After the end of the Treaty of Yandaboo, the British became the authority over sizeable parts of lower Burma while the remaining portion of Upper Burma was annexed by the British in 1886. During this period, the Zomi in Upper Burma (Eastern Zogam) were not under the control of any outside power. Neither the British nor the Burman Kings exercised any control over the Zomi. The formal relationship between the Zomi of Upper Burma and the British was established in 1887-88. At the close of 1887, the British sent four columns of troops into the Yaw country under Captain Eyre and Captain Raikes, the Deputy Commissioner of Chindwin District. Their primary duty was to contact the Zomi chiefs of the Chin Hills. Captain Raikes was able to meet some representatives of the Tedim and the Falam Chiefs and held a ‘durbar’ with the Sihzang chiefs at Kalemyo and also with the Tlaisun chiefs at Sihaung, in which they discussed various matters including the question of a British exploring party proceeding through the Chin Hills to Chittagong. The Zomi strongly objected to it and they asserted that the British could not go beyond the Thang range. On the 4th and 5th of May, 1888, a large party of Tlaisun Zomi crossed the boundary of Indin in the plain areas of Burma and made large scale raids on the plains of Burma. Khampat was destroyed on 29th October, 1887.
Recognising the threat from the Zomi, the Chief Commissioner of Burma asked the Government of India to give permission for a military expedition into the Hills. On the 16th November, 1888 the Government of India gave permission for the expedition. Immediately after getting the permission, the local government prepared for an expedition under the command of Brigadier General Faunce. The first encounter between the Zomi and the British forces took place on 7th December, 1888. The centre of action was Gangaw, an important town in the Yaw country, where the British had established a garrison of 170 men of the 10th Madras Infantry. It is said that the British gave military training to the villagers of the place with the objective of raising an army. However, the villagers turned against the British and an attack was launched on Gangaw itself for two consecutive days i.e. the 30th and 31st December, 1888.
Then, the British turned their attention to the occupation of Khawsak, an important Sihzang village. To check the move, a combined Zomi force consisting of 1,200 Sihzangs, 400 Kamhaus and 30 Suktes from Mualbem marched to Phatzang. At Phatzang and Leisan the British held their positions for some hours but were beaten and forced to retreat to the plains. However, the British came back with a larger force and attacked the Leisan stockade occupied by the Zomi forces. Sir George Struat White, the Commanding Officer of the expedition, spoke highly of the heroic fight of the Zomi. He described them as “the most difficult enemy to see or hit I ever fought.”
The British continued their advance on Khawsak with a strong force of 517 rifles. By the 6th March, 1889 they destroyed all the Sihzang villages and established their headquarters at Thuklai, which they called Fort White.
On 4th May, 1889 there was a fight between the British and the Zomi at a place called Siallum, which the British called “New Tartan.” The Zomi offered furious resistance from these stockades. Twenty-nine Zomi including Liankam, the Buanman chief gave their lives. The British loss one Officer with three men killed and ten wounded.
The British now turned their attention towards the Tedims whom they called “Kamhaus” and “Suktes”. An attempt for negotiation was made on the 24th February, 1889, but the Tedim Zomi refused the terms offered by the British. Then on March 9, 1889, Brigadier General Faunce attacked Tedim with a large force. The Tedim people offered determined resistance, most conspicuously in defence of their main village, Tedim, the town of Khochin, the greatest Chief of the Zomi. They fought ferociously in defence of their capital, wounding four sepoys and then setting fire to the village when they could no longer hold it.
In spite of repeated British attempts to subdue the Zomi of northern Chin Hills, the people of Khonou, Kamhau, Sihzang and Sukte refused to submit to the British. Kaikam of Khawsak moved his headquarters to Suangpi, from where he continued to organise his resistance movement against the British by destroying the area’s vegetable gardens. He also cut off the telegraph lines of the British. The Sihzang people moved into the jungles. From hiding places they tried to resist the advance of the British. The Kamhaus moved their administrative centre from Tedim to Tonzang.
Meanwhile, the period of peaceful relations between the Zomi in Western Zogam and the British ended. There were renewed raids on British subjects. On 2nd Feb 1888, Surveyor Lt John F Stewart along with two other Europeans and a sepoy were killed. Thus, another military expedition under the command of Col FVG Tregear was conducted in 1889. The expedition was successfully carried out with the punishment of several villages and the establishment of Fort Lungleh in the heart of the South Lushai Hills. This fort was connected by a road and telegraph line with Demagiri, Assam (in India).
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