Lightning’
[8] Some ex MNA soldiers in a telephonic conversation with the writer.
[9] Subhir Bhaumik quotes PN Bannerji, Joint Secretary of the RAW.
[10]. Laldenga was made to believe, by the ISI, that the US naval fleet from Gulf of Tonkin would come to his aid. Brig Sailo’s son, who was among the personal staff of Laldenga, supposedly heard the MNF supremo muttering to himself about US intervention on the eve of Indian Army invasion of East Pakistan.
[11] . This was stated by ex-MNA members to the writer. Also similar info could be obtained from the book; Zoram in Zalenna Asual, vol I- VII by Col R Lalrawnliana, Cdr of ‘L” bn.
[12] Demkhosieh in an interview given to Dr. TT Haokip.
[13] Ex MNA sources in Aizawl.
[14] Mizoram: Contours of Non Military intervention by Vijendra Singh Jafa, IAS, ex Chief Secy of Assam
[15] PS Haokip, President KNO in an e-mail to the writer.
[16] As per Vijendra Singh Jafa.
[17] Subhir Bahumick said so but certain writers such as SAJAL NAG beg to differ.

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Structure of Chin-Kuki-Mizo’s social institutions

By Sominthang Doungel

The Chin-Kuki-Mizo society, like most tribal societies, is segmentary. It has different clans, which followed different system of dialects, sacrificial rites, priests (thiempu) and chiefs. Their social life during the pre-British was bounded by many fears arising out of their animistic belief. Inter-clan feuds had also been a common feature among them in the early period. As a result many people were made captive who became to be known as ‘SOH’ le ‘Kol’ (slaver).


Family occupies the most important and prominent place in the history of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo. Their family is a nuclear family, which ultimately becomes a joint family. In the Chin-Kuki-Mizo family the father exercise all supreme authority over matters pertaining to the family and the women folk have no significant roles in decision making. Traditionally the wife is a subordinate to the husband in the household management. A wife never called her husband by his name. But when a son or daughter is born she addressed him as the father of the child. On the death of a father the eldest son is all-responsible who like the father exercise the same nature of power.


The form of marriage in the Chin-Kuki-Mizo right from its inception was a marriage by purchase. The price of a bride varies from clan to clan. However, if both the two parties mutually agreed the price may not be required at all. A bride’s price is determined in terms of ‘Sel’ (Mithun). For instance the price of my wife who is from Khongsai (Lunkim) clan is eight sel (mithun) (though I was not required to pay at all then). There are also some clans who charged up to ten mithuns. The price can also be paid in certain articles or goods, which were equivalent to mithun. It is also customary for a man to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter (cousin), which in local term is called ‘Neite’. But to-day this practice is hardly seen and parents preferred marriage outside the family. There’s a marriage by arrangement, marriage by mutual love. Inter clan marriage was never allowed in the past. But, in the present day such practices have been observed without any nullification. There is also no restriction with regard to marriage between different linguistic groups of tribe. Usually marriage involves a series of three visits by the groom’s party to the bride’s party at the end of which marriage ceremony is performed. This visits and marriage is possible only if the to be bride’s parents consented. Other than the Church the marriage is not bound by any court or authority to register.


There are certain recognized reasons under which divorce could be claimed such as adultery, issueless, imperforated vagina etc. A mithun is given to the wife if divorce is due to the husband breach of marriage vows. If the wife causes the divorce, the bride price is returned to the husband.


Every village has its own chief who in theory is despot within his jurisdiction. His words are law in his own village. All disputes and cases have to be decided by him. His Council of Advisors also assists him. He imposed customary punishment to the erring subjects. In the modern administration, the village authority carries out justice with chief as the chairman. Dispute, which could not be settled by the village authority, are usually referred to the area court (Area Kuki Inpi). If the Area Court fails to settle the disputes, it is then referred to Kuki Inpi (apex body) for final settlement.

Land and mode of inheritance

An individual can own Land if it is in the area where the MLR and LR Act 1960 are extended. But in the hill areas where the said Act does not extended it belongs to the chief. Transfer of land in the hill areas is not possible as it entirely belongs to the chief. But land where MLR and LR Act of 1960 were extended can be transfer and inherited by the eldest son if the father died. The mode of inheritance among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo is counted in the male line. It is their custom and tradition that the eldest son of the family inherits all the parental properties. In the absence of male heir, the nearest kin inherit the deceased’s properties.

Settlement area (KHO)

In the pre-British period, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo lived in one spot for not more than 7-10 years. Because, they were in search of more productive land and their life was much migratory in nature. For selecting a village site the eldest would first slept one night at the proposed site by taking with them a cock. If the cock did not crow before down the site would be considered not suitable. On abandoning the old village, the old hearth would be doused with water so that none of the misfortunes and curse of the abandoned village should follow them.

Type of houses

Houses of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo in the early days were not built strong and durable. Bamboo and thatches were usually used for building. Houses were raised 4-5 feet high from the ground. The floors were usually made of splitting bamboos. Except the main doors, they did not have windows or ventilations.

Som Inn (Bachelors Dormitory)

Som inn or the bachelors’ dormitory is one of the institutions of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo, which fostered and nurtured the youths into a responsible and matured person in the society. The bachelors choose a leader from amongst them and it was customary for the inmates to obey their chosen leader. The dormitory leader mobilized the youth and rendered free and compulsory services to the society. All the male youths of the village who had attained the age of puberty were made to sleep in the dormitory in the night. The village dormitory served as a sleeping place, recreational centre for unmarried. It was also used for imparting and training the young boys. It also served as an inn for a man from another village.

Musical instruments

It is rather abstruse to ascertain the year as to when the Chin-Kuki-Mizo started using musical instruments, but they have used it from time immemorial. They had different kinds of musical instruments. To name a few of their instruments include Khuong or drum, Goshem (bamboo pipe) which is made of dry gourd and dry bamboo pipe, ‘Dahpi’ (big gong) and ‘Dah Cha’ (Small gong), ‘Selki’ (mithun’s horn), ‘Theile’ (Flute) which is made of dry bamboo pipe, Harps, cymbals etc.


By nature the Chin-Kuki-Mizo love social bustles, singing, dancing and drinking are ingredient blended forming a common feature of life. They have various types of dances, which have their own uniqueness. Both men and women generally perform the dances with elegancy and affinity. Their music and songs are classical melancholic and sentimental. Most of the songs are sung with the accompaniment of drums and music.

Games and Sports

The Chin-Kuki-Mizo people are sport loving and competitive minded people. One of their common games is wrestling. This game was occasionally done in the bachelors’ dormitory as a routine exercise. Visitors to a village were usually challenged by the local youth and a fair competition was fought till one become the winner. Weight lifting was another popular game. In the early days in every village of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo, there would be one or two stone used for weight lifting. Young men competed among themselves either in the morning or in the evening. There are different games played by man, women and children.

Economic life

In the early period, jhuming constituted the main basis of the economy of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo and it still remains. The people could manage themselves with the kind of food they produced from the jhum. They had limited wants and were contented with their economic life. Their staple food was rice. Besides paddy, maize, millet, yams, sweet potatoes etc were also grown. Buying and selling were most counted; business was transacted through barter system. Cottons were grown and yearned into thread. They knew how to dye their clothes by using a species of dwarf indigo grown in their village.

They domesticated goats, cows, buffaloes, dogs, pigs, mithuns etc. Mithun occupied a key role in the social as well as in the economic life of their early life. They kept them for trading and for festival purpose. Rice beer was very common and no ceremony was performed without rice beer. Nevertheless, young men and women hardly drank as drinking in the presence of elders by young men and women were considered unseemly.

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The big platform: In the interest of Kuki-Chin-Mizo unity

By J.L. Thiek

November 3, 2006: Surprising it is how so many tribes exist in and around the town of Churachandpur, each having its own dialect, yet can, if not fully, partially, understand the other’s and still more surprising that these tribes-people, despite a conspicuous thread of affinity binding them, find every possible reason to create a tensed atmosphere. With different people speaking in convergent tongues and one section despising the other, the town seems very Pentecostal, for was seen on the Pentecost Day as such-of tongues, of some men mocking the spirited ones that they were full of new wine-except, though, for one thing that Peter and the other disciples do not stand, in our case, to shower peace on the confused multitude.

Commonly known as the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribes, these hill tribes, whose origin traced back, as far as possible, to the time of building of the Great Wall of China in a place called Sinlung or Khul, are on the verge of shedding their old taste. The tribes-men subsequently migrated to Burma, thence to their present habitat-several parts of North-East India and Myanmar-over many years. Unfortunately, imaginary lines and curves bordering the various states also border and bother the people, each tribe, despite this, in its own ways, trying to strengthen its tradition and customs.

Every tribe endeavours to stand on a level higher than the others, be it economically, culturally, educationally or in spheres of unity and safety, and, for the cause, resorts to all possibilities, breeding of fanatics and assassins no exception. The slightest mistake or insult on ethnic issues would either lead to a quarrel or fight. Indeed, every man loves his tribe!

And the unity and unification of the tribes is always emphasized in leaders’ talks. Respectable men would gather in beautiful rooms, make agreements, sign their names on paper and, you know what, kill each other. They gather for reasons of peace and agreed upon a slow and steady, winner less war. Because we are of same origin, of same features, of, partly, same tongues; because the world is growing smaller and we are in ‘Survival of The Fittest’ strategy, because we are nothing but nescient minors, on our own, we ought to unite. Unity and, if possible, unification are our only ways for true survival.

No, total merging or physical integration is impossible. Yes? But we can very well establish a united nation in hearts, in words and in spirit; a nation which has a name and fame, whose works you can see and appreciate, which, in itself though, is not a thing you can feel and touch. This imaginary nation constituted by the different Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribes will, definitely, prove handy in voicing our thoughts, ideas and grievances, in letting the world know of our existence, and in development.

With more sub-tribes and clans wanting to go their own way, the survival of the tribes is at stake. Disintegration upon disintegration has build walls between the once close brothers, making our world fade into the legions of other nations, into the darkness of time. As have been seen, however, no tribe is independent of the other. Troubles call upon unity and this we do, though only for that short span of trouble-times. No, we can never really stay away from each other, from our mother, never spin our own yarns. We need each other. We want to unite, we want to live as brothers, but are suspicious and prefer going the impossible way round. We are selfish men, God forgive us!

Attempts to unify the various Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribes had been made, but to no avail. Among the most successful was that of Mizo unification which, to some extent, unified various tribes and put them under a single umbrella, and also borne a state, but, in the pessimistic view, only created more disintegration. Not mistaking, Mizo recognise, among others, Hmar as its member-tribe which results in a split: Mizo-Hmar and Hmar (which opines that Hmar is a Mizo-independent tribe or that Mizo extends its realm upto the Mizoram state boundary only). It also built a greater wall between tribes under Mizo and those under Kuki and Chin, making each nation look like a separate entity when, however, they are, in general term, one.

But we need unity as well as unification; we need a world, a strong world, because we are of one seed and ought to sprout, ought to grow up tall. All these call for a well-defined united nation with the tribes as its members, under which every member is free to exercise freedom, free to find its own way for internal development, which is a banner, rather a platform for the members to stand up shout loud without a hint of fear. Various names(not mentioned) have been given to this nation, but without wide-scale approval.

Will this idea that the said nation would be our common name in speaking to the world, that it would hold us from extinction work? I suppose, it’s not totally impossible, unity prevailing. My big dream is to see peaceful organisations, celebrations, functions and other such sorts raised under the banner of this nation. Indeed, you can’t see it but can admire its works through these forms.

And a yet bigger dream is to leaf through the pages of a magazine jointly initiated by learned men from the various tribes. Surely, a common magazine circulating through every tribe, carrying the ideas, feelings, opinions and proceedings of each tribe without partiality, legible to every eye (meaning in English) will prove a good way of communication and to reinforcing unity. We have our own dailies, weeklies, fortnightlies and monthlies, have our own websites, but have not, except for the generalised North-East Sun, a common magazine to feature ourselves. We have reputed writers, publishers and rich donors, but not a single one to the cause (?). Websites do serve a good way, but not everyone is lucky enough to sit before a computer, and, in general, people prefer reading from paper than from screens.

Everybody wants to see a new idea ripened in an instant, though that is almost impossible in case of big issues. We know, the manifestation needs steps, in our case the first of which is a talk between supreme houses and leaders of the various ethnic groups on effective way and on the magazine, of course. Thus, our Pentecost is complete with the magazine playing the role of Peter in clearing the people of their doubts through its contents, bringing them to unity in Christ and, in our case, in the nation.

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The Chin-Kuki-Ethnic Dilemma: Search for an Appropriate Identity


April 26, 2007: An attempt is made in this paper at studying the early history of the tribal ethnic group—Kuki-Chin-Mizo. An attempt is also made to trace their original ethnic identity, especially in view of differing, and sometimes conflicting, interpretations of their past and present made by historians and social scientist.

Like other hill tribes of the North East or elsewhere in the county, they too do not have any recorded history of their ancient past. When we know today and discuss in this paper is part of their memory and oral tradition, hundred down to them through word of mouth by their forefathers.’ Folk tales legends and stories of struggles and movements etc. constitute one major source of their history. The other major source of information about their past are the administrative reports and monographs published by British officers during the colonial rule.

The colonial administrators met the people, fought battles against them and finally brought them under their rule. They introduced civil and military administration in these areas. Therefore, we read the history of the tribal peoples and learn about their ethnic identity from the British records. No doubt, these two major sources provide us with a good deal of information to construct the ancient history of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. However, rigid scholars have questioned the validity of these sources of information and have opined that the early part of their history in shrouded in mystery.
Scholars from the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group have recorded in their history that during the prehistoric period, they came out of a big stone cave, referred to alternatively as Chhinlung, Sinlung and Khul. In one way, they all claim that Sinlung was their original home. There are traditional songs composed after the name “Sinlung”. These songs also narrate the history and civilization of the people, which have passed from generation to generation. Because of limitations of space, we will not go into the details of these narratives.
The exact location of Sinlung is still debated. Dr. Lalrinwawia2 indicates that it is located in the province of Szechwan in China, between 10″ E and latitude 3″ N, on the bank of Yalung river, 5400 ft. above msl. Mr. Lalbiak Thanga, 3 the ex-Chief Secretary of Manipur, gives an altogether different version. He argues that ‘Chinlung’ referred not to a cave but rather to the name of a Chinese prince in China, and that the correct form of the word was CHINLUNG.
Further, he goes on to state that Sinlung was the son of Hwang Ti of Chin Dynasty who built the great wall. Dr. B.N. Mullick,4 former Director, Intelligence Bureau of India, refers to an uninhabited territory, measuring about 16000 sq. miles, situated between north and south of Ladakh.
Through this land, one trade route via Kajihangar passes through ‘Shinlung’. If Shinglung is equated with Sinlung or Chinlung then it may be inferred that the location of this legendary cave is somewhere around the Ladakh region. On the whole, it is clear that no final conclusion can be derived at about the location of the legendary cave. Notwithstanding the controversy, all the tribes and clans within the Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups believe that it is this legendary cave, which is their original home and birthplace.
With regards to their racial origin, most people as well as scholars accept that they belong to the Mongolian race. The migration route the people took to reach their present habitat and their biological properties go on to support this view. In their long history, they did come in contact with people of different origins and were put under different systems of administration. Therefore the administrators and scholars have designated the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people with different names and have identified them mainly as Lusei and Kuki in India.
Scholars have identified them as ‘Khuongsai’ in Manipur, and as ‘Kuki’ in Assam, Nagaland and Tripura. As is usual, different neighbouring tribes are known by different local ethnic names, which have been used to build up and project their identity. As far as the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group is concerned, the people accept that they are one and the same race, having the same culture, tradition, customary practices including marriage and inheritance.
Now it is in order to discuss in brief the origin of the three ethnic names—Chin, Kuki and Mizo—separately and try to find out how they came to be coined to identify these people.
Not enough evidence is available to trace the origin of the name ‘Chin’. It is perhaps a Burmese term as people inhabiting the Chin Hills in Burma (Myanmar) are identified as Chin and the British recorded this ethnic name to refer to these people. During the colonial rule, the Chin Hills Regulation was enacted in 1896, the provisions of which determined the Village and Provincial Administration in the region. Thus, the ethnic name became popular and widely accepted. Literally, ‘Chin’ means ‘little’ in one of the dialects spoken by the people. It also connotes an affectionate name given to daughters.
The term ‘Kuki’ is a generic name. Some scholars have proposed that the term Kuki was applied by the Bengalis from Kachar, Tripura and Chittagong Hill Tract as well as by the Assamese in Brahmaputra Valley to identify the hills people. But, if we peep into their ancient history and their migration route to India from far east countries like Thailand, Burma and Vietnam; in fact, the term Kuki was coined to refer to these people long before they came in contact with the Bengalis or Assamese. Equally baseless is the proposition to categories these people as ‘old’ and ‘new’ Kuki. It is therefore necessary to adopt a holistic approach to truthfully understand the origin of the term and the people referred to.
Perhaps a more reliable source is in Col. James Shakespeare’s account. 5 Shakespeare served in the Lusei hills from 1891 to 1905. He has meticulously recorded the customs, culture, and history of the Lusei as well as non-Lusei tribes, all of the same origin. While he does not refer to the Mizos as an ethnic group, he identifies a number of clans within the Lusei and non-Lusei groups. Till today, Shakespeare’s account and classification have remained unchallenged.
Literally, the term ‘Mizo’ is a compound, – ‘mi’ means ‘man’ or people and ‘zo’ means a cold place at a high altitude. According to such a literal interpretation, all people living in cold, hill regions should be addressed as ‘Mizos’. But, undoubtedly, the term Mizo refers to a particular group of ethnic people. Tuck and Carey 6 mention that the people preferred the terms Kuki or Chin when addressed in public, but in private discussions they often used the term ‘Mezo’. Given the language barrier between the Britishers and the local people, it is plausible that the terms ‘Mezo’ and ‘Mizo’ meant the same. I hold the opinion that there are some ethnic groups who address themselves as Mizo since long, in their own societies and outside the present state of Mizoram.

Today, it is widely accepted as a term with long historical background. Interestingly, in popular perception, the term is not exclusionist in the sense that it does not refer to any particular clan group in a restrictive way. Thus, it is widely believed that all the people who cook rice on three stone pillars. “Lungthu”, are all Mizo. More recently, some leaders from within the community have tried to replace ‘Mizo’ by ‘Zomi’, on the argument that ‘Zo’ should come first and ‘mi’ later. It does not make any substantive difference, the two terms, ‘Mizo’ and ‘Zomi’, may be taken to refer to the same people.
Here we briefly examine the historical move to project the term ‘Mizo’ as an ethnic identity marker. Soon after the end of the Second World War and on the eve of attaining independence, there was a spurt of hectic political activity in Mizoram. Then, the main issue before the people was to decide whether to join the Chin Hills in Burma, so that they might remain with their Chin ethnic brethren, or to opt for merger with India.
For the first time in their history, the people of Mizoram formed a political organization known as “Mizo Union”, which held its first conference on the 9 April 1946 to discuss some important agenda. The first item on the agenda was the abolition of the Chief’s rights and change of the name of Lusei Hills into Mizo Hills. The Lusei Hills District Council, created according to the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, took initiative to implement the (Moullungtha) resolutions passed in the Mizo Union Party.
On the recommendations of the district Council, the Government Assam enacted two important legislations in 1954; the first was the Lusei Hill District (Acquisition of Chief Rights) Act, 1954, which came into force on 1 April 1954. The second was the Lusei Hill District (Change of Name) Act, 1954, (Act 18 of 1954), passed under an Act of Parliament. As per provisions of the second Act, the name of the district was changed to ‘Mizo District’ with effect from 29 April 1954.
These two Acts were the result of long public struggle and fulfilled the cherished dream of the people of Mizoram. It may be pointed out that the conferment of official status to the term “Mizo” not only provided an ethnic identity to the people, it also brought all clans and tribes of the same origin under one umbrella. The terms received widespread acceptance by sister ethnoses not only inside Mizoram but also by those residing outside, particularly in the Southern District (now Chura­chandpur) or Manipur and Zampui Hills in Tripura. Songs were composed and sung to suit the occasion and the spirit of the movement.
In the post-independence period, many political parties were formed, and all of them were seized with the questions of ethnic identity and unity. We may mention a few of them here. Mr. Vanlawma formed a political party, called the Mizo Union Council, with the main objective of bringing the entire Mizo people, scattered in India, Myanmar and East Pakistan (Bangladesh) tinder one administrative umbrella. Mr. Lalmawia formed another political party, the United Mizo Freedom Organisation (UMFO), with the objective of uniting with the Chin brothers in the Chin Hills in Burma. UMFO seems to have ignored the issue of unificating the Mizo people in Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Chittagong Hill tract of Bangladesh. Hence, the Mizo Union Party, the party in power in the then District Council, advocated the reunification of these people within the Indian Union.
The Khul Union, formed in Manipur in 1947-48, was another political organisation with the primary agenda of Mizo ethnic unification. The Union contested the first ever Assembly elections in the state and returned 5 candidates out of 7 seats contested. In the 1950s these people launched a political movement in Manipur, demanding the merger of their areas with Mizoram.
The Mizo National Famine Front Formed on 2 October 1961 under the leadership of Pu Late Laldenga, gave birth to the Mizo National Front (MNF), formed on 12 October 1962. The MNF spear­headed the demand for a Sovereign Greater Mizoram, to be organised on ethnic lines. The idea generated a great deal of enthusiasm and many public leaders as well as young boys and girls from inside and outside Mizoram joined the movement to fulfil the objectives of an independent Greater Mizoram. Many of the youth in fact took up armed struggle, raking positions in the war front from their jungle hideouts.
A little later, in January 1965, an All Party Meeting was held at Churachandpur, the headquarters of South District of Manipur, under the initiative of the Mizo Union Party. This meeting resolved to work for the creation of a Greater Mizoram/Kuki State, comprising all the Mizo-Kuki inhabited areas in the entire North Eastern region on ethnic considerations. About two decades later, the Champhai Conference in Mizoram held on 19-21 May 1988, aimed at the same objective of ethnic unification. The Conference was attended by many representatives from Manipur and other neighbouring states. The Zomi National Congress (ZNC) Declarations (No. 7/88), December 6 to 15, 1988, related to the same political movement in search of ethnic unity.
Going back to the 40s and 50s again, it is worth pointing out that when all the tribes in Northern India were silent and the leaders in the Indian sub-continent were divided with regard to the political strategy of the freedom movement, during and after the Second World War, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people made a great contribution by joining hands with the Indian National Army, under the command of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.
Netaji came to North East India though Chin Hills and held several rounds of the talks with the chiefs and elders of the tribal groups. Subhas Chandra Bose came up to a small hamlet called Rengthai, close to Churachandpur town. He won the hearts of people during this visit. Thus, when the INA soldiers came to Manipur in 1944, these tribes joined hands with the INA. They had entered into some sort of mutual understanding with INA in respect of their political future at the end of the war.
But, following the defeat of the Axis at the end of the World War II and the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, their cherished dream and political aspirations for the future set up went in vain. There was no scope to revive the Treaty of Yandaboo, 1826 and no chance to reverse the course of history as two independent nations of India and Burma had been created by the Government of India Act, 1935. The Kabo valley, inhabited by these tribes, was included in Burma. Though throughout their modern history, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people had valiantly challenged British authority (Lusei Expedition of 1871-72 in Mizoram and the Kuki Revolt in 1917-19 being the major examples), ultimately their political aspiration for ethnic reunification within one administrative umbrella met with great disappointment. The Independence Act, 1947 simply confirmed the territorial arrangement made by the Act of 1935.
By and large, all the political movement launched by this ethnic group had virtually the same objective. However, the movements failed for a member of various reasons. It is difficult to single out any one reason as the main impediment. However, it is my considered opinion that the emergence of the sovereign states of India, Burma and Bangladesh caused both administrative fragmentation and ethnic division of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. It is clear that the then leadership could not appreciate the needs and aspirations of these people. For example, following partition, the whole of Chittagong Hill Tract went to Pakistan, by default. Most of the post-partition insurgency problems reflect the ignorance of the then leadership in respect of the Mongoloid people.
Now, the Chittagong Hill Tract has not only become the immediate sanctuary for most of the northeastern insurgent groups, but it has also created the Chakma-Hajong related problems. Most importantly, it has upset the social equilibrium of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo. Had the resolution passed by the Chin-Lusei Conference of Fort Williams in Calcutta, on 29 th January 1892, for bringing the whole tract of country inhabited by them under one administrative umbrella been implemented, the situation would have been quite different today.
The clan system of Chin-Kuki-Mizo people is unique and is markedly different from other tribes in North-Eastern India. In most cases, the names of the different clans were derived from their progenitors forefathers. Inter-clan relationships can be used as the basis for determination of the family lines of the people. In fact, the clan system constitutes one of the most interesting and intriguing aspects of their history and society. There are a large number of clans within the Chin­Kuki-Mizo and, hence, it has not been possible to prepare an exhaustive list of the clans as yet. Consequently, members of the same clan/family can and do exercise their option for being identified as a Chin, Kuki or Mizo. Further, they also keep on changing their ethnic identity, according to their habitat.
Inter-marriages among the different clans within the Chin-Kuki­-Mizo group have been in practice, throughout the ages, without any restrictions whatsoever. Claims and counter-claims, including litigation, for exclusive ownership of some cultural items, such as the Puonlaisen, have surfaced only recently. Some scholars interpreted these as indicative of separate identities within the group. Mr. Nikhil Chakravarty, the noted journalist, was surprised to know that there were a many as sixty-eight different tribes. There might be some minor hick-ups among the clans. But, it is unfortunate that the point that these different clans are related to each other by blood and processes of historical evolutions is often missed by scholars not acquainted with the culture and history of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people.
The different clans are scattered all over the North Eastern region (Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Assam) as well as the bordering states of Bangladesh and Myanmar. In fact, a majority of them have settled in Myanmar and far eastern countries. Pu Lalthanhira]a, the Chief Minister of Mizoram, in a discussion with the Sunday magazine of Gangtok, stated that more Mizos lived outside Mizoram than inside.9 Scattered all over the NE region and countries, through generations of settlement, they have been identified by neighbouring out-groups by different ethnic names. This in spite of the fact that the different clans have lived and mixed together in the same areas sunders the same system of administration, throughout the ages. Marriage and divorce, including other social practices are virtually uniform in their respective societies.
All clans within the Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups followed the patriarchy system and therefore men occupied a high position in their society. They took all the important decisions and were responsible for all family affairs. Recently their patriarchal system has undergone significant transformation whereby women have been accorded an important position in society and they have an equal say in the family. In fact, now the whole management of the household is in the hands of the women. They also equally participate in jhum cultivation, sowing seeds and weeding grass in the field. Of course, the practice of adopting names of their father’s clans continues. In terms of succession and inheritance also, the patriarchal system continues, though there is internal variation.
For some clans, the eldest son inherits the property of the family; in others it is the youngest son who has the right to succession and inheritance. In case of death, however, they follow uniform system of burial. After they embraced Christianity, the churches introduced more or less the same system. Though there are no restrictions for people belonging to the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group, they strictly prohibit the sharing of the burial ground with others. This aspect of their culture is deeply rooted in their history, and it goes on to show that they are the same people and their clan relationship is based on ethnic affinity through blood.
They introduced their own traditional institutions for village adminis­tration and, interestingly, the advent of the British consolidated and strengthened rather than weakening or disturbing, these Institutions.
For example, the Chin Hills Regulation of 1896 put the traditional village administration on a firm footing and clearly defined the areas of administration of the village and the provincial states. Thus, they were governed by the same customary practices and same procedures followed for trial of civil suits and criminal cases. They therefore can be best accommodated under the same set of laws and courts. The British colonial rulers understood this well and hence they treated the Chin-­Kuki-Mizo as one tribe under the Chin Hills Regulations of 1896, Clause 2(3). Though the term ‘Lusei’ figured, Mizo’ did not and the ‘Chin’ included Burmans domiciled in the Chin Hills and any person who had adopted the customs and language of the Chins.
A large number of other socio-cultural customs and practices may be mentioned. Some of these are common to other Northeastern tribes while some are unique to the group. We will make only passing reference to a few of them. A system of slavery existed among the Chin-Kuki­-Mizo since time immemorial, but it is no longer in vogue. Adoption through Saphun (a social system by which a family changes its clan affiliation) has been in practice throughout their history. For ‘Saphun’ it is not necessary to go to a court of law or a registration office; all that is required is to arrange a community feast and announce the adoption.
Like many other hill tribes, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo also has common places, which may be broadly equated with community halls and/or dormitories. The Garos call it the bachelor’s house; the Zemes call it Noktorong, while the Chin-Kuki-Mizo calls it ‘Zawlbuk’. The ‘Zawlbuk’ is an institution — it is the centre of most social activities. Further, these people practice intensive cultivation of tobacco in their jhum fields. Both males and females smoke tobacco. The men use a pipe called ‘Dumbel’ or ‘Vaibel’: the women use a special type of bamboo pipe, called ‘Tuibur’ that is fitted below with a small water container called ‘Tuiburtui’.
These people celebrate a number of festivals such as ‘Mim-Kut Pawlkut’, ‘Chapchar Kut’, ‘Thalfavangkut’ (the Autumn festival) and the like. The adoption of Christianity has not negatively affected the celebration of these festivals. In fact, THALFA VANGKUT continues to be celebrated in a big way, and all sections of the people participate in it. In Manipur, they have named it as the Chin-Kuki-Mizo Kut, which is grandly celebrated on the first of November every year. They have developed in into a most enjoyable occasion in which different cultural items such as dances, singing-competition and beauty contests are organised. Each year a new location is selected for the Kut festival and public leaders and government officials from both Manipur and Mizoram grace the occasions.
The Chin-Kuki-Mizo people are great lovers of music and songs. In all their villages one can find a number of musical instruments, both traditional and modern-western. Their sweet music and good voices charm the hills and mountains in the region. They are fond of dancing, particularly in social gatherings. They perform different dances or different occasions, or festivals and in honour of visiting dignitaries. They have hymnbooks containing songs to be sung to a specific tune. These songs are composed to suit different occasions.
They singing in accompanied by beating of the traditional drum called Khuong made of wooden material and covered by animal skin. Khuong is found in all the villages inhabited by people of this ethnic group. Among dances, the most popular are the ‘Khal Lam’, ‘Cheraw Lam’, ‘Pheiphit Lam’ and the bamboo dance. The different dances are not exclusive in the sense that they are common to all the tribes and clans, and no one group can claim separate ownership.
Lastly, it may be mentioned that these people are experts in weaving. The ladies weave clothes of different designs and colour combinations. The important thing is that different clans wear different patterns of shawls, which serve as the immediate clan identity marker of the people. They also weave traditional dresses like Zakuolaisen and Hmaram, which are extremely popular among young girls who wear them on important occasions. Zakuolaisen is the most popular shawl pattern. Saipikhup is the name of another shawl decorated with beautiful designs and very popular among the Kukis, especially those living outside Mizoram.
During one of my Flights between Delhi and Guwahati, I came across a photo-reproduction of a gentleman from Mizoram wearing a Saipikhup shawl on the cover of Swagat magazine. The shawl was projected as Mizo Shawl, reflecting the ignorance of the out-groups. In Manipur, one finds different shawls of different designs among the different tribes and clans such as Aimol, Anal, Chiru, Chothe, Gangtc, Hmar, Kom, Koireng, Lamgang, Mating, Tarao, Paite, Simte, Vaiphei. The moot point is that the different designs of the shawls serve as identity markers and any confusion in this regard can create misunderstanding.
The language/dialect of issue relating to Chin-Kuki-Mizo people has been matter of controversy. The linguistic diversity of India is well known. Several scholars have said that if we travel on foot from one end of the country of the other, at every five kms., we would find a different language/dialect being used by the people. In spite of certain differences, we can say that the languages/dialects spoken by the Chin-­Kuki-Mizo people are closely related. The Tower of Babel legend is too well-known to be repeated here.
The Chin-Kuki-Mizo people do not have an original script of their own. Broadly speaking, we can divide them into two linguistic groups — the R group and the Non-R group. Let us take a few examples to explain this classification of R and Non-R Groups in the contexts of Mizoram and Manipur. Since they did not have a script of their own, they chose to adopt the Roman script, of the English alphabet variety of 24 letters. The Duhlien (Lusei) dialect was the first one to be codified by the British missionaries. They first translated the Bible into Lusei. This Dahlien/Lusei dialect is now known as Mizo language, perhaps the most popular and commonly used by these people. It serves as the lingua franca among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. The maximum numbers of songs, including love songs, have been composed in Mizo and hence it is very popular among the youth. Thus Mizo has the potential to develop into a full-fledged, advanced link language.
No doubt, there are internal differences with regard to the acceptance of Duhlien dialect as the Mizo language. But, it must be realised that the Mizo language (based on the Duhlien/Lusei dialect) only stands a good chance for inclusion in the Eighth Schedule, which would serve the interests of all the tribes within the Chin-Kuki-Mizo. There are many different clans, living in Chandel and South Manipur (Churachandpur) districts of Manipur, who speak dialects most of which belong to the Non-R group. These dialects are so closely related that in inter-clan, inter-tribe public gatherings they speak in their own respective dialects and yet there is no problem of communication. In the written form as well the same holds true.
In village meetings, the Secretary records the proceedings in his own dialect and reads them aloud for approval by the members. It is logical that the dialect/language spoken by the largest number of clans should be accepted and developed as the link language. In the present situation, the Kuki language stands the first chance to develop as the lingua franca as well as the literary language among the different clans in Manipur for the Non-R group.
The Chin-Kuki-Mizo people have a common marriage system. Boys pay the customary bride price for getting wives and there is no dowry system. In fact, boys having accepted a dowry and decorated their houses with materials brought by their wives are not held in respect in the society. With modernity, however, girls are allowed to bring with them some of their valued dresses, including daily garments. Since in terms of details the different clans have different customary practices we cannot provide an exhaustive account here. Let us simply refer to the most common practice.
Customary bride price is paid in both cash and kind. Marriages were normally arranged by relatives and parents by taking ‘Zu’ to the girl’s house. Since the advent of Christianity, this practice has been given up. Rather, the parents and/or relatives boil tealeaves in the house of the girl to initiate marital discussion and to finalise the details, including fixation of customary price. The customary price paid for a girl is generally shared by the close relations of her family. The traditional marriage system is a great virtue of the system.
The naming system is important for clan-wise identification of a person. The name of a person is the most important clue to the person’s clan/ group identity. Mostly, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people have avoided western names. Usually names are formed by taking parts of the parents or maternal uncles’ names or from the achievement of the family. However members of the Catholic Church usually have two names—an original ethnic name and the other a Catholic name. Sometimes the name of a child indicates the history of his/her family. But, under no circumstances do they adopt a Hindu name.
It may be passingly mentioned here that there is no caste system among the different clans of Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. All clans enjoy equal status within the group. The customary price paid for girls varies from clan to clan, but it is in no way indicative of the status of the clan.
Recently, some historians have tried to connect the history of origin of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people with that of the Jews, claiming that the former are of Jewish origin—descendants of Manasse—one of the 12 children of Jacob. Jyoti Lal Choudhary” reported that Mrs. Zaithan Chhungi had brought out books in support of the claim that these people were descendants of the Jews. In fact, people who have advocated this theory or the racial claim belong to the Chin-Kuki-Mizo group living in Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. In India these people are mostly known as Kukis or Mizos, regardless of their habitation but in terms of Jewish identity, they are put under one ethnic name, i.e. Israelis/ Jews. While some families have already migrated to Israel, many more are still waiting for an appropriate opportunity.
Clearly, this new development has created some ethnic dilemma within the group. Shifts in identity have been a continuous phenomenon among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. It is therefore extremely difficult to definitively determine the origin and history of these people. Hence, there is always confusion, of some kind or the other, among authors and scholars, in establishing their ethnic identity. Sunil Janah has included a number of photographs, in his recent hook, of various tribal people taken (luring his tour to Churachandpur in Manipur state. 12 Many of these photographs are captioned as Kuki-Naga women or Kuki-Naga girls. In fact, Janah identifies photos of Kuki girls and women as Naga women and girls. Given the current ethnic conflicts in Manipur. Such misrepresentations create further confusion and bitterness.
I have attempted in this paper to highlight the ethnic identity and affinity of the Chin- Kuki-Mizo people. Though the discussion is not exhaustive, I hope I have been able to focus some important aspects. The work is essentially based on my personal experiences and my interaction with a number of social and religious leaders. I have taken up this work, not because I belong to this group or because I come from the northeast region, but because of my intense desire to enable this particular ethnic group to share our national glory and enrich our tradition of unity in diversity.
Following tremendous economic and technological development in Northeast India since Independence, there has been marked increases in interaction and inter-mixing among the people in this region. A number of Seminars and Conferences organised to bring together these people and scholars to discuss the various issues and problems facing them. Given great fluidity in the region, questions relating to ethnic identity, unity and affinity have assumed great importance.
On the basis of the foregoing information and discussion in this brief paper, I come to the conclusion that there is no necessity to continue the search for appropriate identity for the Chin-Kuki-Mizo people. It is quite clear these people are of the same origin, a based on blood-relationship, shared history and common socio-cultural traits, customary laws and rights and lastly by common biological physical features. They have a common clan system; the different clans are named after their progenitors and the super ordinate group name, Chin-Kuki-Mizo, covers all the clans within the group.
Of course, it is next to impossible to identity members of different clans for independent inclusion under either Chin-Kuki-Mizo tribe. It is for this reason that a group of students and scholars have made a proposal to coin a new ethnic name ‘Chikim’ (Chin, Kuki, Mizo). Distinctions based on clans as well seem to be disappearing, particularly among person who live outside the region and the elite section of the society. Further, while the terms Mizo and Kuki are most appropriate in Mizoram and Manipur respectively, Chin may be the preferred identity marker in international fora.
To sum up, the entire North-eastern region is identified as a paradise of research for historians, economists, sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists; it is equally a hot bed for politicians and an area where administrators are in great dilemma while working out suitable governmental schemes to suit the diverse cultures and social systems in the region. It is regrettable that even after 50 years of independence, we do not have enough historical and contemporary information about the North-eastern peoples, their societies and cultures.
Thus, they do not find appropriate place in books on Indian history and society used in our educational curricula. Sincere efforts therefore must be made to reconstruct Indian history, which must include the history of the peoples of the North Eastern region, dealing with their ethno-cultural aspects, their struggles and fight against colonial rule and their sacrifices as well as their human potential.


1. Zou, Hososei, M. 1998. Chin-Kuki-Mizo Folk Tales, Aizawl.2. Lalrinmawia, 1995. Mizoram History and Cultural Identity, Aizawl.
3. Thanga, L.B. ] 978. The Mizo-A Study in Social Personality , Aizawl.
4. Mullick, B.N. The Chinese Betrayal.
5. Shakespeare, J. 1912. The Lushai-Kuki Clans, London: McMillan & Co. (Reprinted by Tribal Research Institute, Govt. of Mizoram, Aizawl, 1975.)
6. Tuck, H.W. and 13.S. Carey, 1976. The Chin Hills. Aizawl; KLM Private Limited (Reprinted from original of 1896).
7. Shakespeare, J. op. cit.
8. Chakravarty, Nikhil, 1995. Address at the Seminar on North-East region at 21st Century, Cowan.
9. Lalthanhawla’s discussion with Sunday magazine, Gangtok.
10. John Luke and The Acts of Apostle (first translation of Bible into Lusei).
11. Choudhury, J.L. 1994. The Mizos Journey to Israel: Assert to the Promised Lord. The Sunday Sentinel , October 10, 1994.
12. Janab, Sunil. The Tribals of India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Chawnglienthang Changsan, “The Chin-Kuki-Ethnic Dilemma: Search for an Appropriate Identity” in Dynamics of identity and Intergroup Relations in North-East India, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, 1999, pp.
– Chawnglienthang Changsan

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Some features of Thadou Folktales

By M.S. Thirumalai


Thaadou, Thadou, or Thadou-Kuki is a widely spread language of the Kuki-Chin group of languages spoken in the Manipur Hills, and in some parts of Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam, and adjoining areas. In this short note, I present some features of the folktales of Thadou.

Thadou is a Tibeto-Burman language and, as a member of the Kuki-Chin sub-group within the Tibeto-Burman sub-family, it shares several linguistic and ethnographic similarities with the languages or dialect of Kuki-Chin. In particular, the themes of the folktales in Thadou are shared by languages such as Paite, Simte, Vaiphei, Gangte, Teddim-Chin, Lushai/Mizo, etc., (but not necessarily the characters of these folktales).


Scholars of Indian folklore have made several studies to make structural comparisons of the content and forms of the folklore of India. However, study of the folklore of the communities in the North-East needs greater attention, especially because rapid socio-economic changes in the region may result in the loss of these valuable resources very soon.

A simple and common sense classification of folklore identifies three major categories:

– Myths which are sacred narratives.
– Legends which are usually twisted and broken fragments of history.
– Popular tales which are told purely or mainly for the entertainment of their hearers.


Myths may be sacred, non-sacred, and secular. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines myth as “purely fictitious narrative, usually involved supernatural persons, etc., and embodying popular ideas on natural phenomena, etc.” There is no doubt that supernatural persons, etc., can be relied upon to play a non-sacred and secular, if not profane, role in folklore materials! The Thadou-Kuki folklore materials, thus, can be classified into two broad categories, namely, religious (which is sacred and secretive) and non-religious (which is secular and meant for popular entertainment). In both these categories the supernatural persons and beings, etc., have their field day.


Thus, for instance, a folktale in Thadou-Kuki purports to describe the immortal love between a girl and a boy in the moon. The hero from the earth flies and goes on flying in the sky. After crossing a certain height in the sky, the hero is not able to climb down to the earth. So, he has to continue his travel further. Finally he lands on the moon where he meets the girl and instantaneously (like what many of us did in our teens) falls in love with the moon beauty.

But, alas, the girl’s family won’t allow her to marry him, and she is married to someone else. The hero, then, builds an earthen image of the girl and places it by the side of a river in the moon and earnestly starts doing his penance. It rains and the river is flooded; the earthen image dissolves completely in water. As a consequence the girl also dies. Then the hero dies or commits suicide. After their death, the immortal lovers meet each other in the skies once again.

This is a beautiful story, and the hearts melt when Thadous listen to the narration of this tale. This tale is poignant, but it is not considered sacred by the Thadous and is in no way a religious tale from the Thadou animistic religious point of view. It is purely secular and is a heart-rending story for the Thadou Kukis.


I believe that, while typological classification of folktales is important, we need to focus more on the collection of genuine folktales from the linguistic communities of Kuki-Chin and other sub-groups of the Tibeto-Burman sub-family. We may devote our time fruitfully for the study of those aspects of folklore materials which can throw light upon matters like the sub-grouping of several languages of a major group or family, fragments of history to understand their migration patterns, psychology or reasoning of the people and the attitudes of a community toward their neighboring, related and unrelated, language groups.

Let me illustrate these points in a very “folkish” way with the help of materials drawn from Thadou folklore.


A cursory comparative study of the phonologies of Kuki-Chin languages reveals some interesting phonological variables that can help us to group these languages more or less decidedly into several subgroups. One such variable is the plus or minus trill phonetic segment. The minus trill feature neatly brings Thadou, Paite, Vaiphei, Gangte, Teddim Chin, Zoute, and Simte under a single subgroup.

This classification, based on a purely linguistic variable, is supported one hundred percent by the folklore materials. Thus, Thadou-Kuki has a large number of folktales of non-religious type revolving around a single, humorous and unique personality called Benglam. He is clownish, generally foolish, and at times extra-ordinarily brilliant. Even the mention of his name to a Thadou will provoke him into laughter.

This humorous character is called Penglam in Paite, Teddim Chin and Simte; he is called Banglam in Vaiphei, Gangte and Zoute. There is no necessity for us to be misled by the identity of the usage of the name only. If we go still further collecting Benglam tales we will find that the content and form of the Benglam stories in all these languages will be more or less identical.

The non-Benglam and plus trill feature subgroup of languages such as Hmar and Lushai do not mention the name of Benglam at all and the seemingly identical stories (of Benglam type) in these languages vary very much in their content. Thus this additional support from the folklore materials confirms the linguistic classification in a general way.


In preliterate societies, like the ones we find among the members of the Tibeto-Burman sub-family in our Himalayan regions, we have to depend almost entirely on the folklore materials for an understanding of the history of these communities. Many of the incidents or episodes narrated in the folk tales that purport to give the history of the tribes concerned, may be at least partially fictitious or imaginary. However, some “facts”, structural or otherwise, can be sifted and compared profitably with “facts” from the folk tales of other neighboring and related communities.

In Thadou Kuki, there are two tales that describe the origin and the spread of Thadous. The first tale involves partially fictitious or imaginary events, whereas the second one gives the genealogical tree of the Thadou tribes. Thus, the first tale describes the life of a community under the earth /xúl/ from where a group of persons emigrated to the surface of the earth after a quarrel with their relatives under the ground over some ritual matters. The persons who emigrated to the surface of the earth are listed and today there are separate tribes or clans after their names.

The second folktale is about the origin, multiplication and establishment of a tribe named after Milun (=Mr.) Thadou. Milun Thadou was not one among the persons who emigrated to the surface of the earth. In fact, he was not at all born at this time. He is a descendant of one of the persons who emerged on the surface of the earth. Because of his valor and heroic deeds, the tribe adopted his name for itself and a genealogical tree is drawn with Milun Thadou as the progenitor.

However, most of the relationship between the progeny of Mr. Thadou and the descendants of the persons who emigrated to the surface of the earth are still preserved and maintained in the customs and manners such as the distribution of the meat of the hunted animals. Thus a collection of folktales like these will help us to identify the closely related tribes and chalk out the linguistic classification of the tribes involved.


Another interesting aspect, which the folklore materials can help us to understand, is about the psychology or reasoning of the community concerned. For example, the Thadous had contacts with various communities, especially the Meitheis in the plains, who possessed an ancient script of their own. This might have induced the Thadous to explain away the absence of a script of their own. Thus, a folktale says that God once gave scripts to the Thadous, Nagas, and the Meitheis on leather scrolls.

Being careless or carefree by nature, the Thadous slept on the ground with the leather scrolls on their backs. While they were sleeping, the enterprising white ants (termites) ate the scrolls completely. The Nagas, being always hungry, ate the scrolls completely. But the Meitheis, being frugal and miserly, according to this Thadou folktale, removed the scrolls from their sacks and preserved them very carefully. That is why the Thadous and Nagas do not have the scripts of their own whereas Meitheis do! (Christian missionaries helped develop a script system for Thadou using the Roman script, in the beginning of the twentieth century.)

Apart from explaining away the absence of a native script for the Thadou language, this folktale reveals the subjective observation or attitude of Thadous towards the adjoining communities that are distinct or different from their own in many aspects.


The attitudes of Thadous towards neighboring and related language communities are also revealed through folktales and proverbs. These stories offer a taste of the pre-literate community’s cynicism or rivalry. For example, a folktale, again from the Thadou Kuki, may be mentioned here. The folk etymological genius of Thadous has resulted in a folktale which purports to explain why a well-developed large pre-literate (tribal) community among the Kuki-Chin preliterate communities is given the name they have now.

The Thadou folk etymologist plays with the syllables of the name of this community to poke fun at it, in a disparaging manner. This may be considered tribal cynicism or tribal rivalry or something of that sort! Like this tale there are quite a few proverbs in Thadou that would ridicule or praise the related and neighboring tribes for their alleged behavior. Though much of these may not be of use for bringing communities together on a friendly footing, there are several others that can be profitably used for a better understanding of these communities either from the linguistic or from the non-linguistic point of view!

Courtesy: Language in India

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Need for paradigm shift: Reality write

By Lunminthang Haokip
May 28: 2007: Paradigm-shift sounds a trifle vague in meaning to one who had not been familiar with using the term. But one who can take good advantage of its implication, may as well achieve something considered impossible earlier. It’s all about changing the set of rules we employ in conceiving or approaching things we do in life.

Areas that need paradigm shift: There’s a strong tendency to follow the herd. The best example in Manipur is the ‘mass birthday’ of the 1st march. Someone somewhere convinced someone else sometime about the blind adherence to the said norm the benefit of which had not been clearly spelt out till date. Yet, a sucker is born every minute, it’s said., and the mad trend continues. The issue was the talking point in one of the renowned Ministries of Delhi that received scores of applicants dates of birth of all of whom fell on the mysterious 1st march.

Another area that’s vital to the present and future families is education of the children. In every parent, there’s a lurking strong urge to see the children do well in studies by all means. Every sane head-of-family has some old scores to square with an offending boss or insulting colleague- real or imagined. There’s no better way to silence one’s detractors than doing so through the excelling of one’s kids in academics over those of the real or imagined competitors.

The cut-throat bids to outdo one another in school rankings had made enemies of jealous parents of top-rankers. They don’t even try to be civil to one another when they cross paths in their ways to rope in the best tutors who themselves, like movie stars, are working in several shifts. And to ensure that one’s offspring get taught in the top school in town, some mothers change schools at the rate they change their mobile sim-cards much to the confusion of the multi-uniformed student.

Lethargic Endorsement Of Status-Quo: It’s not easy to change something one got used to for a long time. To use a new toothpaste or toilet soap requires a little struggle. It’s even more difficult t come to terms with the clumsiness of a fresh domestic helper from the backblocks who needs months to adapt to certain ways of cooking or serving tea. So, human nature being what it is, we seek the easy way out; resisting the new by holding on fast to old systems.

It’s sad that we apply the easy-way-out mentality in our social and official outlooks and approaches. In the face of the endless chain of traffic on the wide street that divides the AG office and the State Secretariat buildings of Imphal, it’s almost suicidal to cross the road at peak hours. If major accidents had not occurred so far, it’s simply because the commuters had been lucky.

But how long will luck favour us? We’ve got to consider possible steering failures or the sanity of “the nut that holds the wheel”. For all our exposure to the outside world, why haven’t we thought of making sub-ways or over-bridges that will serve as an alternate link to the North Block and Babupara link-lanes?

Bureaucracy: Manipur, we must admit, had and has brilliant bureaucrats at the helm of affairs. The top functionaries of almost every department is driven by the zeal and zest to perform and yield results. The bold initiative of Technocracy had already cleansed the Mgel in the face of initial skepticism.

Thanks to the administrative skills instilled deep in the highest Training Academies, the premier cadre had always been the saving grace in our otherwise turbulent and beleaguered state where norms are pulled in different directions. However, the valuable inputs put in by some of the middle-level functionaries of the state-cadre, who on their part, are lesser in efficiency to none, had also helped the survival of the Bureaucracy a great deal.

We have reason to feel proud that one of the two Secretaries to the PM was the MD of MANITRON and even the SDO of Nungba once. BVR Subramaniam of 1987 MT cadre changed his cadre later. Friends and colleagues were equally amazed by his super brilliance and humility. Immediately after his probation period, Subramaniam completed an MBA course in a prestigious London college where he survived a grueling test of brain and grit among a thousand students that included the scion of the Birla empire till the last round like they do in Celebrity Big Brother.

His brief stint in Manitron, more than a decade back, made the Industrial unit boom and the then MD gifted a 6 figure cheque to the then CM’s relief fund. Subu, as he was endearingly called, was even predicted by an astrologer that he would one day become the Prez of India. The future will tell. Will it be a success story of “From BDO to PMO to RB?”

Misleading status-quo-ism in parts of the rank and file of the otherwise well-managed bureaucracy of this unique state refuses to give way to better ideas and methods. Let’s look at the bigger picture of having a economically thriving state devoid of the pitfalls that keep us from peaking in performance. We have to choose our destiny. Do we want a strong Australian- type governance or a clean Singapore – type or a not-so-good Phillipines-type administration?

A paradigm shift at the key and lower–levels is highly called for. We have the potential to deliver. But we lack the dogged determination to sacrifice for the common good. Whose state is it anyway? It’s ours. The bottom line belonged to the witty Late L.S. Thangjom, retd. Commissioner, who once bluntly told his diffident Under Secretary, “ Brother, you are too much of an Under and too little of a Secretary, assert yourself a little more”. Let us also keep in mind that the reverse is neither good for administrative health.

Land System: Agreed that we hill-people have reasons to resist the absolute extension of MLR & LR Act in the hill areas. Also agreed that extension of the Municipal Act had been opposed in the high lands. Now that the unofficial price of prime land per sq. foot in downtown Imphal had crossed the Rs. 5000/- mark, the price the same fetches in its counterpart localities in hill areas is chicken feed.

Just for the absence of a Legislative decision, and even after amendment of the relevant portion of District Council Act, the hill areas are denied urban infrastructural or municipal developmental schemes due to our own differences in perception. If desire isn’t to lag behind, why should we continue to be indifferent to the indirect devaluation of nine-tenth of the state’s land just for the lack of a statutory booklet or two?

Within the frame-work of the Constitutional safeguards, we can make more Acts that take better care of tribal interests without stamping upon the hyper-sensitive issues of contemporary politics. An expert team may be commissioned to study land systems in Red Indian regions of USA or Uttarkhand or Jharkhand or other N.E.Indian states.

My tribal emotions on other common issues remaining the same, I feel it will be helpful to the pace of progress if initiatives are taken towards enactment of something like “Hill Areas LR & LR Act” or “Hill Areas Municipality Act” that takes into consideration the age-old land-use systems and traditions of our major communities. Municipality is nothing but Local Self Government. In the absence of a suitable Act to be applied, the administrator is ill-equipped even to settle village land disputes.

Successful Paradigm Shifts: In the recent past, the erstwhile colourful celebration of Yaoshang (Holi) had been converted into local sports events. Our state had improved its medal haul in the national and international games and sports meets ever since. We all feel proud when our athletes stand tall on the victory-stands. Sports certainly is the silver-lining in our cloudy horizon and the delivering grace for our disgraced state.

But here too, a further paradigm shift in time can tighten the loose screws of the land’s emotional unity. A shift in attitude in offering equitable opportunities in sports to all with potential is desired. Given the chance, there’s no reason why the region or genes akin to that of Mary Kom shouldn’t produce some more champs or bring more feathers to the state’s cap.

Another case of successful paradigm shift is Lanthumching’s Shija Hospital. Before the imposing and beautifully designed building came up, the soil of the land was not good enough to hold a two-storey structure together. Hats off to Dr. Palin who tried every means to realize his dream project through 150 ft. deep pile- foundations etc., today the fruits of his hard labour not only benefit patients NE-wide but also create a mini township with a sustainable market activity around its premises. The sixth sense to foresee what others couldn’t had paid rich dividends. I am happy that the hospital is employing so many people – part time and full time.

None Poor In Singapore: In the fifties and early sixties, Singapore had nothing much to boast of. Malaysia and Indonesia tightened the commercial noose around the tiny island-nation due to the non-compromising stands of its distinguished leader, Lee Kuan Yew. Undaunted by the sanctions and embargoes coming from the earlier friendly neighbours , that drove him against the wall, Lee Kuan stuck to his guns. He mobilized and utilized whatever resources the water-logged island had at its disposal to unbelievable advantage. The primary thrust-areas of the island-country’s priorities were derived from the initials of their able leader’s first name, LEE – LAW, EDUCATION and EMPLOYMENT.

Implementing his beliefs with a zeal that rivaled the Spirit of a pioneer missionary, Lee had turned the poor island into a first-world city marveled alike by the East and the West. Today, the sea waters of Singapore have six hundred commercial ships anchored to its shores every day and a ship arriving and departing every 3 minutes. And each ship is paying a fee of not less than US Dollar 600. In 2006, each Singaporean family received 24,000 Dollars from the government as the surplus money earned after meeting the target for 2004-05.

That’s an exemplary paradigm shift we in this state need to seriously ponder over and convert into action today. Setbacks around us shouldn’t stop us from dreaming big. Thinking hundreds of years ahead, in the interest of handing the legacy to a saner posterity, we must begin to envision, plan and acquire skill to build a new Manipur. We have an above–average technical mind-set and speak better English than the average South East Asian. What we lack is a sustained attitude towards change and paradigm-shift for the better.

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