The United Zou Organisation, General Headquarters (UZO, GHQ) has opposed the government’s intention to fence the Indo-Myanmar border without taking into account the socio-historical implications and the existence of the Zou/Zo people and also condemned the Central government’s decision to remove the Free Movement Regime (FMR).
In a release on Thursday, the UZO-GHQ said that the Zou/Zo are trans-border communities who have long lived in the former Manipur-Chin (now Indo-Myanmar) boundary regions.
“Without our knowledge or approval, the British colonial overlords divided up our inhabited regions and gave them to Manipur and Chin Hills in the late 19th century. The British referred to the Zou/Zo inhabited regions which were located on Manipur’s southern border as the “neutral zone”, “no man’s land”, or “crossed-hatched area”. For a very long time there has been no clear boundary between Manipur and Myanmar”, it added.
“According to colonial records, there were around 19 Zou/Zo (or Yo) villages, with 630 households, living in the present-day border regions between India and Myanmar. These villages were responsible for paying taxes to the British administration of the Northern Chin Hills until September 1892. However, 16 of these 19 Zou/Zo villages were “awarded to Manipur” in 1894 when the boundary between Manipur and Chin was drawn. Carey and Tuck listed the names of the sixteen villages in The Chin Hills(1896:cxx) . Following then, more boundary demarcations were carried out, completing the Zou/Zo people’s final partition into India and Myanmar”, it recalled.
It stressed that the Zou/Zo population in India and Myanmar are one and the same, sharing the same origin, speaking the same dialect, and upholding the same customs and traditions.
The FMR between India and Myanmar facilitates socio-cultural and economic exchanges, allowing individuals on both sides of the border to regularly interact beyond this artificially drawn border, it mentioned.
Therefore, it would be a flagrant infringement of indigenous people’s rights to try to stop the same people from having individual and socio-cultural exchanges. It questioned if the government of India has abandoned its vision of Act East Policy.
The release implore the Central Government of India to use caution, resist the allure of some majoritarian propaganda aimed at the Kuki-Zo minority communities, and reverse its decision to unilaterally abolish the FMR and erect a border fence in the middle of the Zou/Zo ancestral territory.