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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Myanmar Village Seeks Pardon for 1871 Mizo Massacre; A Much-Needed Lesson in Forgiving Excesses of History and Forging New Political Relations

In history, we come across many instances of massacres which leave us numb and make us wonder, "How could they do this?"

We still carry those scars centuries after those events occurred and find it tough to forgive those people whose ancestors had wreaked havoc upon our ancestors, even though the people living now may not share the sentiments of their ancestors and may find it difficult to accept their actions all those years back.

Which is why this news report from the Times of India today made me sit up and take note of it. Amidst pages filled with news stories of hatred, intolerance, violence, here is a small story tucked in a corner of an inside page that can show the rest of the world how to truly live and let live; how to forgive, forget and move on.

Readers may remember that Abhay had touched upon this point in the Chittor blog series: 

"History should not be viewed with a revivalist sentiment but from a reformist approach. Revenge / retaliation for some injustice / crime committed in the medieval / ancient times is not a feasible solution. The past cannot be changed, but repetition of those mistakes in present / future can be avoided.

An interesting part of the story is that the descendants of those who perpetrated the massacre are weighed down by guilt, while those whose ancestors were almost wiped out, found it in their hearts enough love to forgive their "enemies" and enable them to overcome their feelings of guilt and shame.

Here is its link online:

Copying it down here also.

Myanmar Village Seeks Pardon for 1871 Mizo Massacre 

Aizawl: In a unique cross-border initiative, villagers of a Mizoram hamlet and their counterparts from a village in Myanmar gathered along the international border on Wednesday and prayed to erase the sins of their forefathers.

In a ritual enactment, the first of its kind in Mizoram, residents of Khuangleng village in the state's Champhai district "forgave" the residents of Laitui village, located in the Chin Hills of Myanmar, whose ancestors effected a massacre that almost wiped out the Mizo village 144 years ago.

The invasion of Khuangleng by Sukte chief Zapauva in 1871 occurred at a time the Mizo village's chief warriors, led by generals Lalburha and Thanhranga, were away on an expedition in the Assam hills.

Elderly men, women and children were left behind to bear the brunt of the attack and the defenceless inhabitants were either killed or taken as slaves to Myanmar's Laitui. The Suktes are part of an ethnic group of Kuki-Chin origin and are spread across the northeast and Myanmar.

The Suktes are part of an ethnic group of Kuki-Chin origin and are spread across the northeast and Myanmar.

Inexplicably, the incident left a deep scar in the minds of Laitui villagers over the years, with many believing that frequent accidental deaths and illnesses among youngsters in the Myanmarese village were a consequence of the terrible massacre of 1871.

The mass prayers for "forgiveness" took place on Khuangleng's playground along the Mizoram-Myanmar border and were attended by villagers from Khuangleng, as well as 90-odd people from Laitui who arrived here on Tuesday. The forgiveness ritual was followed by a community feast, the cost of which was borne by the residents of Laitui.

A Sketch Map of Mizoram 70-150 Years Back

Historical Note

Mizoram, nestling in a remote corner of northeast India, is home to several ethnic groups of Chin people, who migrated from the Chin state of Myanmar (formerly Burma). But information of this westward migration is based only on oral history and archaeological inferences, as there were no written records in this region till the British started occupying the adjoining regions around the mid-19th century. The history of the land is largely reflected by those of the Lusei, Hmar, Lai, Mara and Chakmas tribes. Following religious, political and cultural revolutions in the mid-20th century, many of these hill people agglomerated into a super tribe, Mizo and their land became known as Mizoram.

The earliest documented records of Mizoram are from the British military officers in the 1850s, when they encountered a series of raids from the native hill people, as they (the British) tried to settle in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Among other reasons for the British foray into this remote region, the fertile lime quarries around Cherrapunji was a major one. 

They referred to the land to as Lushai Hills. The British met stiff resistance from the local tribals and the internecine warfare and raids often resulted in the death of British officials and their family members. As a consequence, British rulers started subjugating the tribal chieftains. Punitive British military expeditions in 1871 and 1889 led to their annexation of the entire Lushai Hills. After India's independence in 1947, the land became the Lushai Hills district within the Indian state of Assam. In 1972 the district was separated from Assam and declared a union territory with a culturally more inclusive name of Mizoram. Ultimately Mizoram became a full-fledged state of the Indian Union in 1986.

Old Record, Deputy Commissioner's Office, Aizawl - Sketch Map showing trade routes 70-150 years back

The Suktes of Myanmar

The Suktes under Zapauva or Zapau were very powerful and the English had faced lot of trouble in subjugating them. (Pg 101, Mizo Chiefs and the Chiefdom, By Suhas Chaterjee)
The Mizos had a code of war that they should not attack during night time. But the Suktes of Myanmar did not adhere to the Mizo code of war. They moved about in a kind of guerilla warfare without compassion for children and women. As a result, the Sailos (they were local chiefs who ruled the area that is now Mizoram) suffered severe hardship throughout the war with the Suktes (around 1871).The strong determination of all the Sailo chiefs to defend their dominions and the unity they could afford to retain against outside aggression in spite of internal conflicts and feuds ultimately enabled them to protect and defend Mizoram from outside encroachment. (Pg 48, Mizoram: Society and Polity, By C. Nunthara)

Article Category: Miscellaneous

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