Zomi Levies And The Japanese

Once Burma was overrun, the Chin Hills came under the immediate threat of Japanese occupation. In order to resist the Japanese and defend themselves a local defence force known as ‘Zomi Levies’ was formed by the British Civil Officers. Pu Vum Ko Hau, an employee of the British Government, together with the Deputy Commissioner of the Chin Hills, went from one place to another, to organize the defence force and to take up immediate measure to stop the advance of the invading force.

Accordingly, two groups of Levies, “A” and “B”, were established. The “A” Levy constituted of persons who were earlier in the army and survivors of actions in Burma. The “B” Levy was composed of military pensioners. The duty of the unit was to give proper defence in the villages. Besides these two Levies, a number of local levies were also established under different names: The Khualsim Levies, Sukte and Zaniat Levies.

Towards the end of 1942 the British troops had withdrawn from the Chin Hills. However, the Chin Hills remained protected by the members of the various local forces — the Chin Levies, the Chin Hills Battalion, the Chin Forces and the Chinwags.

Thus, without getting any support from the government members of the local levies were able to defend their areas till the end of 1943. British Officers had a very high opinion of the bravery of the Zomi whose defensive actions quite alarmed the Japanese forces who were camping near the Chin Hills.

Colonel Stevenson, Commanding Officer of the Zomi Levies Comments the remarkable contribution of the Zomi as,

“the loyalty of the Chin (Zomi) to me and my small handful of brother officers passes beliefs. At a time when the whole might of the Commonwealth was collapsing about their heads, they (Zomi) stood firm by our side facing the mortars and machine guns of the Japanese with shotguns and ancients flintlocks… with Chin (Zomi) of all ages, both men and women, accepted danger without hesitation… Their resistances to the Japanese in the critical years after 1942 may well have decided the fate of India, for the infiltration tactics which leads to the downfall of Burma were frustrated by their skills as jungle fighters.”

High-ranking Japanese officers soon recognised the activities of the Zomi. At the same time they also understood that an attack on the Zomi would not add to their cause. So between 1942 and 1943, they tried to win over the people by adopting a propaganda policy.

The Zomi refused to accept an appeal from the Japanese. Then in early May, 1943 the Japanese forces began to enter into the Chin Hills area. In spite of strong resistance from the Zomi, the Japanese forces occupied Khuikul. The Japanese forces crushed the 17th Division of the British Army and pushed them back in three directions – the west bank of Chindwin River, the Tamu area, and midway between the Imphal-Kohima roads. The focal objective of the Japanese forces was to beleaguer Imphal and gain mastery over the Imphal plains

Thence, the Japanese forces turned their full attention on Manipur. The Japanese 15th Army with the support of the Indian National Army (INA) led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, forced their way into Manipur from the Chin Hills and Chindwin valley. In the Chin Hills, all the Zomi were evacuated to safe places to save themselves from the Japanese forces. It would not be an untruth to surmise that the Zomi of the Tedim area in the Chin Hills suffered the most “for the cause of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” as well as “for the survival of mankind from the clutch of Fascist-Axis Powers” in the Global war. The Japanese army ruled over the Zomi area which they handled with kid-gloves for nearly two years till their final withdrawal from the mainland.

 

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