In 1824-’26, Lord Amherst waged the Anglo-Burmese War. This was followed by the Treaty of Yandaboo on February 24, 1826 by which Assam, Arakan and Tennessarim were annexed to the British India Empire. In 1834 another Treaty was signed between the King of Burma and the British representative, Captain Permberton, in which an imaginary line was drawn through the Zo country. Thereby the hilly regions of the present eastern and southern Manipur were to be looked after from Manipur. Then, with the partition of Burma from India in 1937, the line became the India-Burma boundary. This boundary effectively divided the Zomi between two British administrative units, one in Burma and the other in India. The dividing line however means nothing to the Zomi. In the words of Alexander Mackenzie,
“..according to the boundary laid down by Captain Pemberton, contained in the Treaty of 1834, part of the Sootie (Zomi) tribes at present live in Manipur and part in Burmese or independent territory”
He went on to remark that,
“So far as our records show, the Burmese government do not appear even to have exercised any control over the Sooties (Zomi) to the south of the Manipur boundary line. The whole tribe seems to be practically independent, and not to have been affected at all by the Treaty of 1834….no Burmese officers appear to have ever taken charge of this tract of territory under the fifth Article of the Treaty, and the Burmese and Manipuris alike appear to have treated the Sooties (Zomi) as wild and hostile tribes not amenable to their territory”
Nevertheless, the Zomi became divided as boundaries were drawn across their traditional homelands by the British colonizers without the consent of the people.
In the case of the present-day Mizoram, the Lushai Expedition of 1871-72 brought the Lushai Hills under the British rule from 1889. In 1891, the British created the South and North Lushai Hills district, each district under a Superintendent or Political Officer. The South was administered from Bengal and the North from Assam. In 1898 the two districts were merged and the Lushai Hills was made a part of Assam. With the partition of Burma from India, in 1937, the Lushai Hills was ceded to India.
Thus, Zoland was fragmented into two: one segment went to Burma, the other segment to India. At that time, the Zomi in India and Burma were too illiterate and ignorant to have a conception about their future political destiny. They, in the true sense, were politically unconscious and subsequently some part of Zogam was annexed to Burma while the other part to India without their knowledge and consent and even concern. This can be regarded as the greatest blunder the British committed against the Zomi.
The partition of Pakistan from India in 1947 resulted in further fragmentation of the India segment of Zogam into smaller units. The Bordoloi Committee’s Report (July 1947) recommended that the Chittagong Hills Tract and the southern part of Tipper Hills be ceded to Bengal (now Bangladesh) thereby, further splitting the geographical areas inhabited by the ZO people. It may be noted here that, the Chittagong Hill Tract was administered from Bengal since 1860 through Act XXII of 1860, and inhabited mostly by Kuki-Chin groups (Zomi) such as the Bohmong, Chakma, Magh and Mro tribes who have their tribal origin in common with the Lushai. Therefore, the ceding of Chittagong Hill Tract to East Pakistan (Bangladesh) not only divided the Zomi but also created several serious problems for India. In this regard, SK Chaube remarks:
“The loss of the Chittagong Hill Tract created for India a number of problems. The Kuki-Chin solidarity over the southern part of Hill Tipperah, the Chittagong Hill Tract and the Lushai hills was broken, and intensified the kind of ‘irredentist’ feeling that had been growing among the people since the separation of India and Burma in 1937. In the absence of a natural boundary between the Lushai and the Chittagong hills, the area developed into a paradise for smugglers and outlaws.”
Vumson also remarks in the same line as:
“This action, once again, intensified the kind of irredentist feeling among the Zomi, that had been growing since the separation of India and Burma in 1937.”
Thence, one part of Indian Zogam went to Assam (now forming Mizoram), one part went to Manipur (forming Churachandpur and Chandel districts and, the Sadar Hills), another part went to Tripura, and Assam, and another part went to Pakistan (now Bangladesh) while the Burmese part formed the Chin State and part of Arakan, Magwe & Sagang division. The impact of this fragmentation on the Zomi was clearly pointed out by Carey and Tuck, thus:
“By the delimitation of the Manipur boundary How Chin Khup (Zomi Chief) lost several villages which his forefathers had conquered and which up to that time had paid him a nominal tribute…, The border line between the Chin Hills and Manipur has carved the Thado tribe (Zomi tribe) into two…”
Thus, ZOGAM was dismembered into several pieces through which the international boundaries of India, Burma and Bangladesh and the State boundaries of Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and Assam crisscross through. The ZO people were scattered and appended to these independent nations without the people being physically transported and emotionally integrated to, and without their knowledge and consent. In each of the countries they belong, they are inevitably minorities, convenient to be governed, subjugated and made aliens in their own land. They have been raided and massacred. Their humble habitations have been razed to the ground time and again. While they feel that they are moving within their own territory, they are treated as intruders, called treacherous people and jailed and punished severely. While they uphold their customs and traditions, they are being treated as violators of the law of the land, in the very land of their legends, poems and folksongs.
Today, the Zomi somewhat enlightened are not allowed self-determination and their own political destiny. They are deprived of their rights and privileges by being swamped by a dominant society. They are deliberately deprived of the economic development in each of the power they were appended to, and so their lands remains the ‘most backward,’ ‘the poorest’ and the ‘most secluded region’ in their respective countries. Laws, Acts and discriminating Rules were passed to exploit the people, the land and their natural resources which the Creator had gifted and preserved for them. And even in the dawn of the 21st century, they are not only suppressed and isolated but deceived and weakened by passing divisive Acts and Rules. The independence of India, Pakistan and Burma from the British has meant nothing to them. Instead, they added to their woes and dragged them deeper into bondage by restricting their freedom and liberty. More than a century has passed after their dismemberment and yet not a single part of their country has a railway line, an airport, a University (except Mizoram) a modern hospital, not to talk of industry! No one heeds their cry: it is inaudible, hushed by the lonely hills and lonelier vales. But they will never forget their land of freedom and can never rest till they are emancipated from bondage. Hence, re-unification of the scattered Zomi of India, Myanmar and Pakistan (now Bangladesh) has been the long cherished dream and desire of the Zomi.