|Regions with significant populations|
|United States; Australia; Chin State, Myanmar; Northeastern India; Eastern Bangladesh; Thailand|
|Various Chin, Kuki, Mara, Hmar, Mizo & Zomi languages|
|Predominantly Christianity, minority Animism and Buddhism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Naga, Meitei, Pangal, Meitei Christians, Kachin, Karen, Shan, Karbi|
The Zo people are an ethnic group which can be found in India, Myanmar and in Chittagong hill tracks of Bangladesh. The word Zo is used to describe an ethnic group, also known as the Zomi, the Chin, the Mizo, the Kuki and a number of other names based on geographic distribution, are a large group of related Tibeto-Burman peoples spread throughout the northeastern states of India, northwestern Myanmar (Burma) and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. In northeastern India, they are present in: Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Assam. This dispersal across international borders resulted from a British colonial policy that drew borders on political grounds rather than ethnic ones. They speak more than fifty dialects.
Various names have been used for the Zo peoples, but the individual groups generally acknowledge descent from ancestral Zo. Among the more prominent names given to this group are "Chin" and "Zomi" generally in Myanmar, and "Mizo", "Zomi", generally in India.
In the literature, the term Kuki first appeared in the writings of Rawlins when he wrote about the tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. It referred to a "wild tribe" comprising numerous clans. These clans shared a common past, culture, customs and tradition. They spoke in dialects that had a common root language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman group.
The origin of the name "Chin" is unknown . Later the British used the compound term "Chin-Zomi-Mizo" to group the Zomish language speaking people, and the Government of India inherited this. Missionaries chose to employ the term Chin to christen those on the Burmese side and the term Zomi on the Indian side of the border. Chin nationalist leaders in Burma's Chin State popularized the term "Chin" following Burma's independence from Britain.
Beginning in the 1990s, the generic names Chin and Zomi have been rejected by some for "Zomi", a name used by a group speaking Northern Zomish languages, including the Zomi. The speakers of the Northern Zomish languages are sometimes lumped together as the Zomi's.Some Zomi nationalists have stated that the use of the label Chin would mean subtle domination by Burmese groups.
They are spread out in the contiguous regions of Northeast India, Northwest Burma (Myanmar), and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. In India, they are most prominent in Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and Mizoram. Some fifty Zo peoples are recognised as scheduled tribes.
Cultures and customs
Like other tribes of the world, Zo people have some cultures, traditions and customs which only Zo people preciously keep and conserve. At the same time, this fact makes Zo generations superior to all other tribes who claim to be Zo descendants. This practice can only be found in Zo generations.
There are 12 categories of Zo cultures and customs: (1) Ton, (2) Ton and Han, (3) Ton and Taang Aih, (4) Taang Aih, (5) Kimulvu (6) Khuodo (Khal leh Ginua Khuado) (7) Sielkhup (8) Si Vailhak (9) Si Cieng Aa Diel Khaina (10) Mo Laakna (11) Ai Sanna (12) Nau Aaitahna Zo Traditional Ballads. There are 18 categories of Zo major traditional ballads / songs: (1) Lapi (2) Laguui (3) Si La (Gaal La, Sa La, Simai La) (4) Si Pusuoh La (5) Daak La (6) Lampisuh La (7) Taang La (8) Lamkiil La (9) Sawlnei La (10) Lakawi (11) Latawm' (12) Tomun La (13) Tuivai La (14) Loma La / Lakap (15) Tuibuong / Phaaisat La (16) Haaidawi La (17) Sim La (18) Zawl La / Lataang Zo Dances. There are also 10 categories of Zo traditional dances: (1) Khaw Khai Dance (2) Saipi Khupsu Dance (3) Phiit Lam (4) Doldeng Dance (Daak lam)(5) Daai Lam (6) Khuongtung Dance (7) Khangtung Dance (8) Lumsui Dance (9) Lamguui Dance (10) Phiit kengpaih Dance.
All the stories or folktales such as the stories of Thanghou leh Liandou ,KhupChing leh NgamBawm, GalNgam leh Hangsai, Khalvompu and Neino leh Naltal that are very widely popular throughout the North Western part of Chin state and other parts of the world where Zo people reside were originally written and spoken in pure Zo dialect.
The first Zomi-language movie to receive a full-length theatrical debut was a 2021 English-Zomi bilingual film, written and directed by Burmese refugee Thang Mung, called Thorn in the Center of the Heart. The film first premiered in Michigan, where Mung was resettled by U.S. refugee services as a teenager.
Notable Zo people
- T. Haokip, 'The Kuki Tribes of Meghalaya: A Study of their Socio-Political Problems', in S.R. Padhi (Ed.). Current Tribal Situation: Strategies for Planning, Welfare and Sustainable Development. Delhi: Mangalam Publications, 2013, p. 85.
- Rawlins, John (1792). "On the Manners Religion and Laws of the Cucis or Mountaineers of Tipra". Asiatic Researches. 2 (12).
- Grierson (1909), Linguistic Survey of India, Vol. III, Tibeto-Burman Family, General Introduction, Specimens of the Tibetan Dialects, The Himalayan Dialects and The North Assam Group, Pt. II, with Grierson (1903), Specimens of the Bodo, Naga and Kachin Groups, Pt. III, Grierson (1904) Specimens of the Zomi, Chin and Burma Groups.
- Violence and identity in North-east India: Naga-Kuki conflict - Page 201 S. R. Tohring - 2010 "... for these tribes including • the Zomi/ speaking tribe such as: 'Chin', 'Mizo', 'Chin-Zomi-Mizo', 'CHIKIM', 'Zomi', 'Zou', 'Zo'. ... During the British era, the British rulers used the term 'Chin-Zomi-Mizo' and the Government of India seemed to follow ..."
- Sachchidananda, R. R. Prasad -Encyclopaedic profile of Indian tribes- Page 530 1996
- Pradip Chandra Sarma, Traditional Customs and Rituals of Northeast India: Arunachal ... Page 288 Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture "chose to employ the term Chin to christen those on the Burmese side and the term Zomi on the Indian side of the ... The Mizo of today's Mizoram are the descendants of Luseia, and the Zomi of Manipur are from the Songthu line, and thus all ..."
- Amy Alexander Burma: "we are Like Forgotten People" : the Chin People of Burma Page 16 2009 "... within Chin State, Chin nationalist leaders popularized the term "Chin" following Burma's independence from Britain."
- History of Zomi T. Gougin - 1984 "In Burma the people like to renounce the term Chin in favour of Zomi. Zomi is becoming more and more popular in Churachandpur district of Manipur adjoining the Chin State of Burma as group identity in repudiating Chin and Zomi. The term ..."
- B. Datta-Ray Tribal identity and tension in north-east India Page 34 1989 "Now to accept the term Chin would mean subtle Paite domination in the matter, which the other groups like the Hmars, Zous, Anals and Koms may not coopt. A Zomi leader categorically stated that 'Chin' is a Burmese word which literally ..."
- Keat Gin Ooi - Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East ... - Volume 1 - Page 353 2004 "Until recently, there appeared to be a consensus that the term Chin was not an identity that any of these peoples would choose to describe themselves, ... Some promote the terms Zomi and Zo, stating that they are derived from the name of the mythic common ancestor of all ..."
- Chin Kho Lian Guite - Politico-economic development of the tribals of Manipur: a study ... Page 8 1999 "Conceptual Meaning and Various Interpretations of the Terms— Chin, Zomi and Mizo (a) Chin The term Chin is the name given to this Zomi/Zomi tribes (formerly known as Chin-Zomi-Mizo) group of people in Myanmar (Burma). They are mostly found in the ..."
- "Alphabetical List of India's Scheduled Tribes". Archived from the original on 10 February 2009.
- Shields, Lauren (30 August 2021). ""Thorn in the Center of the Heart" will be Grand Ledge Sun Theatre's first showing since COVID". Fox 47 News. Archived from the original on 30 August 2021. Retrieved 1 September 2021.