Ethnic Mizo school children in Hnahthial, 2015
|c. 734,910|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Northeast India, Bangladesh, Burma|
|Mizo language (Duhlian, Lushei) · Paite · Hmar · Lai or Pawi language · Gangte · Ralte · Mara · Zonahthlak and other Mizo languages|
|Protestantism (Presbyterian majority, large Baptist minority; other minor sects)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Chin · Kuki • Lai • Hmar · Shan · Karen · Kachin · Mara|
The Mizo people (Mizo: Mizo hnam) are an ethnic group native to north-eastern India, western Burma (Myanmar) and eastern Bangladesh; this term covers several ethnic peoples who speak various northern and central Kuki-Chin languages. The Mizo are one of the tribal hill peoples of South Asia. All Mizo tribes and clans, in their folk legends, claim that Chhinlung (Sinlung), which means 'covered rock' in the Mizo language, was the cradle of the Mizos. Thus, it's sometimes concluded that the Mizo people lived as cave dwellers at some point.
There is no trace of human existence in Mizoram before the advent of the Mizo, largely due to forest coverage so thick that sunlight could not reach the ground. Even today the percentage of forest coverage in Mizoram is the highest in India, at 88.93% in 2015 as reported by the Forest Survey of India. Since the Lusei clan was the first Mizo people to become known to outside groups, the larger ethnic group was initially called "Lushai" after them. The present Indian state of Mizoram (literally "Mizoland") was called the Lushai Hills or Lushai Country and was defined as an excluded area during the British Raj and a district of Assam in independent India. The people of the Lushai Hills demanded a distinct political territory when India achieved independence. Due to continued efforts by its people to gain autonomy, the national government approved Mizoram in 1972 as a Union Territory and in 1987 as a full-fledged state of India.
As the people organized, they chose to identify as Mizo, rather than by individual clan names such as Lushei, Hmar, Ralte, Paite, Gangte, Pawi or Mara. Of their languages, the most widely-spoken is the Duhlian dialect, which is the common language of all Mizos belong to the Tibeto-Burman language family. The state has one of the highest literacy rates in India, at more than 90%.
The term Mizo is derived from two Mizo words: mi and zo. Mi in Mizo means 'person'. The term zo is disputed. According to one view, zo means 'highland' and Mizo means highlander or person living in high hills.
Though the term Mizo is often used to name an overall ethnicity, it is an umbrella term to denote the various clans, such as the Hauhulh, Ralte, Khiangte, Lusei etc. A number of dialects are still spoken under the umbrella of Mizo; some of them are Mizo ṭawng (which is an official language of Mizoram and a lingua franca of the Kuki people), the Hmar languages, the Ralte language, the Paite languages, the Lai languages, and the Pang languages.
Sandwiched between Burma to the east and south and Bangladesh to the west, Mizoram is inhabited by the Mizo people. According to Rev Liangkhaia, the clergyman and Mizo historian, in his book "Mizo Chanchin" - the first ever published historical account of the Mizo - the Mizo people migrated from China in around 750 AD and stayed in western Myanmar. They then began migrating to present day Mizoram during the fourth decade of the 16th Century, and most of the Mizo and their clans had completely migrated to their present location by the third decade of the 18th century.
Mizo people were influenced by British missionaries in the 19th century, as the British Raj subjugated the chieftainship under its dominance, which they later abolished by an Act called the Assam-Lushai District (Acquisition of Chief’s Rights) Act in 1954. The spread of education by Christian missionaries led to a literacy rate of 91.58% by 2011. Many also adopted Christianity.
Khuma Hmar and Khara were the first to be converted into Christian among the Mizo. A great majority of ethnic Mizo people are Christians. The major Christian denominations are Presbyterian (majority, influenced by the affiliations of the early missionaries), Baptist, Wesleyan Methodist Church, United Pentecostal Church International, Independent Church of India , Evangelical Free Church Of India in the Northern part of Mizoram in Sinlung hills District Council, in Aizawl , Champhai and Kolasib district, The Salvation Army, Lairam Jesus Christ Baptist Church, Seventh-day Adventist, Evangelical Church of Maraland (ECM), Congregational Church of India (Maraland) in the southern district of Siaha, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal churches and EBC(Evangelical Baptist Convention Church) in Champhai and Aizawl. The Chin Baptist Church is in Champhai area in the eastern part of the state.
In the late 20th century, a small number of Mizo and related ethnic peoples in Manipur and Mizoram began practicing Judaism, stating that they are descendants of Manasseh, a lost tribe of Israel. They number, at most, several thousands in a population of more than 3.7 million in these states. Most Mizos do not agree with this identification. Several hundreds have already emigrated to Israel, where they undergo complete conversion to be accepted as Jews. In 2005, the Chief Rabbi of Israel ruled that they were part of a lost tribe of Israel, but anyone wishing to emigrate to Israel must first complete formal conversion to Judaism in Nepal.
Pre-colonialist Mizos were animists, but once the British colonized the area, the British officials converted most of the population to Christianity. Today, approximately 90% of Mizos are Christians, and only 10% are animists in that they worship nature (e.g., the sun, the moon, rivers, and mountains).
During the later part of British rule, the people in Lushai Hills as well as in Manipur hills held that the British administration was trying to exert control through the chiefs of the communities. There were several rebellions against the British rule as a result, and an anti-chief movement gained ground. In 1946, the Mizo Common Peoples' Union (MCPU) was formed. In the event of India being independent, the Mizo Union, as it was soon called, demanded that Mizoram should be with Assam rather than adjoined to Burma, as the pro-chief party advocated.[page needed]
With the independence of India, a secessionist group in the Union favored joining with Burma, to which they were linked historically, ethnically and linguistically, with common roots to their languages. The separation of India from Burma in the year 1937, the partition of India in 1947, and the government's administrative extension over the Indian part of the area reduced the free mobility of the inhabitants. The rules to allow free passage across the India-Burma and India-East Pakistan (now India-Bangladesh) international borders were not regularly honored. Chafing at the restrictions, many of the Mizo never accepted the new territorial boundaries; they rebelled in the March 1966 Mizo National Front uprising.
The multi-ethnic and pluralistic state of Mizoram has numerous communities, such as the Mizo (majority) (Lusei, Hauhulh, Ralte Khiangte,and Tlau), Paite, Pang, Lai(Pawi), Mara(Lakher), the Bru (Riang), and the Chakma.
Mara, earlier known as Lakher, is the predominant community of the southeastern district of Siaha. The demand for a separate Lakher hills district in 1945 led to the formation of an organized political party called Mara Freedom Party. Under the Sixth Schedule Amendment of Indian Constitution, they were granted an autonomous district council, Mara Autonomous District Council. They have continued to struggle politically based on their strong identity. They have maintained their language through education, initially supported by the work of Christian missionaries. Due to the spread of Christianity, education also spread and molded their social life. The Mara have a high literacy rate. Their language is very much different from the other Kuki-Chin-Naga languages. They are divided mostly into Tlosai, Zyhno and Hawthai tribes with some minor tribes like Sizo (Chapi) and Zyuphe in India.The Maras do not have any cave dwelling theories of their ancestors.
The Paites are indigenous tribes of Mizoram under the Greater Assam state since 1750 AD. The Tribal Research Institute of Mizoram in their published book,"Paite in Mizoram" stated that the Paite people entered the present Mizoram along with Palian Chief of Lushai around the first half of the 18th century. The Union Government has recognised Paite as one of the tribes in Mizoram vide The Gazette of India Notice No. 10 of 2003 date 8 January 2003 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 2002.
The Paites are socially and culturally distinct from other tribes of Mizoram. Major Shakespeare, the then first Superintendent of Lushai Hills said that Paite dialect is unintelligible to Lushai. He also recorded that Paite have distinct culture and custom.They now have a separate semi-autonomous body called the Sialkal Range Development Council.
In 1953 India adopted a constitution defining itself as a Sovereign Democratic Republic. At that time the Lai people of the southern part of Mizoram, a segment of the much larger population of Lai/Chin, were granted an Autonomous District Council under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution, to support their identity. Lawngtlai was created as the Headquarters of Lai Autonomous District Council.
The people have maintained use of their language in the community and in their education. Maintenance of language as a symbol of identity has been inculcated up to Middle school standard. The Lai Autonomous District Council managed their education from Primary to Middle stage, in which the state government (Mizoram) has no control or interference. Lai people speak both Lai and Mizo languages (the latter is official in the state).
The Pang are one of the numerous tribes of Mizoram in India.They are found largely in the Bungtlang South Rural Development Block and some villages in Chawngte, Tlabung and West Phaileng Subdivisions.They have no separate regional self-government or autonomous body of their own.
The Hmar are another of the numerous Mizo tribes of India, the Hmar tribe occupying a large area in the northeast of India , Pherzawl District of Manipur , Cachar District and NC Hills District of Assam. In Mizoram the Hmar were found in Aizawl, Kolasib , Champhai and Lunglei districts but majority of the Hmars who live in Mizoram speak the Duhlian language, and few of them who live in Sinlung Hill District Council (SHDC) still speak the Hmar dialect. In Mizoram, they reside mainly in Aizawl , Kolasib , Champhai and Lunglei. Literally, Hmar means tying of hair in a knot at the backside of the head. At some point the people of the Lusei hills were recorded as Lusei which includes many tribes like the Ralte, Lai, and Hmar. Some scholars believe the name Hmar refers to a characteristic style of wearing a knot of hair on top of the head.
In July 1986, after the signing of the Mizo Accord, some Hmar leaders here formed Mizoram Hmar Association, later renamed the Hmar People's Convention (HPC). The HPC spearheaded a political movement for self-governance of the Hmar in Mizoram, demanding an Autonomous District Council (ADC) to cover the Hmar-dominated areas in the north and northwest of Mizoram. They wanted as much autonomy as had been granted to the Mara and Lai (see above).
The HPC activists formed an armed wing, the Hmar Volunteer Cell (HVC). The State Government forced them to take up arms until 1992, when representatives of the HPC and the Government of Mizoram mutually agreed to hold ministerial level talks. After multiple rounds of talks, they signed a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) in Aizawl on 27 July 1994. Armed cadres of the HPC surrendered along with their weapons in October 1994. The government established the Sinlung Hills Development Council (SHDC) for the Hmar. Some of the HPC leaders and cadres rejected Memorandum of Settlement, breaking away and forming the Hmar People's Convention – Democratic (HPC-D). It has continued an armed movement for autonomy in the form of Autonomous District Council within Mizoram under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.
Sub-tribes or clans:
- The Hmar tribe comprises numerous sub-tribes or clans (Pahnam in Hmar language). In the past these clans had their own villages and their own dialects. However, today majority of the Hmar population use Hmar language.
The Sinlung Hills Development Council (SHDC) have now been renamed as Sinlung Hills Council.
Political, linguistic and economic situation
After Indian independence, the democratic change in administrative set-up of Mizoram led to an anti-chief movement. Feeling was widespread against the autocratic chiefs and for the Mizo Union. In 1955, at a meeting of representatives of various Mizo villages held in Aizawl, the demand arose for a separate hills state. The local people felt they had been ill-served by the Assam Government during the Mautam famine.
When in 1960 the government introduced Assamese as the official language of the state, there were many protests against the Official Language Act of 1961. This was followed by the March 1966 Mizo National Front uprising, resulting in the attack of the military installations in Aizawl, Lunglei and other towns. The Mizo National Front, formerly known as Mizo National Famine Front, declared independence.
The Indian government designated Mizoram as a Union Territory on 21 January 1972. Pu Laldenga, the President of Mizo National Front, signed a Peace accord in 1986 with the Government of India, stating Mizoram was an integral part of India. Pu Laldenga came to the ministry in the Interim government which was formed in coalition with Congress in 1987. The Statehood of Mizoram was proclaimed on 20 February 1987.
Present demand for inclusion in the Eighth Schedule
With 91.58% per cent literacy, the second highest in Indian states, Mizoram is a leader in the national emphasis on education. Because of this, its people have demanded that Mizo ṭawng be recognized as an official language in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. The demand is important and expressed in various aspects of social and political life.
The English language is widely used in the state, especially in the fields of education, official matters and other formal domains, as it is in other parts of India. English had already penetrated the life and blood of the Mizo people for a long time along with the spread of education.
Christian missionaries in the 19th century developed the current alphabetic system adopted for a written form of the Mizo language. Adoption of the Roman script has facilitated people's learning English as a second language. The admiration and demand for the use of English in Mizoram is no different from the same attitude in other parts of India.
The Mizo have conducted a long, drawn-out socio-political struggle for identity and recognition, and succeeded in gaining political power from the central government in New Delhi. They fear being assimilated with other communities, and continue to insist on their separate identity and use of traditional languages to help maintain that.
- Govt. Of India (Excluded & Partially Excluded Areas) Order, 1936
- KHAWTINKHUMA,, VANTHUAMA. "MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED TO HIS MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT BY MIZO UNION". ZOLENTHE.NET. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
- Census of India 2011, Provisional Population.
- Kima. "Chp 149. Mizoram: The Denominations". Blogger. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
- C Nunthara (1996). Mizoram: Society and Polity. Indus Publishing House.
- Prithwipati Chakraborty, Ram Prasad (2006). Administration of Justice in Mizoram. Mittal Publication.
- Pachuau, Rintluanga (2009). Mizoram: A Study in Comprehensive Geography. Northern Book Center.
- Joshi, Hargovindh. Mizoram History Past and Present. Mittal Publications. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
- Chaterjee, Suhas. Making of Mizoram: Role of Laldenga, Volume 2. MD Publication.
- "Requests to include 38 languages in Constitution pending: Govt". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 August 2012.