THE CHIN-LUSHAI EXPEDITION (1889-1890)

The British government was fully aware of the alarming situation which was created by the Zomi of the so called Chin-Lushai Land. Accordingly, on September 11, 1889, a decision was taken which was to change the course of the history of the Zomi. The policy hitherto followed i.e. merely sending punitive expeditions, was abandoned, and a new “policy of pacification through permanent occupation” was adopted. The expedition entrusted with the implementation of the new policy advanced from three directions, involving the governments of Bengal, Assam and Burma. The expedition was carried out under three Army columns:

The Lushai (Chittagong) Field Force under the command of Brig Gen FVG Tregear marched to Haka via Lunglei, linking up with the Southern Column.

The Chin (Gangaw) Field Force or the Southern Column under the command of Brig Gen WP Symons was sent by the Government of Burma to punish the Zomi of Chin Hills.

The Northern Column, also from Burma, under the command of Col GJ Skinner, marched towards the north.

The combined British forces consisted of 6,871 men, not counting the police groups supporting each column. It was well co-ordinated and was the largest expedition so far. The objectives of the expedition include — to punitively visit and subjugate certain tribes as yet neutral; to explore and open up the partly known country between Burma and Chittagong and to establish semi-permanent posts in the region so as to ensure complete pacification and recognition of British power.

The operation began in November 1889 and was successfully concluded five months later in March 1890. Considering the war-like character of the Zomi and the ferocity they had exhibited in their raids on the plains they put up surprisingly little resistance against the expedition. In fact, there was no opposition worth the name. The divided and feud-ridden Zomi community was not in a position to fight the superior British Forces. It was the ignorance of the power of the enemy and the necessity for common action in self-defense which enabled the expedition of 1889-’90 to achieve its objectives with far fewer casualties than had been anticipated.

The main work achieved in the expedition, apart from the rescue of the Chengri Valley captives, was to establish posts and organise communication. The Lushai Field Force established posts at Aijal (Aizawl) and Changsil, while the Southern column established Fort Tregear and improved Fort Lunglei.

On the administrative side, these operations led to the creation of the two districts of North Lushai Hills and South Lushai Hills, with Headquarters at Aizawl and Lunglei respectively. The North Lushai Hills became part of the Chief Commissionership of Assam, while the southern district was attached to Bengal (present Bangladesh). This is an example of fragmentation of Zomi and their land under British subjugation.

 

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