Convergence of KNO’s with ZORO’s Ideology
By PS Haokip
I express appreciation to unManifesto, Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Northeast India for organizing this event, ‘Meet Your Leader’ and extend warm greetings to dignitaries and specially to Professor Maran Ja Gun who came all the way from Kachin, Burma.
On this occasion, I wish to take the opportunity to explain the vision of Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and its convergence with the ideology of Zo Re-Unification Organisation (ZORO). It is pertinent, I believe, to make this explanation because it appears that there is some sense of confusion or perhaps even misgivings among the public. To begin, I would like to explicate the term Zo. Broadly, three meanings may be stated: (a) Chun le Zo: In Thadou-Kuki dialect, Chun refers to mother, and Zo to father. Colloquially, our land is referred to as Pu Pa gam, which means ‘Fatherland’; (b) another group say, ‘Zogam’, i.e. land of Zo people; and (c) Pu Thangmawia, President ZORO, states that from days of yore, when we were in China, Zo is the progenitor of our ethnic group Kuki, Chin, Mizo and Kachin.
At the first ZORO conference held in 1988 at Champhai in Mizoram, a lengthy discussion took place between proponents of Zomi from Manipur and proponents of Mizo concerning nomenclature. Observing the fact that there was no consideration for an alternative, a representative from Chittagong Hill Tracts, Pu Sangam remarked, “Why are we focusing our discussion only on the two proposed nomenclatures, whereas there are lakhs of peoples who are in favour of neither Zomi nor Mizo?”1 Ultimately, better sense prevailed and consensus was reached in favour of an inclusive name Zo, our progenitor. In local parlance, the origins of Zosuan/Zoson/Zofate is Chhinlung/Sinlung/Khul or Khulpui. ZO, therefore, became the terminology for movement of our people’s unification under ZORO.
Previous to the emergence of ZORO, each of our ethnic entity Kuki, Chin and Mizo wanted to subsume the other, and time has proven that is not possible. Each of the entities pursued its own objective, and sadly to no avail. KNO’s objective is to first achieve a political status for Kukis, i.e. statehood and then progress towards the second stage of nationalism, i.e. reunification with Chin and Mizo. ZORO includes Kuki besides Chin, Mizo and Kachin. Re-Unification of these ethnic entities is the objective of ZORO. Therefore, unity as Zo people is the consensus, and a logical conclusion.
It is a great pleasure to learn that Kukis and the Kachins are blood relatives. Prior to this realisation, our relationship with Kachin was concerned with organisational matters only. Therefore, the recent development that establishes our kinship is much to be cherished. According to folklore, the Kachins have always maintained their link with Kukis. The folklore narrates that eons ago, Kachins and Kukis journeyed together from China. In the course of their travel, Kukis, who the Kachins 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 Kachins 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, Kachin generations have treasured and handed down the story that Kukis have gone West and in keeping with their belief maintained the tradition of building an extra room for their Kuki brethren whose return they have always anticipated.
As a backdrop, I would like to cite a meeting held at Dorcas Hall in New Lamka, Churachandpur on 6 November 2012, on the initiative of the United People’s Front (UPF). I presented the ‘Political Roadmap for the Kuki People’, the essence of which is: (a) to seek Kuki statehood comprising our ancestral land included within Manipur. The rationale for using Kuki is official documentation pertaining to its legality based on historicity. Following achievement of Kuki statehood, the term Zogam was proposed for its name; (b) it may take a century to unite all of our people scattered in different parts, i.e. Manipur, Tripura, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Sagaing Region and Chin Hills in Burma and Mizoram, but one day we will unite.
After ten days of release of ‘Political Roadmap for the Kuki People’ at the meeting at Dorcas Hall in New Lamka, owing to KNO’s ideology of our people’s reunification as Zo people, Zo-Reunification Organisation headquarters at Aizawl, having seen the text on the internet, send words of appreciation through its Northern Zone vice-chairman and secretary, Pu Khaijang and Pu Nehkhojang, respectively. Later, Pu Khaijang and Pu Nehkhojang then went to attend ZORO conference in Aizawl. Following the conference, the ZORO chairman and vice-chairman came from Aizawl, Mizoram and met with Zomi leaders and KNO in Lamka. This was followed by another ZORO conference at Young Paite Association (YPA) Hall at Lamka on 14 March 2013. PuThangmawia, ZORO chairman and I addressed the gathering. The two speeches have been published in print. Similar to KNO’s enthusiasm for ZORO’s movement, the Chins, Kachins and our people in Tripura and the Chittagong Hill Tracts also decided to support ZORO for our people’s reunification.
A meeting of ZORO constituents was conducted and a Map Committee deliberated on the map of Zoland. I had stated at the meeting with UPF at Dorcas Hall in New Lamka, ‘reunification, even if it takes a century….’, but the process achieved indicated by creation of the map of Zoland comprising all our territories, including the Kachin state presently in Burma, shows remarkable progress. Not a century, but within six months since the meeting at Dorcas Hall and the convention held in YPA Hall, the march towards Zo people’s reunification has made unprecedented progress.
In July 2013, Pu Khaijang Haokip was elected president, ZORO Northern Zone, along with the office bearers. Pu Thangmawia, president ZORO general headquarters, Aizawl, Mizoram affirmed the newly formed Northern Zone team at the ZORO Conference and United Nations Day, celebrated at Moreh.
ZORO Conference-cum-Celebration of the 68th United Nations Day was held at Galngam Lentol, Moreh, Chandel, with the theme: ‘Salvation for the Zo People’ on 24 October 2013. Pu Thangmawia, President of ZORO, myself as President of KNO, delivered speeches and various cultural troupes and artistes regaled the crowd.
ZORO Conference at Saikul, Sadar Hills
ZORO Conference-cum-Commemoration of the 122nd anniversary of the 1892 Fort William (Chin-Lushai) Conference was held in Saikul on 29 January 2014, with the theme: ‘Together We Ascend’. Various leaders and representatives graced the occasion. Pu Thangmawia; Pu BK Rangkhawl, freedom fighter and Ex-MLA Tripura; Pu Manbunlal Chorei, working president of Kuki Inpi Barak Valley, Assam, and Pu Thangsei Haokip, President of Kuki Inpi Manipur; Pu Langyaw Kyan Ying, scholar from Kachin state, Burma; and myself gave heartfelt speeches of unity; and the occasion was graced by the presence of Pu Yamthong Haokip MLA; Pu Sesei Zou, Chairman of Chandel ADC; Pu Haokholal Hangshing, Chairman of Sadar Hills ADC, and there were lively performances by cultural troupes of our people from Kachin state, Tripura, Barak Valley, Chin Hills, Mizoram besides other talented performances from various artistes making the event exceedingly memorable.
Most recently, our long-lost brethren in Kachin, whom the good news of unification have also reached, invited representatives of ZORO and KNO to the 30th Shapawng Yawng Manau Poi, 12-14 February 2014 at Bordumsa, Changlang District in Arunachal Pradesh. At the celebrations, they cheered,
‘Aw..ra e…aw Ra aw Ra e..aw Ra Ra…e…sothlang na 30 langna shapawang Yawng manau poi.hta..le…aw ra..e..hpunau Kuki hkang ni mung du ai law .Aw rae..awra e..ZoRO Magam du nirai ai law …aw ra..e hpunau makhri shawn nga du ai le awra…e ra e ra kabu khinlum lu ai daini law..awrae..awra…wunpawng bawpa majing rai ai law…aw rae..aw ra ra…Ah le lehwi.’
Rough translation: The 30th Shapawng Yawng Manau Poi has arrived. Our elder Kuki brethren have joined us; ZORO have also arrived. Therefore, our people are all together now – ‘ah le lehwi’, Li lililili hohohoho.
They also intoned, ‘Let the sun and moon (worshipped by Wunpawng (original name of Kachin) be the witness and bless our reunion.’
Allow me to project the benefits of the constituents of Zo people’s reunification politics. Under our Kachin identity, besides the existing entity of the Kachin state in Burma, the Singpho land in Changlang district, Lisu land in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh, including Tinsukia, Sibsagar and Jorhat where Singphos have been assimilated as Assamese, the Konyak and Khimnungan lands, respectively in Mon and Tuensang districts in Nagaland, plus Heimis, Nahen, Makury, Noaw, Para, Lainow and Ramphangs, which is under NSCN Khaplang’s sphere of influence can be part of Kachin state. With our Kuki and Mizo identity, our land in Sagaing Region of Burma, Manipur, Tripura, Barak Valley in Assam and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh can be consolidated. Our land in Arakan could be integrated with Chin Hills. All of these, in addition to the existing states of Mizoram, Chin and Kachin would comprise Zo country.
Uniqueness of Kachin, Kuki, Chin, Mizo ethnic entity’s cultural traits
Kachin, Kuki, Chin, and Mizo ethnic people are endowed with a unique cultural trait. Despite divisions by the British colonialists, our common cultural traits have kept our fraternal bonds intact. Traditional items such as sum and suhtum, dahpi (gong), patterns on woven shawls and wrap-around, forms of traps for fowls and wild animals, hah le chao (bangles), art of making the flintlock gun and gun powder are some cultural traits testifying our oneness. Linguistically, most clans comprising the ethnic people speak mutually intelligible dialects. Many dialects of Kachin, Kuki and Konyak still maintain 40-45 per cent of common vocabulary.
In order to actualize our objective to unite Zo country and achieve our due political status, it is essential that our people cooperate 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. In this regard, it is essential that we assert our rights as stated by the General Assembly in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.
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.”
To conclude, our oneness as a people is an undeniable reality today. And as leaders and servants of the great nation that God has meant us to be, I deem it the duty of every leader and in fact, every denizen of our land, to shake off the shackles of division the colonial states have burdened our consciousness with so they could slice our land and mince our right to govern ourselves. No government has any right to rule over a people unless the people consent to be ruled. No government has legitimacy and moral authority unless they are governments by and of the people for themselves. As we awaken to the beauty of our oneness, I urge all our people to awaken to the power of realization of our right.
Therefore, I exhort every civil society organization, student organisations, NGOs, political representatives, chieftains and all concerned Zo citizens to make a concerted effort to achieve our rights and pride of place in the comity of nations.
1The Genesis and Progress of ZORO, T. Nehkhojang, General Secretary, ZORO (General Headquarters) In “The ZORO Conference, 2013, Theme: Salvation For The Zo People,” published by ZORO
The writer is President of Kuki National Organization. The writer presented this message at a ‘Meet Your Leader’ event held in M Songel community hall, Churachandpur, Manipur, India, on March 22, 2014.