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WHAT DOES THE TERM “CHIN” IMPLY? by~Dr.C.Thang Za Tuan
Dr..Thang Za Tuan  
WHAT DOES THE TERM “CHIN” IMPLY?

    Glad to receive that Stephen Kio forwarded Mungpi Suantak’s article on, ”What does the term “Chin” imply? “  with good-will for reflection and cogitation by all those feeling concerned for fraternity among us. Though the author admittedly dwelt solely on his personal opinions away from politics, it is a good piece of information for further evaluation by all. The author stated his frank views and opinion on the implications of the proper or misuse of the words “Chin” and “Zomi” in particular or in pros and cons historically. I really appreciate most of his statements. I would like to add a few more discerning points for the sake of promoting understanding, unity and fraternity among us in an unbiased manner through historical research study point of view.

    Historians, research scholars and former authors on the so called Chins revealed that those words, Kuki (for those living in India), Chin (for those living in Burma) and Lusei(Lushai) (for those living in the Chittagong tracts /Lushai Hills now called Mizo ram) are the imposed words used by the British colonist labeling to identify groups of similar ethnic fraternal people living in Northeast India and Northwest Burma and Chittagong Hill tracts on declaring India and Burma under the Queen Victoria’s dominion on January 1, 1886. These words were derived from the borrowed words casually given by their respective nearest neighbors in India and Burma without the knowledge of the people being addressed. These are the words that dishonor our unity and hinder living together under one nation till today.

Yes of course, the name ‘Chin’ was a legalized and enforced name labeled us by the British Colonist on the adoption of the “Chin Hills Regulation Act” in 1896 for those living in Burma. Though it was actually an alien and illegitimate word for the native people but forcefully imposed by the rulers, and it is still in use since the colonial time throughout the independent Burma for the formation of Chin Special Division in 1947, for the subsequent creation of Chin State in 1974 and also in the drafting of the third constitution in 2008.

Now is the transition period in Myanmar and an opportune time has come either to choose our true identity in our real name in our own language or continue on using the colonized term. The choice is rested on you and me presently.

    Long before 1886 or 1896 when the word ‘Chin’ was legalized by which we were known internationally as Chin, we called ourselves in our own respective main languages already, viz: Asho, Cho, Khumi, Laimi, Laizo, Matu, and Zomi etc. in equivalent to represent the word ‘Chin’. Also there are some names to represent sub-groups such as Mara, Sihzang, Thado, Zophei, Zotung and so on. Amongst the main tribal names there was a good number of reliable and documented records why our fore-fathers agree to identify ourselves by  Zomi (Zo Man)from time immemorial. To cite a few of those evidences: Rev. Father Sangermano:The Burmese Empire,1833; ST Hau Go et.al Zomi Baptist Convention,1953; Dr. Vum Ko Hau: Profile of A Burma Frontier Man,1963 p.211; U Thein Pe Myint: Withita Taing Tamaing Asa,1967,p.172; BSPP:Chin, 1968,p.35;Lehman: The Structure of Chin Society, 1963, p.7-10; Vum Son: Zo History, 1986; Aung San Suu Kyi: Freedom From Fear, 1991 p.57; Sing Khaw Khai: Zo People and Their Culture, 1995; T. Gougin: The Discovery of Zoland & Zomi History, 1980; Chin History Research Committee: A Concise Study of the History of the Chins and Their Culture and Traditions,2001, p.216; Prism of the ZO PEOPLE, 2008;  Khup Za Go: Zo Chronicles, 2008; ZORO: The Indigenous Zomi; ZNC Party (1990) & ZCD Party Registration, 2012; etc. are to be based. Therefore, our earlier socio-cultural and religious leaders discovered and confirmed Zomi as our true identity and even had dedicated to the Lord together as revealed in Chin Baptist history on forming Zomi Baptist Convention-ZBC in 1953 blessed by Rev. Sowards.  Allow me to reproduce Mungpi Suantak’s own words in his article. ”The essence of Zomi, as mentioned above, is different from the literal meaning of the word, because it recognizes the fraternity among the Chin people and stands as a proof of a common nomenclature. Therefore, it is totally misleading to identify Zomi with just the Tedim and Zo speaking groups because the term Zomi has rightfully represented all the different dialectic groups in Chin State.”  Thus, the fall of ZBC in April 2013 is dismantling the union of the people it has represented for over three scores.

    Both the Government and the hill people remained silent long after gaining our country’s independence on the issue of ethic national identity. It may probably be due to nescience, obedience to the Government and mutual trust among ethnic nationals of the union on reaching the historic Panglong Agreement for unity, fraternity equity and equality. However, with the advent of gaining independence, suspicion arose among the nationals of the Union after the country was declared Unitary Union deliberately on independence day in lieu of Federated Union as agreed upon by the great Panglong Agreement.  Especially, it reached another agitation for all nationals by the declaration on the Composition of the Different Ethnic Groups of those former five major national ethnic races existed on gaining independence (Kachin, Chin, Karen including Karenni, Shan and Bamar) and later as 8 Major National Ethnic Races declared  by the Socialist Government extending into 135 races for better or for worse as issued in The Political Situation of Myanmar And Its Role in The Region by the Office of Strategic Studies, Ministry of Defense, Union of Myanmar in 1997.

Monopolized and misused of the word ‘Chin’ also arose occasionally among the so-called Chins who seek asylum and refugee in other countries in the late 1990s by trying to restrict ownership of the term ‘Chin’ to themselves for seeking instant favoritism at the expense of their fellow blood brothers discriminately. This was further precipitated by the underground CNF who committed murderous crime and misdeeds in the past in our peaceful land to our kinsman which we have never seen before among us in modern time. We are quite a few numbers of people, knowing each other intimately even by name. This act of brutality remain as a scar straining for cohesion unless apology or reconciliation is reached to the relatives of the victims according to our good cultural and Christian religious manner for forgiveness of their misdeeds.

    No doubt that now is the prime opportune time to choose our true identity in our own   names or prefer to remain forever in the name given by others since the colonial days. Strike the iron while it is hot. Unprecedentedly, the present democratic Government is genuinely opening doors for us all, encouraging the ethnic nationals of Myanmar to reveal their true names in their own language for posterity. This opportunity similarly applies to the widely known nationals as Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Bamar, Rakhine and Shan. As for us, we should rather reveal our true identity in such manner as Asho, Cho, Khumi, Laimi, Mizo and Zomi etc. as popularly known for remaining unity in diversity as before. Care should be taken seriously not to include dialectical intonation based local names which does not qualify to be called a race, tribe or sub-tribe.

    In conclusion, to define narrowly Zomi as inclusive only of the Tedim, Tonzang, Cikha townships and Zomi dialect speaking groups only will nullify the essence of Zomis as our common name chosen by our religious leaders over half a century ago and  will deny the brotherhood of all the so-called Chins. Similarly, it would be extremely important for the Laimi (particularly the Hakha and Thantlang groups) to refrain from trying to restrict ownership of the term “Chin” to themselves and trying to call themselves in a newly coined hybrid name “Chinmi” and declare unilaterally Hakha language as the pseudo common language of the Chins without taking the consent of other brothers.

    Care should be taken not to repeat what we are prone to do things of short-term political gain or advantage against our conscience and our people due to our false pride and notion.

    The State we are now living in at present will remain to be known for the time being as Chin State until and unless we could change the name legally in Hluttaw through amendments in the Constitution.  No doubt that we will still remain as Chins in common similar to those countries having international names and domestic names but gaining legal recognition in our true names from now onwards.

    Many big tasks lie ahead to be solved together if we hold on together with the feeling of oneness in this globalised world. Nothing is impossible if there is a will. Let us appreciate and accept our lovely diverse dialects, colorful dresses and variety of cultural dances enriching us greatly in the future for identity and unity in diversity.

Dr. C.Thang Za Tuan,

Chairman

Chin History Research & Compilation Committee

Yangon

 


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