The Mizo Accord signed in 1986 was both historic and euphoric for the Zomi because it gave birth to the only democratic Zo state in the world. However, the same Accord also told of the incompleteness of the Zomi Re-unification process. The Zomi outside the erstwhile Lushai Hills (now Mizoram) felt left out as their ultimate political goal of “unification and integrity” had been sacrificed at the altar of a limited state for a limited Zomi of a limited area.
In order to fill the vacuum created by the Accord, the Zomi National Congress of Manipur under the leadership of Pu T Gougin, and the People’s Convention of Mizoram under Brig T Sailo, jointly organised the First World Zomi Convention. This most emotional of Zomi gathering so far, was held at Champhai from May 19-21, 1988 and was attended by representatives from all Zomi inhabited areas of the world. The delegates resolved to form a loose political forum called the “Zomi Re-Unification Organisation” (the name ‘Zomi’ was subsequently replaced with ‘Zo’ omitting ‘mi’, in 1991, thus ZORO). The organisation rekindled hopes to the Zomi Nationalists who had been crying to integrate with their brethren living on the other side of the existing international boundaries. However, the organisation gradually lost its mass appeal once the constituent party, ZNC and PC, fought State Elections in Manipur and Mizoram respectively. This was against the Charter of Agreement, 1988 and led to another vacuum in the process of Zomi Re-unification.
Meanwhile, the Zomi in Burma suffered innumerable hardships in the hands of the Military Junta. The Zomi outside Mizoram state also suffered hardships of varying degree and in different forms. Their culture, language and religion were in danger of being assimilated into the dominant society, and their very existence as a distinct nation was under grave danger of extinction. Awareness of the danger of their position and the inevitability of their eventual demise—unless they are united—has greatly increased. Compelled by the dangers, the Zomi leaders of India and Burma organised a series of wide ranging consultative meetings, eventually leading to the formation of an all encompassing forum for re-unification. Thus, the Zomi Re-unification Organisation (ZRO) was formed in April 1993 at Phapian (Kachin State), Burma with the blessing of Zomi Church leaders, tribe leaders, and Zomi nationalists, both from India and Burma to carry forward the integration movement until an honourable and respectable solution is reached. Pu K Guite, a Zomi leader from Karbi Anglong (Mikir Hills of Assam), is the founder President of the organisation.
It may be noted here that the resurgent ZORO under the leadership of Pu R Thangmawia and Pu ST Parte strived to internationalise the Zomi cause, knocking at the doors of United Nations and its agencies for re-unification of Zo people. The ZORO and ZRO have, except in approaches and strategy, no difference in its basic objectives of unification and integration. The ‘Zo People’ of ZORO is synonymous with ZOMI (Zo + Mi = Zo + People) of ZRO in its meaning and content. The unification objectives of both the organisations will not be achieved if the international bodies do not understand and accept the fact that the Zo people are a distinct people. It will also be a distant dream if the Zomi do not organise themselves into a respectable forum to champion their just and right and humane cause. The nitty-gritty of unification needs to be worked out at all levels — local, national and international levels.
Today the mission for re-unification is echoing from every nook and corner of Zomi inhabited areas (Zogam/Zoram/Zoland), as a modern singer strikes a sentimental chord:
“In suih khawm leh zai i rel ang ű!”
(Free translation: ‘Lets strive for reunification in unison!”)
– Ms Daduhi
The ZRO’s appeal to all Zo descendants to ‘join hands and heads for re-unification of the already divided Zomi,’ received an overwhelming response from Zomi tribes and sub-tribes. Renewed effort to forget and forsake the spirit of narrow communalism and clanism, our most dreadful disease that obstructs the way to unification has begun in real earnest.
On September 2, 1995 the President and Secretary of Paite National Council (now Paite Tribe Council), Simte Tribe Council, Tedim-Chin Union, and Vaiphei National Organisation signed a ‘Charter of Agreement’ and agreed to struggle for re-unification of the Zomi under the banner of ZRO. In keeping with the age-old practice of the Zomi, the customary dish of “Oath of Loyalty”—
Sathin (Sasin) Salung (Heart-liver) – was partaken of by the leaders. In 2003, the apex organisation of Zou-te tribes, United Zoumi Organisation and the Mate Tribes Council also pledged their support for unification movement. The other cognate tribes who still use imposed names but accept that they are Zo descendants, also extend their support, and resulted in the formation of a loose forum called Indigenous People’s Revolutionary Alliance (IPRA) on May 9, 2000.