Embrace unity and march forward as one nation
By P.S. Haokip
On this occasion of Chavang Kut 2014 (a three-day long post-harvest festival from October 30 to November 1) at Moreh, we also share a historic moment of joy and jubilation with our long separated brothers – Kachin, Konyak, Karbi, Heimi and the Zelianrong. Eons ago, in the course of our journey through China and Southeast Asia, we were separated. In China, there is a sizeable Kachin population. By designs of British colonialism, part of the land of Kachin was later incorporated within present-day Burma and present-day Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India.
The lands of Konyak, Kuki, Chin, Lushai (Mizo), Karbi, Heimi and Zalengrong brothers were similarly included within Northeast India, Burma and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in present-day Bangladesh. The land of Heimi and cognate group is wedged between Kachin state and Arunachal Pradesh. Chin land largely constitutes Chin state. Mizo land became Mizoram state. Karbi land became part of present-day Karbi Anglong of Assam. Zalengrong land became the present-day Peren District of Nagaland, Tamenglong District of Manipur and its adjoining areas. The land of Kukis became Chittagong Hill Tracts, Tripura, part of Assam, part of the south Manipur hills, i.e. Thangjing and Koubru Range and Northeastern Manipur, including the Upper Chindwin and Kale-Kabaw valley in Burma.
Today is a day of re-union of long-parted brothers in the course of our millennium journey. Though separated by political boundaries and gap of time and space, the bonding tie of brotherhood was never broken, only not entirely realised, and today is a day of special significance as we meet to affirm our relationship of love and affection and the eternal bond of brotherhood.
At this celebration of brotherhood in Chavang Kut, I extend special welcome to all who have come to grace the occasion. I begin by expressing this honour to our chief guest, Pu Gaikhanngam, hon’ble deputy chief minister, government of Manipur; guest of honour, Pu Ngamthang Haokip, cabinet minister, government of Manipur and Pu Manga Vaiphei Hon’ble member of legislative assembly; hon’ble dignitaries from Kachin state, Chin state, Heimis, Mizos, Karbis, Zelianrongs, Kukis from Chittagong Hill Tracts, Kukis from Tripura, Kukis from Assam, Kukis from Nagaland, Kukis from Barak valley, my esteemed colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen, and each and every Zo citizen, who are here, today, to celebrate Chavang Kut, 2014.
This year, Chavang Kut is being celebrated for three consecutive days in Moreh, which I would like to add is inspired by the spectacular three-day celebration of Sapong Yang Manau Poi in Bordumsa, Arunachal Pradesh from February 12-14, 2014. This special extended celebration is also intended to enable each and every Zo ethnic tribe to display our unique God-given, colourful and spectacular traditional dances and songs.
Among the ethnic Zo people, this post-harvest festival is celebrated by the Kachin as ‘Shapawng Yawng Manau Poi’, in the Chin hills, it is called ‘Khawdou Pawi, among the Mizos as ‘Chapchar Kut’ or ‘Thar Favang Kut’, and among the Kukis as ‘Chavang Kut’.
Despite our geographical dispersion in different countries, besides numerous customs, culture and traditional ties, celebration of the post-harvest festival is another common practice, which has preserved our ethnic identity. Today, as we celebrate Chavang Kut, I trust our people’s unity, championed by Zo Re-unification Organisation (ZoRO), will also be greatly strengthened.
Concerning our unification, owing to ZoRO’s initiative, the year 2013-2014 has witnessed unprecedented awakening amongst us. To begin with, besides solidarity of Kuki, Chin, Mizo being enhanced, the Kachin Independent Organisation, the highest decision making body of the Kachin people has declared Kukis as their blood brothers. At M Songgel, Churachandpur, Manipur on March 22, 2013, Professor Za Gun from Kachin state shared his views on similarities of our dialects, customs, culture, and traditions. Hearteningly, too, the Kukis of Tripura, Chittagong Hill Tracts and Barrack valley sent representatives to ZoRO conferences held in Moreh and Saikul in Sadar hills, Manipur.
Following these developments, I would like to submit a theory to ponder upon: if Kachin and Kuki are blood brothers, logically, the fold to which SS Khaplang belongs, i.e. Naowa, Nahen, Lainow, Haimi, Makury, and Para, with whom we share a common culture, customs and traditions are part of Kuki-Kachin group, and not part of the disparate Naga group. Sharing similar traits, Konyaks and Khimnungan in the state of Nagaland are our blood brothers, including the Singpho people in Changlang and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh. More recently, Pu HC Ngurdawla of Tripura has stated that half the population of the Ranglong people migrated from Tripura to the Peren district in Nagaland and Tamenglong district in Manipur, where they are called Zeliangrong, comprising Zeimi, Liangmei, and Rongmei.
As a result of these rather fresh revelations, Zo Nation: Convergence of Kuki, Mizo, Chin, Kachin has been published and distributed widely across India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The purpose of this publication is to clarify and dispel certain misgivings that have been propounded concerning our identity. For example, prior to the recent awakening, in Peren, Mon and Tuengsang districts in Nagaland; Changlang and Tirap in Arunachal Pradesh, our people were identified as Naga. Perhaps, this is the reason why Pu Lian Uk, then Member of Parliament-elect from Chin hills, now residing in the United States of America, has suggested that Kuki, Mizo and Naga are under Chin. Kachins have also mooted a similar notion.
At the Third Session of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, New York, USA (May 12-23, 2014), the historical oneness of the Zo people, and the need to protect, promote and enhance our inalienable rights and liberties, our right to be a single political entity was represented in statements by Pu R Thangmawia and myself.
At this august celebration, I wish to take the opportunity to highlight the graciousness of the Almighty, who has bestowed Zoland with rich flora and fauna besides immense natural resources. For instance, the combined oil reserves in Kuki hills of Manipur, Chin hills and Mizoram exceed the reserves that exist in the Gulf countries. The natural gas deposit in Tripura alone constitutes one-third of the world’s reserve. Uranium has also been discovered in the Kachin state, which is also rich in precious stones such as jade. The Kuki areas in Sagaing division in Burma have huge gold and coal deposits.
It is a self-evident fact that God has blessed us abundantly which I personally believe He has done for a purpose. Our lands are contiguous and the numerous dialects we speak are in many cases mutually intelligible. However, we remain separated by international boundaries. The question that arises is, shall we remain content to be identified according to the name of the states and countries we are presently in, or should we not strive to attain our God-given right to exist as an undivided one people, one nation and identified according to our own identity Zo?
Allow me to cite an illustration: Abraham Lincoln did not deem fit that the black people, who were originally brought to America as slaves, should continue to live a life under bondage. Therefore, he initiated a bill in the U.S. Congress, which eventually became an Act. During the process, amongst the blacks, there were those who found it inconceivable that the right to a life of freedom could be theirs as well and continued to serve their masters as slaves. Should we too have the same mind set and remain content to identify as Burmese, Indian or Bangladeshi? Should we not attain our right to be culturally and politically integrated and be identified as Zo people, instead? As a free people, today, Barrack Obama, a black man is two-term president of the United States of America.
I would hope that during this celebration of Chavang Kut, we will be inspired to embrace unity and march forward to alter the present state of division into a state of union as one nation, whether independent or under integrated in one country, rather than divided in different countries.
P.S. Haokip (Paulun Soyang Haokip) is president of an India-based armed group, Kuki National Organisation. The writer delivered this message at the Chavang Kut celebration on October 30 in Moreh, Manipur, India.