July 07, 2009

Remembering July 7, 1997

“Mommy, why are they shooting at us? Why are they burning our houses?” She was intently looking up at her mother, her moist eyes sparkling. This 6-year-old girl was too young to understand the situation. Her mother simply said, “They were bad guys, dear.” As a shower of bullets flew above, she buried her head in her mother’s arms while warm tears from her mother’s eyes fell upon her face.

It was July 7, 1997. The day time stood still. The day Singngat started treading the path of degeneration. Never to revive its glory again.

It was on this day that the fiercest battle during the Kuki-Zomi ethnic clash (1997-98) was fought. Heavily armed Kuki militants savagely attacked the once peaceful and quiet town of Singngat from around 8.45 am, shooting randomly at people and burning down houses. More than 150 houses were burnt, 18 people including women and children were killed, and 3 injured. The attack dragged on for over four hours.

They left when they were done with their murderous deed. And what remained was a devastated town, covered in ashes. Thus began a new chapter – the darkest chapter – in the history of Singngat. The Fall of Singngat.

Here’s a salute to the brave souls who gave their life for the cause of Zomi and Zogam. May their souls rest in peace.

Mr V Pauthuam (50) s/o V Routhuam
Ms Ruati (22) d/o V Pauthuam
Mr B Chinzanang (46) s/o Luaizakham
Mr Thangbiaksang (18) s.o Neihlian
Ms Biaklalpaul (25) d/o Ngulkhothawn
Mr Tualzamuan (20) s/o Thangzachin
Mr Paulunlal (17) s/o Damkhanthang
Mr Thangkhansuan (28) s/o Pastor Nengkhogin
Mr Daigouthang (47) s/o Chinthawng
Mr Mangzamuan (18) s/o Lutkhogin
Ms Niangluan (25) w/o Khawlza-awn
Mr Khamkhopau (70) s/o Ngulzam
Mr Khamzadal (84) s/o Chindai
Mr Nengkhopau (42) s/o Pumgin (Takvom)
Mr Luangin (60) s/o Vungsiam (Takvom)
Mr Zamkhochin (50) s/o Khamzathawng (Takvom)
Mr Pumsuanlal (5) s/o Zamkhochin (Takvom)
Mr Suanbiaksang (2) s/o Luanzakham (Takvom)

May history avenge this day. May God forgive the evildoers. And let Zomi rebuild Singngat and show the world that Zomi rises against adversaries. TAKHEH!

A brief overview of the Kuki-Zomi Ethnic Clash (1997-98)

From June 1997 to October 1998 two ethnic groups in Churachandpur District in Manipur, India, the majority Zomi group and a minority group, the Kuki, were involved in an open conflict. According to the Manipur government's official record, the clash claimed the lives of 352 persons, injured 136 and reduced 4670 houses to ashes. Independent sources revealed that over 50 villages were destroyed and some 13,000 people were displaced. The majority moved to areas surrounding Lamka, the district capital of Churachandpur and Mizoram, where they were housed in makeshift refugee centres in schools, hospitals, and other buildings. Several hundred Indian Army soldiers were moved into Churachandpur with the purpose of restoring order. This was not successful, however, and outbreaks of violence continued until the church brokered a ceasefire in October 1998.

The immediate cause of the Kuki-Zomi conflict was the June 24, 1997 Saikul incident. 11 Zomi innocent villagers were lined up and killed by the Kuki National Front (President), a Kuki insurgent group. Following this, communal violence erupted and swept the entire district.

The early 1990s saw an increase in the population of the Kuki refugees, originally displaced from the north of the state as a result of the Kuki-Naga Conflict (1993), in Churachandpur district. Then came along different factions of the Kuki arm groups. They began extorting moneys, kidnapping businessmen thereby disturbing the existing order of things. The Thadou tribe started imposing the nomenclature “Kuki” upon the different tribes of the district. At the same time, Zomi-centric identity consciousness began to develop among the Paite, Zou, Simte, Vaiphei, and Tedim-Chin tribes. Zomi Re-unification Organisation (ZRO)and its armed wing, Zomi Re-unification Army (ZRA) was formed. The objective of the ZRO/ZRA is to protect the interests of the Zomis from the ‘onslaught of any community or group’. (Another objective is to bring all the Zomi people, divided by artificial State boundaries in various countries, specifically in Myanmar (Chin State), India (Manipur and Mizoram) and Bangladesh (Chittagong Hills Tracts), together under one administrative unit, a ‘Zogam’, which means ‘land of the Zomi’ under the Indian Union.)

Tension grew between the Kukis and the Zomis. Sporadic gunfight between the the KNFs and ZRA occurred. Then happened the June 24, 1997 Saikul incident. And the rest, as they say, is history.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lies! Lies! Fucking lies! What about the whole truth? This isn't fair at all, its too much grounded on one side(the Paite). And for the record the Zou tribe had nothing to do with this clash/conflict, it was just between the Thadou kuki and the Paite community(not Zomi). Don't include us because we ain't a part of the fight neither a part of u, we were neutral even though your so call ZRA savagely shed the blood of our beloved Zou brothers. Remember that?! We forgive but we don't forget, its just that we aren't as bloody, cruel and uncevilised as you!