Brief historical account of the Chin people updated

By: Pu Lian Uk

The Chin people Feature and identity: -The Chin people, in the Union of Burma (UB) today, are one of the eight major nationalities as a distinct people linguistically and culturally. They are within a definite boundary of territory not less than 14000 Sq. miles .Thus it is larger than many independent countries though it is a constituent unit state of the UB on the North West part of it bordering North East India where their related people Mizoram and Nagaland States are there in the joint connected land mass. Their population, which is spreading mainly in the western part of the rivers Chindwin and Irrawaddy in the UB, is estimated not less than 1.5 millions, half of which are to be in the mainland Chin State and its vicinity.

They are Asians of Mongoloid feature and complexion speaking several mutually intelligible and easy to learn to be mutually intelligible dialects of the Chin national language basing on a branch of Tibeto-Burman language.

Since the people speak Tibeto-Burman language, their origin could be traced back to a region between the two rivers Yangtse-kiang and Huangho in China from where the Tibeto-Burman language was said to have originated. They might migrate to Tibet and to their present homeland through the Chindwin river valley, the source of which is closed to Tibet.

The history in brief: - The British discovered towards 1888 a vast independent territory lying between India and Burma outside the two countries after they annexed India in 1760 and Burma in 1885. The territory was at that time neither ruled by India nor Burma nor any outside power of their principalities’ common frontiers

They were found as a distinct people different from Indians and the Burmese/Burmans culturally and linguistically practicing the same culture and language of the people the name of which was found as Chin in a stone inscription written round about 750 AD and discovered it in 1300 AD.

To support the stone inscription was the river Chindwin, the name of which was given after the name of the Chin people meaning “the river within the Chin territory” in Burmese. No trace of Burmese settlement was found beyond Mon-ywa along the Chindwin valley to the north of today Mon-yua town till 1500 AD. Thus it means that the territory above Mon-ywa along the valley of the Chindwin River was left to the Chin people till 1500 AD. The people which practice the same culture and language were found mainly between to the west of Chindwin-Irrawaddy Rivers and to the east of Ganges-Brahmaputra valley. ***

The British invaded the Chin territory in synchronization both from India and Burma since 1888-1889 for the Chin native rulers refused to allow them to construct land route to connect British India and British Burma through the Chin territory and completed the annexation only in 1927.

During the first British invasion of the Chinland in synchronization, British invading troop in1889 from Burma Front was led by Brigadier General W.P. Symons and the British troops from India Front were led by Brigadier General V.W.Tregear. The British put the territory occupied by Burma military Front under the British Governor that ruled Burma province and another part of the territory occupied from India military Front was put under the British Governor that ruled Assam province and the other one part was put under the British governor that ruled Bengal province.

The peace agreement between the Chin rulers and the invading British troops ended the first invasion on condition accepted by both sides that the Chin rulers ruled their respective principalities in their native religious law as they ruled in their rank and file before and gave in return taxes to the British to recognize the British supremacy over them..

The agreement was adopted in the law Chin Hills Regulation 1896 passed by the Governor General in Council that ruled British India and British Burma enforcing it in the territory since August 13, 1896 The territory was divided into several administrative districts under the Regulation as Naga Hills District, Lushai Hills District under Assam governor, and Chittagong Hills Tract District under Bengal governor. The other three districts Singkaling Khamti Naga Hills District on Burma side, Northern Abrakan Hills Tract and the Chin Hills District were put under the British Governor of Burma.

The the name Chins was defined as “Chins” includes Lushais, Kukis, Nagas, Chins in the Chin Hills and any person who practice Chin culture and language, covering all the people in the 5 districts mentioned above and all people related to Chins linguistically and culturally in their neighborhoods. All those governors were to rule the Chin territory under their respective administrations with the Chin Hills Regulation 1896 different from other people in their respective administrative areas.

The British from the beginning of their occupation had planned to make this territory to be a province under a British governor ever since 1892 at Chin-Lushai Conference at Calcutta (Kalkotta). The way it was proposed is here quoted in full as:

“ Much trouble has arisen of the same villages being known to Burma by different names given to them by Chittagong; and Chiefs having an account to settle with Burma have made their peace with us on the Chittagong side, whence they look for protection against any retribution to be exacted by Burma. The three governments are often at variance as to the policy to be adopted on certain tribes and very often doubtful to which jurisdiction certain villages belong; and it seems, to my humble opinion, imperative that, for a speedy and satisfactory settlement of the whole Chin-Lushai district, it should be formed into a commissionership, or chief commissionership, the head of which should be responsible only to the government of India. The officer appointed should have great personal knowledge of hill men, and great experience in dealing with them. He should be active and energetic enough to travel freely and frequently through the hills; he should be firm but conciliatory and easily accessible, so as to become a living personality among his wild subjects, and not the vague and shadowy beings to whom at present questions vitally affecting the tribes are referred, of whom the tribes themselves know nothing, and whom they probably only regard as convenient political Mrs. Harrises. Butler, McCabe and Williamson have shown us how vast the influence which can be acquired by men and such as I have above described, who have been known, as Butler was among the Angamis, by the name of”Apo” to whom these savage children could carry their troubles and their differences, and who were to make themselves able and willing to make themselves a terror to the evil doers while protecting and rewarding those that did well.”
**Note: ““A po”=father “Apo Janf=Father Johny, was the Angami’s name for Captain Butler. He was born in Assam (where his father held a high position in charge of the hill tribes) and was known as a child as “Johnny” and by the name “Johnny sahib “he was hailed on his return to Assam by those natives, great and small, who had known him as a boy. - 1st October1891-B.G.W” [Foreign department Report on Chin –Lushai Hills September 1892, page 97]

Comment- 1: -The term “A po” is also how the children in several local area people call their fathers especially among Senthang local area, Zophai local area, Lautu, Mara and Zotung local areas in the Central Chin State. And this cannot be an incidental similarity but they certainly are similarity of racial similarity from the same ancestry in the not very far period of history.

Comment-2: The ideal qualification described here for the leader that should rule this territory is the same as the ideal qualification of the leaders that should rule each of the three territories (Nagaland, Mizoram and Chin State and their related people in the Singkaling Khamti Naga Hills District and the Chittagong Hills Tract and Tripura state today too,)

The plan to make the five districts territory to be a province under a Brirtish governor in the same political status of Assam, Bengal and Burma, provinces was dropped in the first instance mainly because of the flooding rivers Tio and Kaladan in the long rainy season. The reason was there could be no communications because of the flooding rivers between the east and the west of the Chin territory. So the breaking communication could make the British rule not easy in the long rainy season as there were some people who still resisted the British occupation then though the majority Chiefs had made peace with the invading British troops.

The people in all the five districts territory professed the same and common native religion, which has a belief in superstition and the soul in the life after death to rest in land of dead people. That land of dead people was known in their respective different dialects like mithikhua, misikhua, pialral in Mizoram and Northern Chin state and also Yimbu in Konyak Naga dialect and M’htaykhaw in Mindat Kanpetlet area dialect in today Southern Chin State etc. Their similar and common native religion belief is thus very close to Christianity mainly in the belief in the souls to rest in the land of dead people in the life after death and in making animal sacrifice with prayers to spirits and their deities for good health and prosperity.

This closeness of the same native religious belief in the life after death which is very close to the Christianity belief in Paradise/heaven in the life after death , has been the main factor that makes the Chin people in all the districts converted to Christianity faster than other people around them as the similarity belief in the life after death in Christianity, makes the Chin people understand the Christian teaching of heaven faster than others. In reality, the British in their conscience of humanity did not want to see the same people in the same boundary of territories to be divided into pieces...

So, soon after WWII they once again planed the second time to carve out those 5 districts which were ruled with the Chin Hills Regulation 1896 as a province sending Oxford University Professor R. Coupland, a constitutional law expert to survey whether the territory could be possible to create as a province under a British governor for which he reported back to the British government that it was possible in 1945-46 under the Crown Colony Scheme so that the people could be an independent nation like Pakistan one day.

But the plan was dropped again as India and Burma, from where the territory was ruled under the Chin Hills Regulation was ruled, rushed to get in dependence from the British without giving enough time for the Chin territory in different districts and provinces to have enough time to contact each other to arrange for it. India had suffered much for their untimely independence if we read the book “Freedom at mid night”. Burma also is suffering much under the rule of immature cruel fascist militarism more than half a century not knowing now to where they are to lead their future.

After Independence of India and Pakistan the districts under Assam governor as Naga Hills District is now constituted as Nagaland and Lushai Hills District under Assam governor is now constituted as Mizoram State in the North East India too and Chittagong Hills Tract is still as Chittagong Hills Tract District under formerly East Pakistan and now in Bangladesh after the independence of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Chin Hills is now Chin Sate in name and Singkaling Khamtui District remain as Singlakaling Kham District or NagaHills District in Sagaing Division in Buma proper.

They have made today Nagaland, Mizoram and Chin State to be Christian States with more than 80% of Christian population in each state with in the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century in the same length of period in a hundred years. They all have converted to Christianity in this way to become the three Christian States because of the Christian missionaries from United States of America in Nagaland and Chin State and from Great Britain in Mizoram. They could be the only three Christian States with Philippine in the South East Asia today in this 21st century. ***

-Declaration of Nagaland independence which was said to be so legitimate in the international law also was said more or less to have deriven from the plan to carve out the 5 districts territory that was ruled with the single law, Chin Hills Regulation 1896 as a province to be under a British Governor in the Crown Colony Scheme

The inner line permit taken by the people outside Mizoram today is also the remnant of the Chin Hills Regulation 1896 provision that was made to control the population over flow into the five districts territory to protect the Chin people and their territory not to be over populated by other people in their own territory.

In the same way the Kuki Innpi system among the Kuki population in Manipur was also the remnant of the Chieftainship system practiced among the Chins people in the sense of the Chin Hills Rgulation1896 practiced in the Naga Hills on Burma side till today as the family law in civil suit

Thus they all mean that the political status we once were all together in the Chin Hills Regulation 1896 was also inherited in one way or the other by the Chin relative people in the three States -Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur, in the North East India though the national name Chin is no longer adopted officially in Mizoram and Nagaland.
The Naga Hills District and Chin Hills District including Northern Arakan Hills Tract, as Chins were ruled through the native rulers by the British governor from Rangoon, Burma through the Secretary of the Burma Frontier Areas (BFA) with the Kachin Hills and Federated Shan States after WWII before Burma independence.

When Burma province under Buma ministrialrule was tobe given Independence be cause of the the demand for it made by the people of Buma Province led by General Aung San, the Brirish could not as a rule gave the Burma frontier Areas territory to Burmese Provinnnce against the will of the people of the BFA as the BFA territories were annexed as independent territories by the British out side the Burmese kingdom. The British was unable to retain its countries even though it may wish because it would be against the UN Charter provisions on it. Therefore, the British were to give the Burma Frontier Areas to the UN Trusteeship according to the UN Charter Provisions soon after WWII

The Burmese delegation led by General Aung San to the Great Britain on the Independent affairs of Burman territory also put up too to the British government that Independent Burma would be one of the most possible countries to be a trust country of the BFA territories if the British government was of opinion to give the Burma Frontier Areas to the UN Trusteeship system.

The idea to give the BFA to the UN Trusteeship system is for the UN to temporarily rule the BFA so that the UN could train the BFA people to be able to become self-governing territory by themselves in their own respective territories even as three independent countries one day. The British government and General Aung San thus made an agreement to held a conference with the leaders of the Burma Frontier Areas people to ask their desire on the future of their respective territories at Panglong, a small town in the Shan State.

We can read in the 1946-47 old newspapers of British Burma several of General Aung San speeches offering the BFA territories to have self government in their respective territories as the country would be form in federalism if the BFA took Independence together with the Burma province. That was the reason why the BFA exchanged their rights to immediately be under UN Trusteeship system tobe self governing territories in their respective territories with secession right clause in the constitution of the Union of Burma 1947.

Thus the representatives of the Chins, the Kachins, the Shans signed an agreement at Panglong wtith t the Burmese Ministerial representative, U Aung San to cooperate with the Burmese Ministerial to speedily free from colonialism. The agreement was also for the several signatory territories to form into a new country known as the Union of Burma in federalism with each territory to have the right to secede from the Union in the Union constitution as mentioned above as they gave up the rights to be given up to the UN trusteeship system by the British.

General Aung San as the head of the interim government in leading the Independent Affairs of the Union of Burma(UB) and his whole cabinet members were assassinated on July 19, 1947 five months before the UB Independence. The Union constitution to be in federal form was dropped out and adopted in Unitary form by his successor without the knowledge of other Panglong agreement signatory territories announcing the amendment of the constitution only on the day the constitution was adopted to be too late to do anything on it.(Read the interim Prime Minister U NU’s speech on the proposal of the Union constitution 1947 on September 24,1947 )

Thus the constitution of the Union of Burma 1947 was made just as a document for transferring British colonialism on Burma Frontier Areas and its people to the Burmese/Burman colonialism making other Panglong agreement signatory being controlled and totally dominated by the Burman causing all sorts of losses in constitutional rights of the BFA. So the constitutional government of the Union of Burma was to amend the constitution of the Union of Burma 1947 in federal form in the parliament in 1962 at the demand of the Panglong Agreement signatory territories. .

General Ne Win, the Chief of Staff of the Union Army on the eve of the day to put up constitutional amendment issue before the Union Parliament session over threw the constitutional government declaring very falsely that federalism was disintegration and secession from the Union of Burma. His declaration was totally a false one as federalism is not disintegration and secession of the Union according to how it is practiced the world over in USA, Switzerland and in other countries. The declaration was certainly the denying of the self-governing rights to the Panglong agreement signatory non-Burmans territories so that the non-Burmans territories are under the total domination and control of the Burmans/Burmese territory in violation and betraying of the Panglong agreement spirits ,we mentioned above.

General Ne Win adopted a constitution entitled “The Constitution of Socialist Republic of Union of Burma 1974 in a very rigid unitary form in which the Panglong Agreement signatory territories of Chinterritory, Kachin territory, Federasted ShansZState territoty etc. were given statehood only in name with no state legislative assembly and government. It was aimed the Burmans/Burmese territory to totally control the other Panglong Agreement signatory territories in one party dictatorship system nationalizing all businesses enterprises to be in the state control inhis economic polcy..

But his socialist economic plan failed and the anti one party system and pro-democratic uprising in mass demonstration in the whole country abolished the Socialist one party dictatorship system constitution 1974 in 1988. The leaders of the mass demonstration including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, made an agreement to stop the demonstration with the Burmese military army Chief of staff General Saw Maung who took over power again in 1988 on condition to hold general election in 1990 in multi party democracy as the military regime could no longer control and run the governance of the country without the cooperation of the population as no one in the country any longer pay heed to the military regime’s orders though the military government committed mass killings.

At the general election under the agreement held in 1990, the National League for Democracy (NLD) party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi got more than 80% of the 485 Parliamentary seats. The Chin State population at the election voted for 12 candidates who were for democracy and self-determination in federalism out of the 13 parliamentary seats allotted for their State under the socialist one party system constitution 1974.

But the military regime refused to hand over power to the elected MPs as the political party, National Unity Party (NUP), which the military regime fully supported totally lost in the general election getting only 10 parliamentary seats out of 485 in the election. Thus the country was dragged to be one of the poorest countries in the world as the military in not trusting the population ruled the country as an occupied enemy foreign land devoid of all democracy and human rights.

A new constitution in rigid unitary form has been adopted in fraud referendum again now on May 10, 2008. But it is worse than the 1974 socialist constitution in the sense that the army took more roles in the 2008 Constitution than in the 1974 constitution though a cosmetic provision where it is created three Chambers of Parliament including state Parliament in each state and Region.. But the two Chambers of Parliament are made meaning less by the joint seatings of the two Parliament chambers to pass any laws as the votes of MPs from seven States in no any way can balance the over whelming majority numbers of MPs from the seven Regions . Each state Mps also has been made to be just a district council in each state as the legislative power they are given are not better than the legilative power given to the district councils like Saiha district council and Lawngtlai district council in Mizoram a tiny constituent state of the Indian Union in the north East..

Actually the armed forces in a country are government or public servants to act according to the order of the public elected head of state. But according to how they are practicing the political Party now under the Constitution of the Union of Myanmar 2008, the country armed force is made as a political party in the name of USDP Party. The party Chief is thus General ThanShwe in service as the Chief of staff of the country armed forces. His order becomes the policy of the party to be executed with the force of arms practicing intimidation and threat on the population if they do not give consent to the Party political agendas though the population has a full democratic right to freely disagree any political agenda and have the full right to campaign against any political agendas the population can not give consent on it

That has been the reason why the constitution of the Union of Myanmar 2008 has been made the rule of militarism to prevail forever. And the general election held under the election law 2010 under the constitution 2008 in disciplined democracy exclude people who advocate normal democracy in freedom, in which there can be practiced democratic principles in full freedom.

The repetition of the Union constitution in Unitary form in fraud, intimidation and threat in the constitution of 2008 in spite of the population demanding for federalism and democracy has made it clear that the problem of the Union of Burma will be far from solving it in this way. The reason is the Burmese militarism is flatly against federalism and normal democracy in violating the human rights and the Panglong Agreement spirits. Actually federalism is no other than to make equal rights for all the different regions of the country to have equal democratic rights like the individual citizens of the country have equal personal democratic rights.

Thus the only option to make the Union of Burma in peace and prosperity is the one thing, to adopt the Union constitution in federal form with the existing 8 territories in which the Burmans/Burmese territory could form more than one constituent states if they so wish. But it is blocked by the Burmese military regime to draft the Union constitution in federal form for two times 1974and 2008 at gunpoint. It would be three times the Union constitution has been blocked undemocratically though the founding fathers of the Union had adopted the Constitutional frame work in federalism by the political party AFPFL led by General Aung San.

The whole population in the country is now totally against the military regime’s fraud constitution and the ruling military regime. But the military regime has made themselves the winners in the election of November 27, 2010 by fraud, deception in intimidation and threat with the force of arms at gunpoint. The UN and the democratic countries the world over is not to recognize the government formed by the fraudulent military regime in fraud and deception. Their existence as a government should be ignored as a legal government for it violates all the democratic Principles of the UN Charter and the world over.

The Chin people are therefore keeping on joining in fighting against this Burmese militarism by all means along the democratic forces of the Union of Burma led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for democracy and self determination in federalism. The Chin Special Division Act 1948 which is the amendment of the Chin Hills Regulation 1896 and the Chin Hills Regulation 1896 are respectively still in force in their respective context as family laws in Chin State and the Singkaling Khamti Naga Hills District throughout all these constitutional transitions in the UB.

Actually to have tripartite dialogue between the USDP governments, the representatives of the NLD led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the representatives of the ethnic armed forces in compounding with the second or the 21st century Panglong conference in the presence of the UN representatives may be the only most possible way to restore democracy and federalism in the country by peaceful means else tofight inarms struggle only could win the democratic aspiration as the .Burmese armed force under Than shawe has v been badly infrelled and weak eassy to come over with the Uninited foece of the population as the army peazsonal and their commanders also are toside with ther poplpulation ast will for their espiration for democracy and sef determination in federalism. Lnk

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25. “ Emergence of the Chin Hills Regulation 1896: Its Scope and Importance in History” on Page 261 of the book “Chin History Culture and Identity” published on behalf of: The Euro-Burma Office, Brussels, Belgium & Department of History & Ethnography, Mizoram University, Aizawl Band Dominant Publishers and Distributers 4378/4-B, Murari Lal Street, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi – 110002; Ph. 011-23281685, Fax: + 91-11-23270680;E-Mail:
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