The Chin-Kuki-Ethnic Dilemma: Search for an Appropriate Identity
By Chawnglienthang Changsan
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.
ORIGIN OF THE CHIN-KUKI-MIZO
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.
IN SEARCH OF ETHNIC UNITY
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.
DISTINCTIVENESS OF THE CHIN-KUKI-MIZO
THE CLAN SYSTEM
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.
SOCIETY AND CULTURE
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 LANGUAGES OF CHIN-KUKI-MIZO
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.
TIlE JEWISH CONNECTION?
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.