Adoption of Zomi Nomenclature
There is a clear consciousness among different sections of the people like students, cultural organisations, social units, church groups, political segments and various organisations about the absence of a popularly accepted nomenclature for the Chin-Kuki-Lushai people. One name after another was propounded but failed to get popular acceptance. This, inspite of the fact that they belong to the same ethnic group. So the terms, Kuki, Chin, or Lushai, or their combinations like Lusei-Kuki, Kuki-Chin, Kuki-Lusei-Chin or even acronyms like CHIKUMI( for Chin-Kuki-Mizo) or CHIKIM (for Chin-Kuki-Mizo) could not be firmly in the minds of the people, who intrinsically know that they are foreign terms having no meaning in any local dialects. Two wrongs or three wrongs can not make right. They cannot but help resist because they were imposed upon them by rulers and outsiders to be their identity, without their knowledge and readiness to accept them.
It is a fact of modern history that in the past Zo people identified themselves willy-nilly either as Chin or Kuki or Lushai in order to be accepted in Military services. Today things have changed. The search for an acceptable name that is not only popular, appropriate and meaningful but is the original name for a common identity of the Zo racial group ends with Zomi, after the progenitor, Zo.
The arguments for Zomi nomenclature have been dealt with extensively in the section on the generic name, and needs no further explanation. However, the manner in which Zomi gets maximum organisations pleading for its acceptance at various levels may be highlighted as under:
In Burma, a Committee was formed in 1953 to remove the existing confusion over names for a common racial nomenclature. After thorough research, the Committee realised that they were indeed descendants of Zo, and realised they had always called themselves - Zo, Yo, Yaw, Shou, Jo and the like from time immemorial. Thus, they unanimously recommended the term ‘Zomi’ for their racial nomenclature .This was subsequently adopted in a general meeting at Saikah village at Thantlang, Chin State (see documents). In 1983, after a gap of thirty years, the name Zomi was reviewed in a Convention held at Thantlang, where out of 434 delegates from different areas of the region, 424 voted in favour of the earlier 1953 recommendation . Today the term Zomi is widely used by various organisations like Zomi Baptist Conventions, Zomi Christian Literature Society, Zomi Baptist Press, Zomi Theological College, Rangoon University Zomi Students’ Association, Zomi Literature Upliftment Society, etc.
In 1988 the Burmese Government officially recognised the name Zomi as an ethnic group of the country, and formally accepted Zomi National Congress as a political party in Burma. In their proclamation, the Zomi National Congress wrote:
“We proclaim that the racial name ‘Chin’ should be done away with and Zou (Zo) must be re-instated to its proper place and status of racial identity.”
On the Indian administered areas, the Zo people rejected the name Lushai and changed it to Mizo (People + Zo) in the 1940s on realising the fact that their progenitor was Zo. All sections of Zomi were actively involved in Mizo Union movement at its initial stage. However, some sections gradually disassociated from the movement on the ground of linguistic imposition, and their suspicion was vindicated by the Peace Accord signed in 1988 which covered only Lushai speaking areas. Today Mizoram stands as one Zomi state within Zoland, the Zomi inhabited areas of the region.
In Manipur, the question of Zomi nomenclature was not an issue until the recent Kuki-Zomi conflict of 1997. In 1971, a political organisation called Zomi National Congress (ZNC) was formed at Daizang, Manipur. It was at the initiative of the party that the First World Zomi Convention was held at Champhai, Mizoram from May 19 -21, 1988. Thousands of delegates from around the world attended the Convention and declared that ‘the people of Zo ethnic group are descendants of one ancestor, Zo’. In early 1980s an awakening for common identity was aroused among Zomi intellectuals of Manipur. A wide ranging consultation was organised by Kuki-Chin Baptists Leaders during1981-83 .They published a book called, “In search of Identity” in which all the writers stressed on the homogeneous characteristics of the so-called Kuki-Chin-Lushai people, and recommended Zomi nomenclature. Dr H Kamkhenthang, the Editor of the booklet wrote thus:
“To me Zomi is an indigenous term having its own meaning to the people. This term remained buried in the stratum of socio-cultural layers of the people that is taking its own germination though retarded by the imposition of foreign terms to which the people respond externally.”
The Zomi Tribes, who are recognized by the Indian government under the Scheduled Tribes in India, would like to have a common nomenclature by which they should be known. Zomi being their original name, seven tribes from Manipur State – Gangte, Hmar, Paite, Simte, Tedim-Chin, Vaiphei, Zou adopted the name Zomi on June 26, 1993 at Pearsonmun, Churachandpur. One of the important resolutions reads thus:
“Common Identity: In the continuation of Zomi movement, the members felt the necessity of having a common identity with which all tribes can identify themselves without any reservation or hesitation for unity, solidarity and safety. The leaders present, therefore, adopted the name ZOMI for common identity which will take immediate effect from today.”
Today a large number of organisations have started in different parts of the world under the name Zomi viz. Zomi Christian Fellowship, Zomi Christian International, All Zomi Students’ Association, Zomi Welfare Society, Zomi Democratic Front, Zomi Christian Church, Zomi Inkuan, Zomi Nam Ni Magazine, Zomi Students’ Federation, Zomi Youth Association, Zomi Mothers’ Association, etc…Further more and more Zomi tribes realised the impropriety of calling themselves ‘Nation’ and while accepting Zomi as their national name effected a change in the naming of their tribe’s apex organisation, viz, Simte National Council was changed into Simte Tribe Council, Paite National Council to Paite Tribe Council, Gangte Tribes Union…..and more and more of such progressive changes are on the offerings among the tribes.
Thus, Zomi as the racial common nomenclature of all Zo descendants is an undeniable historical and anthropological fact. There is not an iota of bigotry when Zomi champion that ‘Zomi’ is the genuine national name of those who have been called Kuki-Chin-Lushai people by imposition. The remedy to having confusing names lies in calling ourselves Zomi, as Pu Dr. Vum Kho Hau, had pointed out:
“Had the word Kuki or Chin or Lushai been changed to ZOMI at that time, the right word for calling the various tribes and clans of the Zo race inhabiting the areas joining Burma, East Pakistan (Bangladesh) and Assam (India) would have been answered a long time ago.”
The era of truth and nationalism begin to dawn upon the Zomi. The name, Zomi, which remained inactive in the social, cultural layers and folksongs of the past, is now surfacing in the social, cultural, religious and political folds.