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RE-UNIFICATION MOVEMENT

After The British Rule : In Burma

Immediately after the signing of the Panglong Agreement of 12th February, 1947, the Zomi leaders in Burma realized that they had been stymied by the resolution. A mass meeting was held at Falam on the 20th February, 1947. The meeting was attended by Zo representatives from Tedim, Falam, Haka, Matupi, Mindat and Paletwa districts. At the meeting it was decided: a) to unite the six districts as Chin Special Division and b) the date February 20, be adopted as Zomi National Day, (This day is now observed as Integration Day by the Zomi in Burma and Manipur). The gathering also unanimously opined that the only alternative left for the Zomi in Burma was that freedom could be achieved more speedily if Zoland (Chinland) could exercise its right to secede from the Union of Burma at any time, as provided for in Section 201-204 of the Constitution of Burma (1947). It is a matter of history that such logical and constitutionally provided for clause/conditions received a major set-back with the assassination of AungSan. The silence of the Burmese Government led to a sense of insecurity among the Zomi in Burma. So once more mistrust of the Burmese arose. In the midst of such mistrust and insecurity, the U Nu-Atlee Agreement, which granted Independence to Burma, was signed on October 17, 1947.

To allay the Zomi’s fears, the first Constitution of Burma created a Special Division of Zomi dominated areas comprising of the Chin Hills District and Arakan Hill Tracts.

With the creation, in theory, the Constitution respected the distinctive identity of the Zo people, but the economic well-being of the Zomi continued to be in the hands of the Burman. The Burmese central Government controlled education, finance, revenue, police, defence, foreign policy, economy and trade. The Ministry of Chin Affairs had no say in the development projects in the National Planning Commission. The money allotted every year for certain projects was not channelised through the Ministry of Chin Hills but through the government departments in which the Chin Hills Ministry had little say. Thus the funds rarely reached the Chin Hills and the Zomi remains backward till today.

Mistrust gave way to open antagonism against the Burmans when they emphasized integration of Burma through introduction of Burmese as the national language. The colleges and Universities were prohibited to teach the language of the frontier people. In addition, the Burmese suppressed the existence of histories, cultures and customs by neglecting to put these as integral parts of the curriculum of Schools and Universities. The Burmese language was taught in schools from the first standard whereas the Zomi language was taught only upto the fourth standard.

What the non-Burman Nationalities of Burma always remember is that, in the first place, they had agreed to join the Burma Union being convinced by Aung San and in the belief that there would be racial harmony and equal racial treatment. Instead, the Zomi experienced complete domination when the Burmans who quickly changed their attitude after being given Independence. The resources of the Zo country were exploited for the development of Burmese areas alone at the cost of neglecting the Chin Hills. Another clear case of discrimination was in the number of Burman officers in the Burmese Army, above the rank of Battalion Commander. Their number, during the British rule was negligible. But within the second year of independence almost all ranks were filled in by the Burmans only. From these discriminatory acts, the Zomi felt betrayed, deceived and thwarted by the Burmans.

Resentment among non-Burman students of Rangoon University was further aroused with the introduction of Buddhism as the state religion. Consequently, the youths of the Shan state demanded secession from the Union of Burma according to the provision enshrined in the Constitution. When it was refused, they started an armed rebellion, which, even after 50 years is still alive today.

The Zomi in Union of Burma happened to request for a change of name from ‘Chin Hills’ to ‘Zomi State’. This was rejected by the Revolutionary Government, the SLORC, while drawing up the new Constitution which was newly adopted on December 15, 1973. Refusal of such a minor demand aroused patriotic feeling among the Zomi in Burma who came to realize that they would never be secure under the Burmese Union. Separatist seeds began to sprout, especially with the high handedness of the cruel military dictatorship of post 1973 which only added injury to the insult of the rejection of the request for the name, ‘ZO State’. Any kind of democratic movement by the Zomi was nipped in the bud. So some Zomi leaders clandestinely and individually worked for independence of Zomi inhabited areas. Notable among the movements and their leaders were:

The Chin Liberation Army was formed in the early 1970’s. The CLA was about a hundred strong and were in contact with Zomi Nationalist groups in Southern Chin State. In June 1976, a group of CLA, under the leadership of William Salianzam marched from Kachin dominated area towards the Northern Chin State. They intended to establish a base at the Zomi strongholds along the Bangladesh border and from there begin to organize a movement. Unfortunately they bumped into NW Command of the Burmese Army on Kalemyo-Tedim Road. Salianzam decided to surrender, believing they would receive trial.

The Burmese Army unit instead took them into the Zomi dominated countryside and there they were mowed down with machine gun fire. Only one man escaped the massacre. He had been hit in the eye and left for dead. He managed to crawl away and, for a brief while lived to tell the gory tale. But on learning that there was an escapee, the army hunted him down and shot him in the back like a dog. Thus the early bid for freedom by the Chin Liberation Army (CLA) was brutally crushed.

In the mid 1960’s Chin National Organisation (CNO) was launched by Hrangnawl and Son Cin Lian, both former Members of Parliament. In 1964 Hrangnawl organized a secret mission to Rangoon and approached the Embassies of USA, Great Britain and India. He co-ordinated with Son Cin Lian in Tedim, who, accompanied by Thualzen, a former army Sergeant, begun organising the nationalist movement in Tedim. They received overwhelming support from the youth who envisioned a Zomi Sovereign State. Son Cin Lian and Thualzen headquartered at Tuisan Camp. They had one stengun and ten rifles. From Tuisan camp, Hrangnawl went to New Delhi where Indian officials told him that the Zomi politicians would be given sanctuary on the condition that they were to refrain from political activities and to stay within 25 mile border zone, so as not to embarrass India’s relationship with Burma. He was further assured that as long as all the conditions were fulfilled, the Indian government would give the financial assistance. Hrangnawl then went to Shillong to meet with officials of the Assam Government. Here he met up with his colleagues Ralhmung, Hunhre and Rothang.

Son Cin Lian also decided to go to New Delhi and meet the Indian authorities. When Son Cin Lian met the Indian officials they wanted the leaders of the movement to name one man with whom they could deal. Son Cin Lian came back to Champhai and the movement selected Hrangnawl as the leader of the group. However, this understanding suffered a set back after the attack of Haka by CNO Volunteers. The Indian government quickly stopped their financial assistance to the self-exiled Zomi leaders-Ralhmung, Rothang, Son Cin Lian, Pa Cung Nung and Thualzen. These leaders sought shelter at places like Singngat and Lamka in Manipur. In this way re-unification movement under Hrangnawl and Son Cin Lian came to an abrupt end.

Other great initiators for the re-unification and freedom of Zomi were Ex-Lieutenant Colonel Son Kho Pau, Dam Kho Hau, Mangkhanpau and Tunkhopum. When the Burmese took over power in Burma, Lt. Col. Son Kho Pau decided to oppose and overthrow the military regime and build a free independent unified Zo sovereign state. To start with he and a few followers proceeded to Nagaland to meet the leaders of the Naga National Council. He expected to gain support from Naga leaders as they had recognized him as a reliable friend and one who had given assistance to the Naga leader, Angami Phizo, when he was hunted by the Burma Police in the early 1950’s. Almost at the same time, Mang Khan Pau also went to the British and American Embassies asking for aid, and when he came to India to meet Indian officials, he also met Zomi leaders in Manipur and agreed with them to unite and fight for re-unification of Zomi. Lt. Col. Son Kho Pau returned to Champhai Camp from the Naga National Council Headquarters in the latter part of 1964. He arrived in a ragged condition with his clothes torn, and shoes worn out from walking through the jungles. There in Champhai (now in Mizoram) he met Tunkhopum, a radical Zomi leader from Manipur.

In the same year, Tunkhopum formed the Chin Liberation Army (CLA) and came to some understanding with some Paite leaders to fight for the re-unification of Zomi. He went underground and travelled to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) for aid. The Pakistani authorities recognized him as leader of the Chin (Zo) Nationalist Movement and promised him that they would train Zomi guerrilla fighters.

Although meeting for the first time in Champhai, Lt. Col. Son Kho Pau and Tunkhopum became good friends. With the approval of Hrangnawl and other leaders they decided to go to Pakistan to train some thirty fighters during the Second World War. They had no difficulty in recruiting Zomi youths.

On their way to Pakistan, Son Kho Pau and Tunkhopum formed the United Chin Government. Tunkhopum was made Prime Minister and Son Kho Pau, Minister of Defence. Hrangnawl was given the portfolio of Foreign affairs. After three months of training in Pakistan, thirty Zomi nationalists were ready for action. The Pakistanis informed the leaders of the movement at Champhai that the trained guerrillas were about to depart from East Pakistan and pass through the Arakan and Chin Hills where they would have to slip through outposts manned by the Burmese Army. It was decided that the Champhai group was to attack Falam, Haka and Tedim to (a) obtain money from the treasuries for buying arms and ammunitions and (b) distract the police and Army from the border areas where the party from Pakistan would have to pass.

The leaders then split up in two parties to attack Falam, Haka and Tedim simultaneously. Hrangnawl led a twenty strong party to attack Haka. They easily took the border town of Rih, which was held by a platoon of the Burmese Army. They did not take Haka, however, because word of an impending attack was leaked to the authorities two hours ahead of their arrival. When they reached Haka, the police were in defensive positions and the nationalists were driven back. In the cross-fire a treasury clerk was killed.

The party to attack Tedim was 700 strong and was led by General Thualzen, a Commander-in-Chief of the movement. This group was equipped with only a few light arms, but even so it would have been easy to take Tedim. However, in-stead of attacking Tedim, Thualzen and his lieutenants met Colonel Vankulh, Commander of the Burmese Army, North-West Command, and Thawng Cin Thang, the Commissioner of the Chin Special Division. Vankulh and Thawng Cin Thang, themselves Zomi, reasoned with the nationalist that the uprising would only cause hardships for the Zomi public. Vankulh and Thawng Cin Thang also promised amnesty to the nationalist group if they would lay down their arms. They unwillingly did so. But had Thualzen fought he would have received assistance from the villages to which he had earlier sent messenger who had been well received. The villagers had decided to support the nationalist as since 1964, there had been growing discontentment and antagonism against the repressive Burmese military regime. After being persuaded, Thualzen and his followers agreed to return to their villages. However, contrary to the promise given them the Burmese government ordered the arrest of all persons taking part in the anti-government movements. Thualzen and his followers went underground. The Burmese Army could still round up the majority of the nationalists and put them into jail in Monya. There they spent eight years in confinement. However, a group of the movement also attacked Singngat Police Station in Manipur in 1964.

The surviving leaders of the movement met in Champhai, Mizoram. Col. Son Kho Pau and Tunkhopum with thirty trained people were there, having returned from Pakistan without much difficulty. Col. Son Kho Pau was then sent with two armed men to meet the leaders of the Naga National Council, but on his way to Nagaland he was arrested by the Assam Rifles. Son Kho Pau did not reveal his true identity and gave his name as Thuantak. He was put in prison in Imphal. Damkhohau later revealed his true identity to the Indian authorities.

Now, Tunkhopum was alone. The Mizo National Front (MNF) needed the services of Tunkhopum because Pakistani officials recognized him as the leader of the Zomi freedom movement. The Pakistanis wanted Tunkhopum’s approval before they gave assistance to the MNF. Tunkhopum, however, differed with the MNF leaders. He and about thirty followers were disarmed by the MNF and were kept at MNA Headquarters. After a year with the MNF he was killed in a shooting accident. The killing of Tunkhopum caused a strong resentment among the Zomi in Manipur, and, consequently, were reluctant to join the MNF Movement.

Explanations from the MNF, regarding the incident, took decades to bring about Zomi reconciliation.

To add woes to the Zomi movements, Son Kho Pau and other Zomi nationalist leaders who had been arrested in India were handed over to the Burmese government. They were put in prison without trial for more than eight years. Son Kho Pau spent ten years in prison. Hrangnawl and Damkhohau spent eight years, although at the end of their sentence, the Burmese told them their sentences had been only for six years. Hence the re-unification movement led by Tunkhopum, Col. Son Kho Pau, Mangkhanpau and Damkhohau were suppressed.

Now, almost all the earlier movement leaders for the re-unification of Zomi had left this world, but their names shall be remembered when the dawn of Zomi freedom breaks. Today, the Zomi National Congress of Burma, Zo Re-Unification Organisation and Zomi Re-Unification Organisation are untiringly pursuing the cherished dreams of the Zomi as envisioned by the departed leaders.