KNO’s presidential speech at ZORO conference
By PS Haokip
On this august occasion to commemorate the 122nd anniversary of the 1892 Fort William (Chin-Lushai) Conference-cum-Commemoration at Saikul with the theme, ‘Together We Ascend’, I extend greetings to Pu R Thangmawia, hon’ble chief guest and dignitaries and each and every Zo citizen and other participants a very warm welcome.
The United Nations Declaration on the rights of the Indigenous Peoples Article 36: 1 states, “Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with their own members as well as other peoples across borders.”
Therefore, at the outset of this gathering, which includes our brethren from across international borders, I would like to begin my speech with a significant quote from the resolution passed at Fort William on January 29, 1892, a good 122 years ago.
The Fort William resolution number 1 sates: “The majority of the Conference are of opinion that it is very desirable that the whole tract of the country known as the Chin-Lushai Hills should be brought under one Administrative head as soon as this can be done.”
As already mentioned, a good 122 years have passed and yet, as we all are aware, the British did not carry through with their resolution, but instead divided our nation, referred to as “Kuki Country” by Grierson, Superintendent General, Linguistic Survey of India in 1904 as follows: “The territory inhabited by the Kuki tribes extends from the Naga Hills in the north down into the Sandoway District of Burma in the south; from Myittha River in the east, almost to the Bay of Bengal in the west. It is almost entirely filled up by hills and mountain ridges, separated by deep valleys….” In present-day context, the British colonialists divided Grierson’s Kuki country amongst three countries in India, Myanmar and erstwhile East Pakistan now Bangladesh. As a result, we are a minority people by intent and design in these three sovereign countries.
As mentioned in a previous occasion, the Kuki National Organization’s (KNO) roadmap concerning the resurrection of Zo country begins with securing statehood our ancestral land the British colonialists included within present-day Manipur state and a Kuki state in present-day Sagaing Region in Myanmar. This will be followed by consolidation of our territories in other parts of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Once we achieve this objective, together with Mizoram, Chin State and now Kachin State, we can aspire to be one great nation.
As we are aware, following the Khadawmi Operation by the then military junta in Burma in 1967, our people’s rights in Burma was severely violated, going against, for example, the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples Article 8: 2 (b) which states that: “Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights…forced assimilation or integration.”
While the British administration prepared to deliberate on the “Chin-Lushai,” their brethren Kukis were on the offensive against the colonialists, who tried to rule over our country. Notwithstanding the British imperialists’ might, the Kukis fought with courage to preserve the Kuki territorial integrity as witnessed in the Kuki Rising of 1917-1919.
Of late, a development much to be cherished is that the Kachin, who have always maintained their link through folklore connections with the Kukis, have also taken part in the Zo-Reunification Organisation (ZORO) movement. The folklore tells, eons ago, Kachins and Kukis journeyed together from China. In the course of their travel, Kukis, who the Kachin regard as their elder brother advanced ahead, while they trailed on their heels following the tracks left behind by them in fields of plantain and a species of a local plant called lhanket. The plantain and lhanket were cut to leave a trail. However, the slashed plantain, in a short time sprouted and the lhanket turned dark in colour. When the Kachin reached the plantain fields and noticed the dark lhanket, they assumed the Kukis had left them far behind. Therefore, they stayed back in the land they call Kachin, whereas the Kukis continued on their eastward journey. However, Kachins kept close to them the story that Kukis have gone West, and they who have stayed behind in the East would one day witness a reunion. Therefore, a Kachin family would add an extra room to their house for the Kuki brother to stay upon return. This practice has been widely continued.
At the start of the year 2013, Rev. Cholhun received a calling from God to go to the Kachin because they are the brothers of Kukis, that they are also the descendants of Manmasi. As a measure of confirmation, I asked Colonel Paul Neo and Colonel Paosei of Kuki National Army, who were trained in Kachin state in 1989, whether they noticed any similarities between Kukis and Kachins. They said, linguistically, 40-45 percent of Kuki and Kachin dialects are the same. Reasonably convinced, I made a small contribution for Rev. Chomlhun’s mission to Kachin state to deliver God’s revelation, once in August 2013 again in September 2013. The Kachins received Rev. Chomlhun warmly and said they had been waiting for the day they would make contact with their Kuki brothers. However, owing to conflict between Kachin army and the Myanmar army, the atmosphere was not conducive for him to cover more parts of the state. At the United Nations Day celebrations held at Moreh on October 24, 2013, a Kachin cultural troupe performed and enthralled the crowd.
According to Nu Parci, a dedicated servant of God, in Myanmar, the Zo people include Lahu, Akha, Yinmi Yinchia, Luci and Khaplang. In Nagaland, Zo includes the Konyak and Khimnungan; in Arunachal Pradesh, Singpho of Changlang district, where a Kachin meet is scheduled in February 2014, to which occasion, KNO has received an invitation to participate.
Today, we are at beginning to realise our brotherhood with Lahu, Akha, Jinmijinchia, Luci and with Konyak and Heymi of Khaplang. I exhort our researchers to study and identify our people’s commonalities in language, culture and folklore besides our shared physical and geographical unity. These will help us to get even closer, which we will need for the long journey ahead.
An excerpt from the text of the Annexe United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, General Assembly states:
“Concerned that indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of, inter alia, their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests….”
The UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples Article 26:1 states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise occupied.”
Article 26:2 asserts: “Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise occupied.”
Article 28:1 clearly states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.”
Article 28:2 continues: “Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.”
Today, the Zo people dispersed in three different countries, i.e. Tripura, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram in India; the Sagaing Region, Kachin State and Chin State in Myanmar, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh are coming together as the one people that the Almighty created under ZORO. ZORO, which began by becoming a member of the UN Permanent Settlement and attending the UN meetings in New York, is beginning to seek redress for the Zo people and also seek proper prevention of future and further exploitation by the countries or states they are presently in.
In order to actualise our objective to unite Zo Country, it is essential that our people co-operate as Mizo in the state of Mizoram, Chin in Chin state, Kachin in Kachin state and in the rest such as in Sagaing Region, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and the Chittagong Hill Tracts as Kuki.
Therefore, in my modest capacity, I exhort every Zo citizen to commit to the noble endeavour of ZORO so that we may in a united manner achieve the liberation of our ethnic people and receive our rights and due in this world as laid out by the United Nations Organisation, guaranteed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
God Bless ZORO! Long live ZORO!
PS Haokip is President of Kuki National Organization, an armed group based in India-Myanmar border. This is the speech he delivered at the Zo-Reunification Organisation Conference-cum-Commemoration of the 122nd anniversary of the 1892 Fort William (Chin-Lushai) conference under the theme ‘Together We Ascend’ in Saikul, Manipur, India on January 29, 2014.