Joint Memorandum submitted to
Shri Narendra Modiji,
The Honourable Prime Minister,
Government of India, New Delhi.

Prayer for a Sustainable and Acceptable Political Solution
for the indigenous Zo people (Chin-Kuki-Mizo/Zomi)
 in present Manipur

Submitted by

Civil Societies and Political Parties of Mizoram
Comprising of Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA);
Mizoram Upa Pawl (MUP), Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP);
Mizo Zirlai Pawl [(Mizo Students’ Association) (MZP)]; Mizo Students’ Union (MSU);
Zo Re-Unification Organization (ZORO); Bharatiya Janata Party, Mizoram State (BJP - Mizoram); Indian National Congress, Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC);
Mizo National Front (MNF); Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) and Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) on July 13, 2017

To,

Shri Narendra Modiji,
The Honourable Prime Minister,
Government of India, New Delhi.

Hon’ble Sir,

This joint memorandum is a desperate prayer submitted by the civil society organizations and political parties of Mizoram comprising of the Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA), Mizoram Upa Pawl (MUP); Mizo HmeichheInsuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP); Mizo Zirlai Pawl [(Mizo Students Association)(MZP)]; Mizo Students’ Union (MSU) Zo Re-Unification Organization (ZORO);Bharatiya Janata Party, Mizoram State (BJP-Mizoram); Indian National Congress,Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC); Mizo National Front (MNF);Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) and Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) to bring
to your kind attention the plight of our people in present Manipur – the indigenous Zo
people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) living in the undisputed ancestral territory of the Zo
descendants – their ever-worsening and continuously withering state of relationship with
the dominant Valley-dwelling Meiteis, and the need for the Government of India to take
immediate necessary steps to bring about a sustainable and lasting solution for ourbrothers.

The unending cries of our indigenous Zo brothers in the present Manipur following the public outburst due to the passing of the three anti-tribal bills by theManipur Legislative Assembly on August 31, 2015, namely, the Protection of ManipurPeople Bill, 2015, the Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment)Bill, 2015 and the Manipur Shops & Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015 thatled to the death of innocent Zo brave hearts has still been conveniently ignored by boththe Manipur Government as well as the Government of India in Delhi; their mortal remains still await an honorable burial and a solution acceptable to the indigenous tribalpeople, especially the Zo indigenous people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi).

We, the various civil societies and political parties of Mizoram, through this jointrepresentation would like to highlight the following issues and grievances concerningour Zo brothers in present Manipur, and bring to the fore the ever-worsening distress of our brothers for their self-determination, with the desperate hope for the Government of India to arrive at a sustainable and acceptable solution for the indigenous tribal people inpresent Manipur in general, and the indigenous Zo people in particular:

I. THE ZO PEOPLE OF PRESENT MANIPUR – HISTORICALLY

DISTINCT ENTITY
The indigenous Zo tribes of present Manipur are distinct from the Valley-dwelling majority Meitei community in every spheres of life – ethnically,culturally, linguistically and socially. Indeed, the Zo people (Kuki-Chin- Mizo/Zomi) living in the present Manipur are one and the same with the Mizo of Mizoram and the Chin of Myanmar’s Chin State and hardly share anything in common with the Meiteis of Manipur Valley, except the fact that they all happen to be grouped under the same state administration. In fact, the present Manipur is a mere British colonial constructwhich is the result of the forcible grouping together purely for administrative
convenience the erstwhile southern Naga Hills, eastern North Cachar Hills, northern
Chin Hills, north-eastern Lushai/Mizo Hills and the Manipur/Imphal valley.

In fact, it is the inclusion of the Northern Zo territories which is in the present Manipur under the princely state of Manipur by the British that marked the beginning of the marginalization and subjugation of the Zo people (Chin-Kuki-Mizo/Zomi) in present Manipur. With the extension of the boundary of Manipur in 1890 which included the Northern Zo territories (as it exists today) th eManipur/Meitei forces were given a free hand by the British to subdue the hill tribes.

Mackenzie had clearly stated how the Manipur forces were encouraged to subdue thehill tribes:“Shortly afterwards [after Gambhir Singh was put up on the throne ofManipur], the British Government discontinued the payment of the ManipurLevy [of 2000 strong], but still furnished ammunition for the reduction ofrefractory hill tribes; and further supplied 3,000 muskets and sets ofaccoutrements, on the condition that the Rajah should raise the Manipur
Levy to the same number.” Mackenzie 1884, 150.

Even after the Northern Zo territories and the rest of the hill areas of present Manipur were included as a part of Manipur State, it continued to be indirectly ruled
by the British Political Agent of Manipur through some hill lambus, with the Meitei
King having no authority over it. The brutal manner in which the Manipur forces have
chosen to subdue and suppress the hill peoples led to the Zo Gal or Kuki Rebellion of
1917-1919, after which the State’s administration was extended to the hills with thecreation of four sub-divisions administered by British ICS Officers; this arrangement continued till India gained its independence in 1947.

Moreover, the Meitei King never considered the indigenous Zo territories as a part of Manipur State. When the question of federating Manipur State with the British Crown came in 1939, the Meitei King “agreed in a letter” dated July 21, 1939 “to federate on terms which covered the exclusion of the Hills from his direct control.” In other words, the Meitei King wanted to federate only those areas he actually controlled and ruled, i.e., the present Manipur’s valley area, and the term Manipur was used to refer to the same valley region only.

“According to the British plan, all the three columns were to meet at Manipur (i.e. Imphal) on 27 th April, 1891… Immediately after taking Manipur (now called Imphal)…” R.K. Jhalajit Singh, The War of 1891 – Manipur’s Last War of Independence, Manipur Today Special Issue, April 23, 1994, Vol. XV No.2 An old map of Manipur with the boundaries defined by Sir James Johnstone, the British Political Agent of Manipur from 1877-1886 clearly showed that the entire present Churachandpur District was under the ‘Lushai Tribes’ (of the Lushai/Mizo
Hills and Chin Hills) and not a part of the then Manipur (Appendix I).

It may be noted here that the merger agreement signed by the Manipur/Meitei King with the Indian Union on September 21, 1949 covered only his territory measuring a mere 700 square miles (26,500 hectares) and did not cover the ancestral territories of the Zo chiefs and their subjects, because the Manipur King was not a representative of the Zo people who had authority to act on their behalf, and the Zo tribes were not his subjects.

“The chiefs are the lords of the soil within their boundaries, and, if any alien wishes to enter a chief’s territory and work his land, they must pay him the customary tithes.”

Betram S. Carey & H.N. Tuck, The Chin Hills Volume I The Zo chiefs, and not the Meitei King, were the true lords of the soil within the territories they occupied, ruled and governed, collecting taxes and levies from their subjects independently. As such, with the Zo territories never falling under the suzerainty of the Meitei King, he has no moral right or authority to act on behalf of the Zo people.

II. MARGINALIZATION OF THE ZO PEOPLE (CHIN-KUKI- MIZO/ZOMI) THEN AND NOW
Colonial Manipur has done practically nothing for the development and progress of the Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) in Manipur in spite of the Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) contributing large amounts of revenue in the form of hill house tax into the State Treasury and similar amounts in the form of mandatory labour services. For instance, J.E. Webster, Chief Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Assam wrote in 1919 to the Government of India that “the revenue derived directly from the hill tribes as house tax consists of about Rs.70,000 a year, while the expenditure on the hills has hitherto ranged between Rs.17,000 and Rs.19,000.” He also reported that the hill areas were practically without roads, schools, garrisons and so on. He categorically stated that such State apathy was the main cause of the Zo Gal or Kuki Rebellion of 1917-1919.

The political, social and economic marginalization of the hill tribes in general and the Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) in particular continue unabated under Manipur State even after India’s independence. The apartheid system of segregation and discrimination on ethnic and geographical lines that centred on the hill-valley divide is profound and intrinsic to the official policy of Manipur Government. All the important infrastructure and institutions of higher learning are concentrated in the Valley area while most Government-owned and managed educational facilities and infrastructures in the hills are languishing in a state of neglect. The Manipur University (MU), the Central Agricultural University (CAU), the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS), the National Institute of Technology (NIT), the Manipur Institute of Technology (MIT), the Government College of Technology (GCT), the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELT), the College of Agriculture (COA), all are located within the 2,238 sq. kms. Valley area in and around Imphal. This has contributed to a substantial increase in the Meitei literacy rate and placed the educational status of the community decades ahead of their tribal counterparts, thereby consolidating the Meitei community’s capacity to dominate the political, educational, employment, trade and commercial arena in present Manipur.

III. THE NEED FOR ZO SELF-DETERMINATION IN PRESENT MANIPUR

The indigenous Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) in present Manipur are a threatened community who are being assaulted with wave after wave of the dominant Meitei community’s plan of using the Manipur Government to accomplish their intrinsic policy of cultural and social subjugation, political marginalization and developmental exclusion of the Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) in their very own ancestral lands. The three anti-tribal bills passed by
the Manipur State Assembly on August 31, 2015 are manifestations of this divisive policy:

i. The Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015: Questions the identity of the indigenous Zo people and attempts to brand them as foreigners in their own ancestral lands.

ii. The Manipur Land Revenue & Land Reforms (Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2015: Attempts to annex Zo territories by placing the absolute authority over Zo land rights to the Manipur Government.

iii. The Manipur Shops & Establishments (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015:

Tries to transfer absolute power and authority over Zo tribal economy to the Meitei-dominated and controlled Manipur Government.

The true intent of the three anti-tribal bills are to undermine the authority of the ‘autonomous’ tribal district councils and render them totally toothless, transfer all power and authority to the communal Manipur Government, and are nothing short of a cunning and divisive ploy to grab tribal lands, and a shrewd tactic to take over the meagre constitutional rights and entitlements of the hill tribes.

The communal mindset of the Manipur Government further exposed itself through their repeated attempts to pass a fresh bill that is deviously similar to the withdrawn Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015 while outrightly refusing and ignoring the cries of the Zo descendants in present Manipur as well as the other tribes for a dialogue with the State Government to bring about a sustainable solution acceptable to the tribal people in present Manipur. The last time the Joint Action Committee Against Anti-Tribal Bills (JAC) team, the committee that was endorsed by various tribal apex bodies to spearhead all issues pertaining to the three anti-tribal bills including separate administration (Appendix II), was invited for talks with the State Government was on December 29, 2015 wherein the JAC team was told that the dialogue will be resumed in the coming new year (2016) once a document detailing the anti-tribal nature of the three bills was submitted to the Government; the same was submitted on January 11, 2016 by the JAC and has been waiting for invitation for talks from the Manipur Government ever since.

In addition to the anti-tribal bills, the age-old yearning of the dominant Meitei community to annex Zo tribal territories and grab the meagre rights and privileges of the tribal people became all the more evident in the Meitei community’s demand for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes list. This is purely an attempt by the dominant community to grab the remaining 31% reservation enjoyed by the tribal peoples while at the same time pave the way for the communal State Government’s complete annexation of all tribal territories as well as the long-cherished dream of the dominant Meitei community to usurp all possible Constitutional rights and privileges entitled to the indigenous tribal peoples.

The new wave of marginalization and subjugation of the indigenous tribal peoples in present Manipur by the Manipur Government that began with the passing of three anti-tribal bills have now revealed itself in the form of undermining the rights of the tribal students regarding admissions to the State’s lone university – Manipur University.

CONCLUSION

The plethora of issues, problems, concerns and apprehensions that has engulfed the indigenous Zo descendants in present Manipur are not stray incidents or issues but are the result of carefully conceptualized plans and shrewd policies of the Meitei-controlled communal Manipur Government and vehemently backed by the Meitei civil society to grab the paltry constitutional privileges bestowed on the Zo people, including their ancestral territories in present Manipur. The inseparable social, linguistic and cultural ties of the Nagas and the Zo kindred tribes of present Manipur with the Nagas of present Nagaland and the Mizos of present Mizoram respectively cannot be discounted, nor can we afford to overlook the unrelenting aspiration of the indigenous tribal peoples in present Manipur to integrate with their respective brethren in the north (Nagaland) and the south (Mizoram).

And with the Indo-Naga Framework Agreement anticipated to be reaching its final concluding stage sooner than later, the apprehension and anxiety of the Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) in present Manipur. An intense feeling of insecurity has engulfed the Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) with growing fears that they will be left behind to fend for themselves at the hands of the dominant Meitei community.

The Mizo Accord signed between the Government of India, the Government of Mizoram and the Mizo National Front on June 30, 1986 stated that in regard to the question of unification of the Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) “inhabiting areas of other States to form one administrative unit ” raised by the Mizo National Front delegation, the Accord stated that, “Article 3 of the Constitution of India describes the procedure in this regard but that the Government cannot make any commitment in this respect.” (Appendix III) Given the above, we truly believe that until and unless proper Constitutional Protections by way of Separate Administration of the Zo ancestral territories specifically and exclusively for the indigenous Zo tribes of present Manipur are put in place and implemented without any interference from Manipur Government, the already disoriented, highly volatile and destructive state of relationship and existence between the Zo people and the Meiteis is set to get worse by the day.

Therefore, we strongly recommend the following:
1. That, for a sustainable solution to the strife-torn corner of North East India, a political solution in the form of separate administration for the Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) in the present Manipur at the same status as that of the Nagas be made outside the ambit of the Manipur Government, and a process be initiated for fulfilment of the enduring desire of the Zo people (Chin-Kuki- Mizo/Zomi) in the present Manipur to be integrated under the same administration with their Zo brothers of present Mizoram which is apparently being done in the case of Nagas.

That, the Government of India must ensure that no ancestral Zo territory be left behind under the Manipur Government to be further subjugated and marginalized by the Valley-dwelling and dominant Meitei community.

We see the above as the only truly sustainable solution to solve the ever-worsening imbroglio that overwhelms our Zo brethrens in present Manipur, and pray that you will not remain a mute spectator to the marginalization, suppression and annihilation of our people, our ancestral lands and our way of life, and earnestly seek your immediate intervention in this regard.

Yours sincerely,

           (LALBIAKZUALA)                            (RK THANGA)
                   President                  President
Central Young Mizo Association             Mizoram Upa Pawl

                   (SAIPUII)                                     (LALSANGZUALA NGENTE)
                   President          President
Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl             Mizo Zirlai Pawl

(RB LALMALSAWMA)                   (R SANGKAWIA)
           President                       President
  Mizo Students’ Union          Zo Re-Unification Organization

          (Prof. JV HLUNA)             (LAL THANHAWLA)
                  President     President
Bharatiya Janata Party – Mizoram     Indian National Congress
                                                            Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee

(ZORAMTHANGA)                                (LALHMANGAIHA SAILO)
         President                        President
Mizo National Front                                Mizoram People’s Conference

      (LALDUHOMA)
           President
Zoram Nationalist Party


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