In the year 1917, the British again faced another problem from a different group of Zomi. This movement was known by different names. In the Chin Hills, it was called the Haka Movement. Another name was Zou Gal (Zoumi War). The Thadous called it Thadou Gal (Thadou War). However, in the official records of Manipur it was known as Kuki Rebellion. Despite the official name, the most popular name was Zou Gal.
The forced raising of the Labour Corps from these areas was the main cause of the outbreak of the movement. To suppress this uprising the British Government spent more than 20 lakhs of rupees. The Thadou chiefs, Zoute chiefs and the Haka chiefs were against this recruitment policy of the Government. Inspite of their strong protest, the British could manage to raise the first Manipur Labour Corps consisting of 2,000 Nagas and Zomi in the month of May, 1917 and they were sent away to France. From the Chin Hills 3,000 Zomi went to France and Subedar Mangpum was made the leader of the Zomi. Earlier 2,100 young men from the Lushai Hills District went to France voluntarily. In June, 1917, the Government again prepared to collect more volunteers but their policy was flatly refused by the Thadou chiefs in the month of September, 1917.
As a mark of protest against the British and to stop further recruitment, the Zomi in Manipur openly revolted against the British in the month of December, 1917. In Manipur, the rebellion spread like wild-fire, particularly in the Thadou inhabited areas—Jampi, Sangnao, Khauchangbung, Dulen and Laijang in the west; Chahsat and Maokot in the east; Mombi and Lonza in the south-east and Henglep and Loikhai (Ukha) in the southwest. The Chief of Aisan, Chengjapao, who was the “Piba” or head of the Thadous, sent orders to all the leading Thadou chiefs to resist the British with force, if necessary. A very important meeting was held at Jampi Village. The chiefs who attended the meeting were (a) Tintong Haokip, Chief of Laizang, (b) Khotinthang Sitlou, Chief of Jampi, (c) Songchung Sitlou, Chief of Sangnao, (d) Lamkholal Sitlou, Chief of Chongjang, (e) Letkhothang Haokip, Chief of Loikhai, (f) Vumngul Kipgen, Chief of Tujang, (h) Lhunjangul Kipgen, son of Vumngul and Enjakhup Kholhou of Thenjang, etc. The Thadou chiefs appointed Tintong Haokip as Field Commander of the war. Khotinthang Sitlou, the Chief of Jampi killed one Mithun to entertain the chiefs and “Sajam” was distributed to all the chiefs. Thus, a powerful conspiracy of the Thadou chiefs was established. And the Singson chief cut off the tail of a mithun as a mark of declaration of war against the British on behalf of his clan.
In response, between December 1917 and May 1918, three columns of the 3rd and 4th Assam Rifles were engaged in action. They burnt down a large number of villages and all the food grains and livestock were destroyed. But in spite of the ruthless methods employed by the columns of the Assam Rifles and their superiority in weapons and training, the rebel parties were able to inflict more casualties than they suffered. Towards the end of May, further operations in the hills became difficult and the forces withdrew to Imphal. In June-July, the British Government realised that military operations would be necessary to bring the matter under control and in the cold weather of 1918-1919, they started military operation. Such was their success that most of the chiefs began to surrender to the British.
In the south of Manipur, Hiangtam Fort was a noteworthy example where the Zou tribe of the Zomi picked up the gauntlet. The British soldiers fought hard for seven days continuously at the Hiangtam Fort. In this battle, Langzachin of Behiang and Goulun of Hiangtam village were the leaders of the Zomi.
In September 1917, the same type of rebellion broke out and spread in the Chin Hills area under the leadership of Vankio, the Chief of Zoukhua, who also declined to send volunteers for the British Labour Corps. He was joined by the Songte Chief of Haka and Lalwe, Chief of Thantlang. The activities of the rebellion very soon spread to the interior parts of Chin Hills. In early December 1917, Haka was blocked by the rebel party. They burnt down Government houses and the missionary hospital. The rebellion again spread to Zongling in Mindat and to the southern Lushai Hills, covering the upper Bawinu River to Wantu, Laitet and Ngaphai. In the meantime Shempu, a Zomi chief called on the Zomi of the upper Chindwin District and Somra Tracts to support the rebellion. However, the Thaungdut areas refused to do so and they extended their loyalty to the British. In any case, the rebellion led by Ngulbul, Pache, Tintong and Enjakhup continued from December 1917, to May 1919. The British took the rebellion very seriously.
To crush the rebellion, the British sent troops to Haka and to the Thadou inhabited areas. 18 villages were burnt down, and 600 guns were delivered to the British. Political control was resumed by the authorities in April, 1919 and in that month, an Advisory Tribunal was appointed in connection with the cases of the principal chiefs who were accused of involvement in the rebellion. Three persons, who were held mainly responsible for the rebellion, were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Nine chiefs were interned in the neighbourhood of Sadia in the Sydyia Frontier Tracts for a short period. Five of the Khuangli tribe of Falam were deported to Burma.
After the suppression of the rebellion the officials of the British Government turned their attention to the improvement of the administration of the hill areas. They were of the view that all the recent happenings were due to the irregularities in the hill administration, particularly in Manipur. Sir Nicholas Beatson Bell, the Chief Commissioner of Assam was inclined to hold that the most satisfactory solution would be to place the hill tribes directly under the Political Agent with powers equivalent to those of a Sub Divisional Officer. At the same time, he was not in favour of any move to annex the hills.
It was laid down that the President of the Sub-Divisional Officer shall try all cases (both civil and criminal) in regard to the cases of hill people. But in cases of capital punishment like death sentences, or transportation or imprisonment exceeding seven years, the Governor’s confirmation has to be obtained. His Highness the Maharajah of Manipur was to consult the British Political Agent in all matters pertaining to the hill tribes. The Darbar exercised no direct control, but from time to time it tried to claim more indirect control through its power over the budget.
In 1919, the entire area of Manipur was divided into four sub-divisions with their headquarters at: (a) Imphal, (b) Churachandpur, (c) Tamenglong and (d) Ukhrul. This arrangement continued till January 1, 1930 when an arrangement for the administration of the hill areas was contemplated. The whole area was immediately placed under the President of Manipur State Durbar with two Sub Divisional Officers to assist him, one being in charge of the South and the other of the North.
In the Chin Hills also, the British released all the six Haka chiefs and leaders who were actively involved in the rebellion at Tedim. Apart from this, the British also could acquire a sizeable un-administered areas lying between the Chin Hills (about 850 square miles in the Pakkoku Hills Tracts) and about 1,500 square miles in the Hill District of Arakan. In order to bring about a regulation in the hill administration, they appointed headmen to settle their disputes. On the other hand, they also collected tribute from the villages. They also fixed new boundary lines of the newly acquired areas.