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Home :: Journal of Tribal Intellectual Collective India :: Recent Issue (ISSN 2321-5437)
JTICI Vol.1, Issue 2, No.4 pp. 51 to 65, December 2013
 

Zomi Diaspora, Culture And Politics

P.Thangsuanhau & V.Jamkhanpau

Abstract

Zomi is a generic name and political entity adopted as a nomenclature by a group of trans-border tribes in an attempt to unite the ethnic groups who otherwise share similar culture and traditions. Historians believed that these tribes were nomads who originates somewhere in southern China and moved to Northern Burma where some people stayed till present times. They have moved up to the present Manipur and Mizoram whereas some others even reached the Chittagong Hill Tracks of Bangladesh. While the Zo people have settled for a long time in their present location and possessed as an inheritance, they started to move out of their homeland since the 197 0s onwards for the purpose of higher education and a handful of people in government services. There has been a great exodus of youths, not only the Zomi, but the entire region of North East to various other parts of the countries in the post 1990s. The study found that Zomi youths have left home mostly for three main reasons – higher education, employment opportunity and government services. There are two causing factors of diaspora this study attempt to conceptualise– the push and pull factors for youths deciding to move out of their homeland to their destinations in metropolitan cities across India. The study also link Diaspora with culture and politics with an attempt to generate discussions on how in the long run one would have influence on the other in various ways.

Zomi - a Generic Name and Political Entity:

The term ‘Zomi’ meaning ‘Zo People’ is a generic name adopted to be the nomenclature by a group of trans-border tribes inhabiting parts of Manipur and Mizoram in India, Arakan and Chin State in Myanmar and Chittagong Hill Track in Bangladesh.Racially they belong to the the mongoloid stock and linguistically they belong to the Tibeto-Burman family of languages. They have been subject to categorization process and into various names like ‘Kuki’ in Manipur, ‘Lushai’ in Mizoram and ‘Chin’ in Burma by the British Colonial rulers and some tribes were also known as ‘New Kuki’ by the Government of India for political and administrative purposes.Tribes in India have been given names by external agencies like the Colonial rulers and under Indian administration while they later on identify and adopted names for themselves like ‘adivasis’ and ‘indigenous people’ (Devalle, 199 0 and Xaxa, 2003 ). The term Kuki is a Bengoli words which is believed to mean savage people or synonym to the famous colonial word ‘coolie’ .With the increase of educated intellectuals and the Kuki being dominated by a particular tribe, many of the tribes felt left out and begin the quest for an alternate identity. Zomi seemed to be the most suited term historically and culturally relevant as they claimed to be the ancestral of Zo.

The term Zomi was first proposed by Sukte T. Haugou among the gathering of Zo people in an Annual Meeting of the American Baptist Missionary Fellowship in Rangoon in 195 0. After much deliberation it was agreed that the name Zomi Baptist Convention was to be adopted for the first time at Saikah village in Burma in 1953 ( Sing KhoKhai, 1995 ) . Atthe Indian front, T. Gougin founded the United Zomi Organisation (UZO) at Singtom village (Manipur) in 1961 to unite “all ethnic Zomi groups”. He later on founded and lead a movement called Zomi National Council (ZNC) that aimed at mass mobilisation of people for creating Zomi nationalism (Gougin, 1988). The term Zomi, Mizo and Laimi are synonyms to one another and connote similar meaning and cover all Zo people according to their respective users (Vumson, 1986) . Gougin ( 1988 ) also mentioned about the discussion he held with Laldenga in 198 2 , the MNF Chief, over the issue deliberating the usage of Zoram (Zo meaning the Zo people and ram means land or country) rather than Mizoram to be inclusive of all the Zo people as the term Mizo was dominated by a the Lushai-Duhlian tribes at the time. The ZNC movement died down with opposition from another quarter of people and organizations without achieving concrete political result. The wave of ‘Zo Unification’ and ‘Zo Solidarity’ movement swipe through the land yet again in the early 199 0s with the emergence of the Zomi Reunification Organisation ( ZRO ) at Phapian ( Kachin State of Myanmar ) in 1993 ( Zou, 2010 ). The ZRO also has a arm-wing called the Zomi Revolutionary Army ( ZRA ) who fought an ethnic clash with their Kuki brothers during 1997-98. The Zomi Council ( ZC ) along with the ZRO act as a constituent body for the social and political organization carrying the mission of Re-unification of the Zomis and political demands to the Government of India.

Brief Historical account:

The historical account of Zo people prior to the Colonial rule is little known.There have been no historical writing found about the origin of Zo people and few of such attempts were at best a hypothesis proven with little evidences or assumption deconstructed from the oral cultural tradition of the people. Vumson ( 1986 ) wrote that the term Zo or Jo was mentioned in 86 2 AD by a Chinese diplomat, Fan Cho. This made to the claim of the origin of Zo people to be somewhere in China. One section of the people believed that their progenitor, Zo, was hiding from enemy in a cave somewhere in Southern China and he come out of the cave and inherit the Zo people. This belief is backed by the oral folk song which mention about a cave and the claimed to be the ancestral of all people.

These groups of people are trans-border tribes scattering across three international boundaries in places like India’s North East, Chin State in Myanmar and in Chittagong Hill tract of Bangaladesh. Though the dividing factor such as Tribe recognition under the Indian condition is instrumental in segmenting the people into different recognized Scheduled Tribes, they belong to the ancestry of their progenitor called ‘Zo’. Moreover, the historical traced by various among them leads to a certain consensus of the same origin – the Khul which means a certain cave in South China where their progenitor once hide from enemy and came out of that cave to have inheritance of the Zo people down through generations. The oral historical account of culture and tradition, folk songs and story are found to be similar from one tribe to the other. Zo people spoke a language belonging to the Tibeto-Burman family of languages and different tribes spoke a dialect slightly varying from the other. They understand each other and many speak more than their own dialect.

The Zomi inhabited areas – known as the Chin Hills, The Lushai Hills and Chittagong Hill Tract have their own Chiefs and were ruled by the Zo people people until the British annexed under the Colonial Administration. The British annexed Manipur in 1891 and later on the whole of the Zo inhabited areas are covered under the Assam Province of the British rule in India. The Zo people fought against the British rule on account of the Zo people made to be a Force labours Corps in the British Military Units which was recorded as the Kuki Uprising or locally known as ‘ZouGaal’ in 1917-1919. The Zo people also fought against the Japanese invasions alongside the British during the Second World War (Zou, 2010 ).

At the time of India’s independence, the Zo people held into a meeting with the British official where they were quizzed about their political aspiration for their land. The leaders of the time thought that after the British left they would regain their autonomous status and no external forces will disturbed them. They did not made any political demands instead they demanded that all village Chiefs be given a red blankets. However, after the British left the Zo people have been tossed in politics and were made to divide into three international border and they remain within the state of Manipur which gained its statehood in 197 2.

Causes of Diaspora

C. K. HrangTiam ( 2010 ) in his work ‘The Chin Diaspora: A Great People Resource’ mentioned that the causes for migration of the Chin people from Myanmar to the rest of the world are due to poverty induced by military actions, lack of religious and political rights, and other human rights violations such as forced labor, rape, social discrimination, and finally, a hope for a better future. J.M. Paupu ( 2010 ) in his work ‘Zomi in Diaspora’ studies the scenario of the Zomi people at global level including scattered Zomis the United States of America ( USA ), United Kingdom ( UK ), India, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, and other countries. He stressed that the single greatest cause of Zomi diaspora at the international level is due to the military actions and human rights violations in Myanmar. Less than 5 % of those who are in western countries have come for the purpose of education or who got job offer in those countries. While the above two are studies on similar group of people ethnically and linguistically, they differ in the context of the study in a way that international diaspora of Zomi are mostly occurring with the help of the Refugee status anchor by the UN organs. The study of Zomi diaspora in this context is a free will movement of people within the country within the privilege given by the Indian constitution.

Lee (1966) discussed that human migrations have been caused by two factors – the push and pull factors. Locating the cause and pattern of Zomi diaspora into this framework has been seen as a tailor-fit in an attempt to understand the issue. While the two factors might overlapped at some cases or might coincides with each other, it is important to establish the two in separate concept and could be attempted to make linkage with each other.

The Push-Factor -

  • Poverty: The basic reason for Zomi youths in diaspora is found to be due to the difficult livelihood situation at home. The Zomis are primarily farmers who engaged in shifting/Jhum cultivation on their hills since their forefathers. Hunting and gather also formed a small parts of livelihood activities. This has resulted in destruction of large scale of forest and natural habitation. Even though they toiled hard working in the jhum, they could hardly gather two square meals for the year round. According to the $2 norm of poverty, at least 8 0 % of the Zo people fall under the Below Poverty Line (Hauzel, 2008).
  • Unemployment: As the traditional tribal economy has been based on subsistence farming and dependent on forest products, the Zo tribes have been in great transition from the conventional understanding of the tribes largely due to the conversion into Christianity and education. The lives of these people undergo tremendous change in the past two to three decades with the touch of modernity in great waves. It was the failure of the state also which unable to provide suitable employment to its ever growing educated workforce. The condition of the state ridden with conflicts and political turmoil does not help the cause of the state to live up to its welfare duty and as a result the young people have to look out for opportunities beyond the state. Employment is hard to come by and the little that comes has often complicated process other than the official requirements as well.
  • Inadequate educational institutions: Lack of credible education institutions is another important factor for youths migrating outside their homeland and the state to pursue their career. Government schools are regarded as second class education in terms of the quality they provide needless to say many such state run government is out of infrastructure and facilities, either inadequate teachers or staffs or they are not available at the school to teach, and corruption.
  • Lack of infrastructure and facilities for Skills Development: Zomis youths are bestowed with talents and skills in many ways, particularly in music and sports, but the lack of adequate infrastructure and facilities to develop and enhance their skills render them unable to utilize them in any productive ways. Mary Kom has been one fine example of Zomi youths who could excel in his/her art given the opportunity and facilities to them. A number of youths have come to pursue their career in music and in football across the country and at national level.
  • Less opportunity for mobility: The influence of modernity is so great among the Zomi that subsistence economy could not satisfy the needs of the people. The influence of Korean and other Asian countries through the commercialized goods items and fashion along with films and movies is especially visible among the youths. It is also human tendency to move towards upward mobility once the basic needs are satisfied. The educated youths wanted to broaden their career and thus also their living standards and more. The homeland becomes unfavorable for highly ambitious youths and individuals and families who seek mobility.
  • Conflicts: Though this has not been a direct causal factor of diaspora it has contributed in small and great ways indirectly to youths wanting to be free from conflicts. Manipur and the entire region of North East have experienced ethnic conflicts and insurgent movements since the past 5 0 years and this together with political turmoil and instability of the state have hinder the development of the state and the region. Ambitious youths wants to keep themselves aloof from conflict situation that does not help their individual cause but the phenomena is not likely to end in the near future as different groups are demanding various political arrangements and negotiations with the government. These has silently impacted many other things in the region and have been hindering individuals ambitions though the need for it is felt at a larger political level by intellectuals and political leaders alike.

The Pull Factor

  • Employment opportunity: There is a great opportunity for the educated and less educated persons inmetropolitan cities provided to the youths of Zomi across different cities. The post 199 0s marked the great exodus of youths not only the Zomis but also from the entire North East region. The reason for this is the opening of large scale jobs in private sector as a result of the Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation policy adopted by India that opens up the economy into free market attracting huge foreign investments. Cities like Mumbai and Pune which is highly capitalised and commercialised attracted the youths and emerges them into the fitting role in the sector. Though critics of free market claimed that the actual workforce employed in organised sector declined over the years, there has been windows of opportunity for the North East youths in private establishments though there have not been a high paying and not so prestige jobs to count on.
  • Good colleges and Universities: Education has been a major cause of many youths leaving their home for other places as there have been less credible educational institutions in their home state. This is an important aspect in the study of Zomi in diaspora as this has also linked with the economy. Huge amount of money has been sent out of the state for higher education that drains the economy in a great way. Though money have come in from those employed similar or even higher amount have been wired across the country to pursue higher education. New Delhi has been the most likely destination for students while a fair number of students are found across different cities like Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and others.
  • Opportunities for different career options: There is more opportunity for people to choose their career from a wide range of options and this is the reasons why urban centers and cities have been famous throughout the world. Zomi youths of today are seen to take career option ranging from employment in government services, private companies, musicians, fashion, film industry, animation, designing, consultants, IT technicians, medical profession, nursing, hospitality and management, social work and so on. This has been a tempting cause for the youths to enhance their skills and broaden their career path by reaching the metropolitan cities across the country.
  • Availability/access to infrastructure and facilities: Lack of access to infrastructure and facilities for skills development was one of the push factor and causal factor for unemployment in the homeland and new locations of the migrated youths are answer to their quest in the cities they now lived. For instance, Access to electricity regularly in the new location itself is great benefits the Zomi youths are enjoying where they hardly received 6 hours of power supply in their home state.
  • High standard of living: The destination of Zomi youths who left home for cities are in a better position of raising their living standard than while they were at home. Earning an income and able to buy what they desire has automatically improve the living standard as compare to a family dependent mostly on the salary of the father or one member in the family.
  • Glamour: This is a significant finding among the Zomi youths that while most of them have migrated in search of better livelihood option and opportunities, some of them have also come to enjoy the glamorous lifestyle these cities provided to its dwellers. The influence of modernization and the touch of the media sell out of the Asian nations especially Korean as well as Hollywood and Bollywood movies have been believed to be a deciding factor in this.

The Scope of Diaspora at present:

Historically looking at the experiences of migration among the Zomi, one could see that migration has not been a new concept. The initial phases of migration among the Zo’s could be traced back to World War I when about 4000 of the Zo youths were forcefully recruited by the British as Labour Corps to Europe. On the other hand, since 1970s, a handful of educated Zo elites got exposure to higher education in the country’s premier universities like JNU.

The continuation of this process of migration widely took place in a larger scale which likely became a phenomenal trend. Migration of youths among the Zo’s today has been vastly practised as an inevitable stage of development at micro level. In order to get a clearer epistemic base on the issue and its psycho-social-political consequences, a total of Fiftystudents, workers and employees from Mumbai and Pune were interviewed. Tools and techniques involved in such processes include in-depth interviews, telephonic interviews, online questionnaires and observation.

The findings of the interviews can be categorically classified based on the purposes which inflicted migration such as workers and students. Within these few sub-categories itself, responses received varied to a huge extent. Moreover, a huge gap between government employees and private company workers could be observed on the basis of social and political perspectives and at the same time, on economic conditions. Responses received have also revealed that there are varieties of reasons for migration among the Zomi youths, which are determined by the push and pull factors. Arguably, while poverty and economic aspirations have been observed to be the major tenets causing migration, it seems that even within such conditions, there exists a different level of disparity within disparityin terms of economic capabilities. Economic and social capital plays a major role in determining the capability or affordability of migration as one needs a dependable source of capital engaged for such processes while on the other hand, one requires a certain set of employability in terms of qualification and skills. Therefore, without such capitals, one is deprived of the opportunity of migrating for higher aspirations.‘Earlier studies also point out that it is not the poor who move out from the rural areas but those with some education and capital’ ( Bhagat, 2009; Oberai and Singh, 1983; Skeldon, 1986).

On the other aspect, the pursuit of migration as a system of social mobility incubated in the culture of the Zomi’s since 1970s when the first generation of Zo scholars benefitted from post-colonial India’s initiatives in higher education. They managed to enter the country’s premier universities, including the research driven JNU at New Delhi (Zou, 2008).Since then, the newer generations of youths began opting for opportunities in cities and the genesis of the Zomi youths exodus began to form its shape. The nest set up by the first generation migrators paved way for the newer generations and the process continues to multiply. Therefore, those sections who had some kind of relation with the first generation migrators could migrate easily as they already have a base to set up in the cities. But for those sections that are to be first generation in their family line, the challenge is tougher as they are independent in the entire process of migration.‘This is also because those who have higher levels of education or economic assets find it easier to establish linkages with urban economy through socio-cultural channels, put their foothold in the city and avail the opportunity offered through migration’(Kundu, 2007).

Migration in itself is indeed reasonable to a great extent as the livelihood security and prospects of the Zomis has but less to offer. So, looking for better living conditions, higher educationand meager employment opportunities; migration becomes not much of a choice but more of a compulsion. Within such cases hitherto, it is presumable that there will be many who migrated out of free will, while reasonably; many would also be in search of better opportunities and career prospects. However, beyondthese pull factors, there are also a good number a youths who migrated out of compulsion. The lack of credible universities is one push factor which compels youths to migrate for further studies.Based on the data gathered, it has been found that most cases of migration are linked to the pursuit of better opportunities and prospects. The lack of sustainable employment opportunities; proper educational facilities and widely the failure of a dependable infrastructural growth are found to be the factors responsible for the causes of migration of youths among the Zomis.

An in-depth interview with some Gazetted officers has pointed out that the absence of a credible university in Manipur is draining its economy which has a devastating effect. The amount of money wired to other state economies just for the purpose of education is massive and if such money would have been circulated within Churachandpur itself, the economic condition of churachandpur wouldimmensely take a different shape. Nonetheless, the culture of pursuing higher education abroad has become a trend since the past few decades among the Zomis. But its impact on the micro social aspect is also a huge threat as the man power and the brain power of such creative and youthful resources are being continuously drained to cities where the Zomi society at churachandpur suffers the loss. This aspect is also greatly responsible for the stagnation of growth and development at grassroots level.

the rapid transformation of Indian economy, improvement in the levels of education and that of transport and communication facilities, shift of workforce from agriculture to industry and tertiary activities etc. are the new impetus influencing mobility pattern of Indian people in recent times (Bhagat, 2009). Internal mobility is critical to the livelihoods of many people, especially tribal people, socially deprived groups and people from resource-poor areas. However, because of lack of data, migration is largely invisible and ignored by policy makers. There is a large gap between the insights from macro data and those from field studies(Srivastave&Sasikumar, 2003).

Looking at the economic aspect, the Zo people struggled for survival from time immemorial. In modern cash economywhere cash economy where vast majority households live a handto mouth existence, regular jobs are not available and employment is hard to come by. An average Zo family generatesless than two dollars a day. Hence, more than 80% of Zo families live under the internationally recognized $2 norm of poverty. Necessity and hardship drove many young and educated Zo people far away from home in search of jobs and employment. In major cities in India; in several developed countries all over the world, the lucky few young enterprising Zo people dashed off to engage in job services providing labour and services- skilled or unskilled eking livelihood and earning cash income to support themselves, their families and remit the surplus home or invest in the future of their children (Hauzel, 2008).

It has been observed that employment opportunities are one of the most common reasons for migration. Employment opportunities are minimal in Churachandpur especially for the undergraduates, under such circumstances, unless one develops a sustainable source of income through self-entrepreneur enterprises, the options open are really limited other than farming at the expense of hard labour. Farming still remains an indispensable area of occupation for the Zomis, however, with the intensity of its labour demand and the depleting productivity of the land, the practice of farming as a primary occupation has lately become a secondary choice. Therefore, it easily becomes an appealingchoice to leave home and look for any sector of work which would generate income for self-dependency as well as family support. Miss Choih, who has worked in Mumbai for the past ten years quoted, “ While living in a village, options and opportunities to do well in life are pretty rare. The only option that you have is to work with your family in a small paddy field and if you get lucky, you harvest enough food grains to sustain your one year consumption. But beyond that, chances of developing economically are really marginal. Especially for uneducated girls like us, there are no better ways to help your family financially other than leaving home for cities and work so that you could earn at least something to support yourself as well as your family. I was the eldest and I am a woman, but the inevitable economic conditions of my family compelled me to support my siblings so that they could go to school, so leaving home for employable opportunities was my best option.

On the other hand, migration has also been fancied much among the younger generations where urban lifestyle and culture has become an icon of advancement. The impression carried out by the city dwellers and the cities impact on their fair skin tone is in itself an attractive package for the Western and Korean influenced Zomi youths. It is indeed understandable that suchcriteria’s play a vital role in shaping the interest of the Zomi youths as living standards are craving for advancement and sustainability while economic opportunities are yet at a much slower pace.As shared in an interview, Miss Tuaiman quoted, “ I trained as a beautician at home but employment facilities were really rare. Though there were some workable places,the salary out there was never enough. Moreover, it is always inspiring to leave home and work in big cities like Mumbai instead of staying in one place your entire life. We always have had fancied living in cities and now being the time of your youth, it is the only chance in life to live your life. This is the time to enjoy according to me.

The outcome of this migration has both its positive and negative consequences. Positively it helps youth develop themselves and helps them support themselves aswell as their family. For tribals like Zomis, urban exposure and access to urban education system makes a lot of difference and opens up opportunities to acquire quality education and compete with the larger world. Moreover, looking at career prospects, it allows them to face better job opportunities both at public sector and private sector. So, for the future economic sustainability of the Zomis, migration has played an important role. However, looking at the negative aspect,‘at destination, migrant labour affects markets, lowering the cost of labour. Migration also affects the labour market at the place of origin. Migrant earnings affect income, expenditure patterns and investment and changes relations at household and community levels’ (Srivastave R &Sasikumar S.K 2003), similarly the diaspora of Zomi youths from their community has had a huge impact on the cultural and social life. Youths are the major working force of the community and their absence signifies the absence of the most potential working force.  

Diaspora and Culture

Culture has been theorized, defined and redefined in many ways by anthropologists, sociologists, historians, and various other scholars. It is difficult to reach a consensus on a definite concept and meaning of culture as it is subjective in nature and highly contextual in its usage and functions. Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving (Hofstede,1997). Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behavior; that is, the totality of a person's learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or, more briefly, one's behavior through social learning. All cultures are equally valid (Koester and Lustig, 48). Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiment in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e. historically derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other as conditioning elements of further action. (Kroeber and Kluckhohn: 1952, p. 357)

Zomi as a tribes have significant characteristics in their culture and tradition. The society is more or less egalitarian in nature and altruism has been valued highly. Neighbors visit and share their belongings to each other and there was mutual help among themselves. The land is governed under Chieftainship and community has access to land and resources equally for various purposes. Societal life was simple and attachment to cultural values and customary laws were shared by the people. There have been transitions of the societal structure and culture since the past one century with education playing decisive role in this transformation. Though the living condition at present has undergone tremendous change, there are certain basic values and practice based in their culture that remain intact with the people though it manifest in varying ways from the past. Altruism and egalitarianism are found to be the guiding principle of the society structure though its absolute form of existence is next to impossible in any given society. Mutual help and concern over the problems of one another has been great among the rural folks of the Zomis and they are still intact in the lives of people. The chief will lead in helping or working for the welfare of the villagers and will be followed in deeds by the rich and well-to-do families. This is the reason why there is no street beggars found among the Zomi community. The community itself will take the responsibility of keeping the village neat and clean, the poor and widow were helped with a day or so labour by each family in times of building houses or in their field, mutual help in agricultural activities, sharing of joy and grieves of an individual or family by the whole communities are few points that can be highlighted here. The customary laws have been a bonding factor and instruments in keeping social order in society.

For the people who migrated to other places the way of living is different from home in many ways. The local people have their own culture and tradition and it is necessary that one has to fit into that at the very first place. This does not mean to lose out one’s own culture and identity but adjustments are required to survive at the destination. Zomis have high adaptability in their new location interms of adjusting to the language and culture of the local people. While merging their lives into the culture of metropolitan cities, the youths of Zomi says their distinct culture and mindset being a tribal does not change. Though opportunity may be hard to come by to show the real nature of tribalism in their lives but they do keep up with the cultural values they have imbibed and internalize from their homeland. This is an interesting development as most tribal studies locate tribes in their own natural context and within their homeland and not so much beyond that. This study of bringing the diaspora studies concept in tribal discourse is one of its first kinds in India. It is important that the discourse on tribes needs to be broaden to such view as the tribal community is no more existing in isolation in the present context and tribals movement across the country or migration due to different region have been observed during the past decades. It is not a new happening as history suggested that the Santhals and Oraon tribes from Central India have been brought to Assam for tea plantation and to Andaman and Nicobar Island and other places in great numbers.

Though the extent to the impact of diaspora has been difficult to determine and it is not to be judged as to whether it is positive or negative it does rang alarm on the Zomi leaders and intellectuals on the issues for the long run. There is a fear psychosis shared among them that it would lead to assimilation into dominant culture in the long run. However, others argued that mingling with people at national and international level will only help to promote our culture by way of interaction and sharing. This has also provided a platform where people recognize the Zo people and their culture. The general tendency in Indian cities aong the general public is that the Zo people look like the Nepalis and they have often been misunderstood of their identity and touted with unwanted comments in public spheres. There have been several attempts made to make the general public aware of the distinct people of North East and their culture through various states and central government initiatives, organizations and media house. With the increase in numbers every single day, Zomis at various places started to organize themselves into religious and cultural organizations. The recently concluded Zomi Namni Celebration at the National Capital is one fine example of how the Zomi can showcase their culture and festivals to the rest of the world.

Diaspora and Politics

The Zomi politics has undergone different stages since the time of Pu T. Gougin led ZNC. The initial political goal was to unite all Zomi ethnic groups to create Zomi nationalism among the Zo people across the three international borders. With the emergence of the ZRO and its armed group along with the Zomi Council, the search for identity and the protection of the ethnic Zomi groups from the dominance of other tribes had been stressed. The demands for VIth Scheduled under the constitution and demands of Union Territory have also come up at certain point in time but have died down again. Presently, the ZRO and its armed wing form an alliance with the Kuki National Organisation (KNO) and its allied party under the banner of United People’s Front (UPC) who held several rounds of political tripartite talks with the Government of India and the Government of Manipur. The UPF have signed the Suspension of Operation (SoO) with the Government of India and Government of Manipur since 2005 (Banerjee, 2013 ). The ZRO and ZC are anchoring the political demands of ‘Autonomous Tribal State’ that later on changes to ‘Autonomous Hill State’ within Manipur and have been pressurizing the Central Government to make progress on the demands.

The impact of Zomi diaspora on their political aspiration is not accurately known but it can be debated building on the experiences of the past as well as from different tribes within the North East region. On leading argument is that Diaspora makes the society segmented and political solidarity and voicing aspiration may be impacted on some way. For instance, the Chakmas and Hmar tribes of the North East have been scattered all over the entire North Eastern states and they have been reduced to minority in all states. They could not have political voice as they have been politically dominated by larger tribes in the respective states. The movement of Zomi youths from their home state to other places in thousands of numbers of year is a grave concern for the the political future of the Zomi.

On the other side, the celebration of Zomi Namni (Zomi National Day) in New Delhi in 20 th February, 2013 has gained momentum in the political ambition of Zomi as they have taken the privileged of asserting their demands to the GoI.NinglunHanghal ( 2013 ) noted that the celebration of Zomi Namni in the capital is significant as it came at a time where there is pressure on the Indian government to consider the demand of UPF for Autonomous Hill State. The Union Home Minister attended the celebration as Chief Guest and has been made aware of the Zomi political demands and aspirations. The Zomi Council leaders and the ZRO delegates also took this as a previledge and met the President of India at Raj Bhawan to hand over a memorandum on the demands of Autonomous Hill State.

There have been a pros and cons of Zomi disapora when it comes with relation to their culture and politics and it is seems too early to determine whether this contribute for the good of the Zomi in general for future but it does help individuals to get out of the difficult situation be it with the issues of livelihood or education and employment. Time will only revealed the real impact on the culture and politics and this is a historical juncture which is also important especially for the Zomi leaders and intellectuals to put thoughts to it and see to it that the culture and political aspirations of the Zomis are not destroyed.

References:

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Bhagat R.B. (2009). Internal migration: Are the underclass more mobile? Paper presented in IUSSP General Population Conference held in Marrakech, Morocco. 2009.

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Gougin, T (1988): Zomi National Congress Marches (Churachandpur, Manipur: Zomi Press).

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JTICI Vol.1,Issue 2 No.4 pp.51 to 65, December 2013 Download PDF
 
 
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