Nationalism, by definition, ‘is a state or a condition of mind characteristic of certain peoples with a homogeneous culture, living together in a close association in a given territory, and sharing a belief in a distinctive existence and a common destiny'. It ‘implies the identification of the state or nation with the people or at least the desirability of determining the extent of the state according to the ethnographic principles’. This concept is particularly true for the Zomi who now live in three different countries. The ethnological unit and the relationship of the Zomi of India, Burma and Bangladesh have been conspicuously transmitted through their history, culture, social life, traditions, language, customs, folktales, poetry and songs.
Before elaborating on the ethnic homogeneity of Zomi, it will be interesting to present here some important studies on the Zomi conducted by British who unanimously concluded that the Zomi in India and Burma are ‘of one and the same stock’ (Carey and Tuck,1896,p2).
On the Indian side, Lt. Col. John Shakespear, the first Superintendent of the amalgamated Lushai Hills District, wrote his monograph, “The Lushei-Kuki Clans”, which covers all the Zomi clans living in Lushai Hills and Manipur Hills. The Monograph was written during a period of more than twenty years of service among the Zomi, and he was, perhaps, the best informed of the early administrators concerning Zomi ethnicity. Shakespear came to a definite conclusion on the homogeneity question and wrote,
“There is no doubt that the Kukis, Chins, and Lushais are all of the same race”.
In his monograph, Shakespear used ‘Clan’, not ‘tribe’, consistently for the different Zomi groups because of the high degree of identity which he found existing among the people in language, culture and history. Another monograph, “Notes on the Thadou Kukis”, written by William Shaw was published in 1919. On the question of ethnic homogeneity Shaw was equally emphatic:
“The Koms, Aimols, Khothang, Thadous, Chins, Lushai, Pois, Soktes (Sukte), Paites, Gangtes, etc. are undoubtedly connected. The language alone has many similarities and the syntax is not dissimilar. Again these are their customs which have a common principle running through them all”.
Commenting on the above statement, J.H. Hutton, one of the greatest authorities of his time on the Tribes of North East, gives unqualified support: “The affinity of the Thado with the other branches of the Kuki race mentioned by Mr. Shaw is unquestionable” Col. E. B. Elly on his “Military Report on the Chin-Lushai Country” also makes this comments:
“All these were people of the same race, speaking dialects of the same language, wearing the same dress, and having the same customs, form of politics, and religious belief.”
On the Burmese side, Betram S. Carey, the political officer of Chin Hills, and H. N. Tuck his Assistant, were engaged in preparing a substantial book, “The Chin Hills: A History of the People, our dealing with them, and their customs and manners, and a Gazetteer of their Country,” which was published in two volumes by the Government of Burma in 1896. At the initial stage of their study they have the feeling that ‘the Chins have nothing in common with the Lushais of Assam’. However, after a thorough investigation they modified their position and concluded that:
“Without pretending to speak with authority on the subject, we think we may reasonably accept the theory that the Kukis of Manipur the Lushai of Bengal and Assam and the Chins originally lived in what we know as Tibet, and are of one and the same stock : their form of government, method of cultivation, manners, and customs, beliefs and traditions all point to one origin”.
They also summarize the common traits of all the Zomi throughout the Chin-Lushai Hills.
Another monumental work which supports the homogeneity of the Zomi (Chin-Kuki-Lushai people) is the well known linguist, G. A. Grierson’s “Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. III, Part III, published in 1904". Through careful and elaborate comparisons of the various languages spoken in India and Burma he demonstrated clearly the dialects spoken by the Zomi are a distinct language group under the Assam-Burmese branch of the Tibeto-Burman family of languages.
Apart from the above scholars, every writer of note dealing with one or more sections of the Zomi has noted the homogeneity of the tribe. These include Stephen Fuchs, F. K. Lehman, B. C. Chakraborty, S. K. Chaube, B. B. Goswami, H. K. Barpujari, etc among outsiders writing in English, and among Zomi writers Pastor Liangkhaia, R. Vanlawma, Lalthangliana, T. Gougin, Dr. Tualchin Neihsial, Mangkhosat Kipgen, Vum Kho Hau etc. all speaks of the cultural, historical and traditional homogeneity of Zomi Tribes.
The nationality of Zomi as a distinct racial stock can be elaborated on the following points:-
Common Political Aspiration
Geographical Contiguity and