Anthropologists classified the ZO people to be Tibeto-Burman speaking Mongoloid race. From time immemorial they called themselves ZO ( YO, CHO, etc), but they are recorded and recognised by governments and the world in different names viz, Chin, Kuki, Mizo, Zomi, depending on the areas they occupy. The first two terms, being foreign to them; some among them are reluctant and opposed to bear the names while some accepted. Pu S.T.Haugo said they responded to CHIN out of necessity as the foreign term is externally applied to them. The same is true with Kuki.
The Zo people occupy an area about 96540 sq kms in the transborder areas of India, Burma and Bangladesh across international boundaries. This seperation by international boundaries prevented them to become one nation. Thus various attempts were initiated at different places and times to unify the Zo people, but it is still a dream yet to come true.
Prior to the coming of the British in their areas the Zo people lived in tribal groups under their chiefs in villages, independent of any outside control. Their chief wielded political and judicial powers in the village administration. Economically self-sufficient with their own products they maintained trade relations with their neighbours (Burmese, Bengalese etc) for few items which they cannot produce themselves ( e.g. iron, guns). They have unique customs and traditions based on their distinct culture broadly similar in all the villages. Their languages (classified to be Tibeto-Burman Group) have the same root though dialectical and local variances have evolved over a period of time. They waged inter-village/clan wars among themselves as ambitious chiefs wanted to extend their land/domain. The fight for cultivable land and the number of enemies captured or killed considered to testify valour which entitled the capturer to perform certain ceremonies may also be other causes of feud among themselves. Because of such clan/village feuds they are often considered to be belonging to different tribes.
After they brought the Zo areas under their control, the British administered them from different places (under the provinces of Assam, Bengal and Burma) for their own convenience. This have far reaching social, political and religious consequences (as Khup Za Go observes) as they bear different names in different places and loss the opportunity to have a common identity and become a nation. After the British left their areas in 1947/1948 the indigeneous Zo people became minorities in three countries viz, India, Burma and Bangladesh. Thus today they are in the Chin States, Hkhamti and Somra Tracts in Burma, the states of Mizoram and Churachandpur, Chandel, Kangpokpi, Tamenglong areas of Manipur, N.C.Hills, Cachar and Karbi Anglong areas of Assam, Jampui Hills, Udaipur and Karimganj areas of Tripura, Kohima district of Nagaland and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya in India and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Their population is estimated to be around two and a half million by Vumson.
A DREAM OF ZO UNIFICATION
As already pointed out the Zo people are better known by the world especially in literature as KUKI or CHIN and whether they like it or not they bear the names today.[click 4 what experts say 'bout em] Although they were recorded with various confusing terms, sometimes even the same term spelt in various ways they realised they are one descent i.e. ZO from which the terms Mizo or Zomi are derived. Attempt to explain ZO to be highlanders because they live in mountains/highlands is not acceptable to modern scholars. While some felt it correct and accepted the terms Zo, Zomi or Mizo some among them preferred the terms KUKI or CHIN and felt immaterial whether foreign or not as the world recognised them by the terms. However, all of them, irrespective of the terms they preferred felt the need to unify/reunify and talked and initiated unification movement in their own ways. But, being seperated by international boundaries they cannot freely interact, coordinate and work together for unification. Again the groupings amongst themselves based on dialectical lines and the various names in which they are recognised became so deep rooted that there is no common name that they can easily agree and accepted. So there is the need for coordination, cooperation and understanding among the various unification movements. Otherwise in the name of unification they will disintegrate more and more.
THE ZO PEOPLE IN MANIPUR(click here for NORTH EAST INDIA & MANIPUR)
In Manipur the Zo people are in the Lamka area (Churachandpur Dist.), Kangpokpi(Sadar Hills), Chandel Dist., some pockets of Tamenglong, Ukhrul, Senapati districts, the capital city of Imphal and Jiribam areas. They are interestingly recognised by the government as distinct tribes viz. Thadou, Hmar, Paite, Vaiphei, Simte, Gangte, Zou, Mizo, Kom etc. Their being recognized in small groups in disintegrate and weakened them as after the passage of about fifty years the common people believed they are totally seperate and distinct tribes. Again it is interesting to note some of them like Anal, Chiru, Lamkang, Kom are categorised as NAGA. The positive outcome (if we may say so) of such division is that it create an atmosphere of competition among the "diffrent tribes" in various fields like education, economic activities etc. But it doomed them politically as they cannot unite under one political platform.
The competition to become the dominant and most prominent group led them act the famous crab story- when one among them in a container begins to climb up the others pulls it down to the ground and none of them can come out of their condition. Realising this mistake of disintegration (divide and rule policy??) they talk of reunification but the "tribeism" still continue to be a stumbling block. Each group embraced a particular nomenclature and none is ready to sacrifice for the common interest. However, in recent times one can observe that they slowly and steadily begun to work together for their survival and common interest. It is hoped this will continue and a day will come when ZO nation inclusive of all the Zo races will evolve.