The term Mizo is derived from two Mizo words-Mi and zo. 'Mi' in Mizo means 'person'. There is dispute on the term 'zo'. According to one view, 'zo' means 'highland' and Mizo means highlander or people living in high hills. Historian Lalthangliana says 'zo' may also mean 'cold region' and therefore, Mizo signifies people of the cold region.
Though the term Mizo is often used to name an overall ethnicity, it is an umbrella term to denote the various clans, such as Pawi, Paite, Mara, Ralte, Hmar people etc. A number of dialects are still spoken under the umbrella of Mizo; some of them are Mizo ṭtawng (which is an official language of Mizoram and a lingua franca of the Kuki people), Hmar language Gangte language, Paite language, Thadou-Kuki, a sub-clan of Gangte who still speak their own dialect, Lai and Mara language.
Sandwiched between Burma in the east and south and Bangladesh in the west with a total of 630 miles, Mizoram is inhabited by the Mizo people and the minority Chakma and Riang (Bru) (Mizo: Tuikuk) communities. Historically speaking, Mizo people are a part of the great waves of 18th-century immigration from Tibet and Yunnan of China into eastern and southern India.
They had earlier migrated into western Burma, which they reached around the 7th century. They were on the move again 1000 years later. Mizo people were influenced by British missionaries in the 19th century. The spread of education by Christian missionaries led to people in 2011 as having achieved a high rate of literacy of 91.58% of the population. Many also adopted Christianity.
A great majority of ethnic Mizo people are Christians. The major Christian denominations are Presbyterian (majority, influenced by the affiliations of the early missionaries), Baptist, Wesleyan Methodist Church, United Pentecostal Church International The Salvation Army, Lairam Jesus Christ Baptist Church, Seventh-day Adventist, Evangelical Church of Maraland (ECM), Congregational Church of India (Maraland) in the southern district of Saiha, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal churches and EBC(Evangelical Baptist Convention Church) in Sialkal range Champhai(lengteng Constituency) and Aizawl. The Zomi Baptist Church is in Aizawl , Champhai area and Sialkal Range Development area.
Since the late 20th century, a small number of Mizo and related ethnic peoples in two Northeast India states have begun to practice Judaism, stating that they are descended from a lost tribe of Israel. They number at most several thousand in a population of more than 3.7 million in these states. Most Mizo do not agree with this identification. Several hundred have already emigrated to Israel, where they had to complete conversion to be accepted as Jews. In 2005 the Chief Rabbi of Israel ruled that they were part of a lost tribe, but any wishing to emigrate must first complete formal conversion to Judaism in Nepal.
During the later part of the British rule, the people in Lushai Hills as well as in Manipur hills felt that the British administration was trying to exert control through the chiefs of the communities. There were several rebellions against the British rule as a result, and an anti-chief movement gained ground. In 1946, the Mizo Common Peoples' Union (MCPU) was formed. In the event of India being independent, the Mizo Union, as it was soon called, demanded that Mizoram should be with Assam rather than adjoined to Burma, as the pro-chief party advocated.
With the independence of India, a secessionist group in the Union favored joining with Burma, to which they were linked historically, ethnically and linguistically, with common roots to their languages. The separation of India from Burma in the year 1937, the partition of India in 1947, and the government's administrative extension over the Indian part of the area reduced the free mobility of the inhabitants. The rules to allow free passage across the India-Burma and India-East Pakistan (now India-Bangladesh) international borders were not regularly honored. Chafing at the restrictions, many of the Mizo never accepted the new territorial boundaries; they rebelled in the March 1966 Mizo National Front uprising.
The multi-ethnic and pluralistic state of Mizoram has numerous communities, such as the Mizo (majority) (Lusei, Gangte, Pawi, and Lakher or Mara), the Bru (Riang), and the Chakma.
Mara, earlier known as Lakher, is the predominant community of the southeastern district of Saiha. The demand for a separate Lakher hills district in 1945 led to the formation of an organized political party called Mara Freedom Party. Under the Sixth Schedule Amendment of Indian Constitution, they were granted an autonomous district council, Mara Autonomous District Council. They have continued to struggle politically based on their strong identity. They have maintained their language through education, initially supported by the work of Christian missionaries. Due to the spread of Christianity, education also spread and molded their social life. The Mara have a high literacy rate. While their language is different, they can comprehend Mizo language.
The Paites are indigenous tribes of Mizoram under the Greater Assam state since 1300 AD. The Tribal Research Institute of Mizoram in their published book,"Paite in Mizoram" stated that the Paite people entered the present Mizoram along with Palian Chief of Lushai around the first half of the 17th century. The first census of Lushai Hills by the British in 1901 have recorded that there were 2,870 Paites in Mizoram. In 1921 census, there were 10,460 Paites in Mizoram. If census is carried correctly on ethnic line, the Paite population will not be less than one lakh (1,00,000) in Mizoram state. The Union Government has recognised Paite as one of the tribes in Mizoram vide The Gazette of India Notice No. 10 of 2003 date 8 January 2003 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 2002.The Paite are not a refugee they are the original inhabitants of Mizoram. Truly speaking, Paites are larger than the Lushai; they live in Chin state of Burma, southern Manipur and north eastern part of Mizoram.
The essential criteria for the creation of Autonomous District Council which is mentioned in the sixth schedule of the Constitution of India. such as; distinctive culture, geographical isolation etc. are fulfilled by the Paites of Mizoram. P.R.Kyndiah, former Governor of Mizoram in his book "Mizo Freedom Fighters" stated that the northern territory of Mizoram was inhabited by Paite and their kindred groups. At present the Paite people are living in thirty two(32) compact villages in the north eastern part of Mizoram. The geographical area occupied by the Paite people is about 2,000 Sq. km which is fit for creation of new District Council to meet aspiration of the Paite community. The Paites are socially and culturally distinct from other tribes of Mizoram. Major Shakespeare, the then first Superintendent of Lushai Hills said that Paite dialect is unintelligible to Lushai. He also recorded that Paite have distinct culture and custom.
In 1953 India adopted a constitution defining itself as a Sovereign Democratic Republic. At that time the Lai people of the southern part of Mizoram, a segment of the much larger population of Lai/Chin, were granted an Autonomous District Council under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution, to support their identity.Lawngtlai was created as the Headquarters of Lai Autonomous District Council.
The people have maintained use of their language in the community and in their education. Maintenance of language as a symbol of identity has been inculcated up to Middle school standard. The Lai Autonomous District Council managed their education from Primary to Middle stage, in which the state government (Mizoram) has no control or interference. Lai people speak both Lai and Mizo languages (the latter is official in the state).
The Hmar are another of the numerous Mizo tribes of India, occupying a large area in the northeast of India. In Mizoram, they reside mainly in the north and northeastern parts of the state. Literally, Hmar means North or Northern people, as they are living north of the Lusei people. At some point the lusei hills people were recorded as lusei which includes many tribes like the Ralte, the Lai, and the Hmar. Some scholars believe the name Hmar refers to a characteristic style of wearing a knot of hair on top of the head.
In July 1986, after the signing of the Mizo Accord, some Hmar leaders here formed Mizoram Hmar Association, later renamed the Hmar People's Convention (HPC). The HPC spearheaded a political movement for self-governance of the Hmar in Mizoram, demanding an Autonomous District Council (ADC) to cover the Hmar-dominated areas in the north and northwest of Mizoram. They wanted as much autonomy as had been granted to the Mara and Lai (see above).
The HPC activists formed an armed wing, the Hmar Volunteer Cell (HVC). The State Government forced them to take up arms until 1992, when representatives of the HPC and the Government of Mizoram mutually agreed to hold ministerial level talks. After multiple rounds of talks, they signed a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) in Aizawl on 27 July 1994. Armed cadres of the HPC surrendered along with their weapons in October 1994. The government established the Sinlung Hills Development Council (SHDC) for the Hmar. Some of the HPC leaders and cadres rejected Memorandum of Settlement, breaking away and forming the Hmar People's Convention – Democratic (HPC-D). It has continued an armed movement for autonomy in the form of Autonomous District Council within Mizoram under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.
Sub-tribes or clans:
The Hmar tribe comprises numerous sub-tribes or clans (Pahnam in Hmar language). In the past these clans had their own villages and their own dialects. However, today majority of the Hmar population use Hmar language. Some of the major clans are:
1. BIATE. 1. Betlu, 2. Chungngul, 3. Darnei, 4. Fatlei, 5. Hmunhring, 6. Khurbi, 7. Nampui, 8. Ngamlai, 9. Puilo, 10. Sawnlen, 11.Tlungurh, 12.Tamlo 13.Thienglai
2. DARNGAWN. (a)BANZANG: 1. Famhoite, 2.Sinate 3.Sanate 4.Lamchawngte, 5. Fatlei, 6. Chawnghmunte, 7. Sanate, (b)RENTHLEI: 1.Zasing 2.Lienhlun 3. Tinkul 4. Thangthlawi 5. Thoundur 6. Songhek 7. Tingthang 8. Sawnnel (c)PAKHUONG: 1. Khuongpui 2. Buongpui 3. Hranngul 4. Khelate 5. Luhawk (d)TLAU: 1.Bawlsim 2.Thangum 3.Buolsuok 4.vantawl (e)SHAKUM: 1.Donghel 2.Hauhnieng 3.Hauhmawng (f)FAIHENG (g).RUOLNGUL
(I). SAIVATE: 1. Tusing 2. Bapui 3. Tuollai 4. Tuimuol 5. Khawlum 6. Thanhril 7. Khawkheng 8. Khawhreng 9. Sekawng 10. Thlangnung 11. Seiling 12. Hmuntha 13. Saihmar 14. Dulien 15. Khawral 16. Sakum 17. CHAWNGTHU(desecendants of Lersi Saivate): a. Khunthil (1. Khunsut 2. Khunthang 3. Haukawi 4. Saithleng) b. Vanchieu (1. Muolluong/Mualuang 2. Chingrum 3.Thangsûng)
(II)NGENDUM: (a)NGENTE: 1. Dosak 2. Dothlang 3. Dothei 4. Chawnghawi 5. Lailo 6. Laitui 7. Lairing 8. Tluongngur 9. Zawngte 10. Bawlte 11. Lalhmang 12. Ngenzo 13. Thuilal 14. Lungdap 15. Parkher (b)NGENZO: 1. Neihlut 2. khuphmang 3. Suonte/Suante 4. Dosawn 5. Suanzawng 6. Luolang 7. Sûnman 8. Mannghil 9. Zawmthuok/Zawmthuak 10. Hlunthuam 11. Ngaitluong/Ngaituang 12. Suonlam/Suanlam 13. Sawndo 14. Thuomsawn 15. Khiapthang
4. LAWITLANG 1. Hrangchal, 2. Sungte, 3. Varte, 4. Suomte, 5. Tlawmte, 6. Chawnsim, 7. Rawite.
5. KHAWBUNG 1. Fenate, 2. Pangamte, 3. Pazamte, 4. Riensete, 5. Bunglung, 6. Muolphei, 7. Phunte/Punte 8. Laising. 9. Vuote
6. LUNGTAU 1. Mihriemate, 2. Sawngate, 3. Infimate, 4. Nungate, 5. Intoate, 6. Lungchuong, 7. Pasulate, 8. Keivom, 9. Tamhrang, 10. Sielhnam, 11. Theisiekate, 12. Shunate, 13. Thlawngate.
7. LEIRI 1. Neingaite, 2. Puruolte, 3. Pudaite, 4. Pulamte, 5. Puhnuongte, 6. Thlandar.
8. THIEK 1. Zate, 2. Amaw, 3. Tuolor, 4. Buhril, 5. Hekte, 6. Kungate, 7. Thluchung, 8. Selate, 9. Hnamte, 10. Traite, 11. Hnamte, 12. Khawzawl, 13. Vankal, 14. Pakhumate, 15. Thlihran, 16. Hmante, 17. Tamte, 18. Chawnnel. 19. Athu, 20. Chawnkal 21.chawnghekte 22. Ralsunhekte
9. ZOTE 1. Pusiete, 2. Chuonkhup, 3. Saihmang, 4. Hriler, 5. Chawnghau, 6. Chawngvawr, 7. Buonsuongte, 8. Chawngtuol, 9. Darkhawlai, 10.Tlangte, 11.Parate, 12. Hrangate, 13. Ngaiate, 14. Neitham.
10. HRANGKHAWL 1. Penatu, 2. Chawlkha, 3. Phuoitawng, 4. Dumker, 5. Chorei, 6 Sakachep.
11. CHANGSAN 1. Armei, 2. Chaileng, 3. Hrawte, 4. Kellu, 5. Zilhmang, 6. Ngulthuom, 7. Thangngen, 8. Hranhnieng, 9. Zilchung, 10.Ngawithuom.
12. NGURTE 1. Saingur, 2. Bangran, 3. Chiluon, 4. Bangran. 5. Sanate 6. Saidang 7. Rante
13. NGENTE 1. Chawnghawi, 2. Dosak, 3. Dothlang, 4. Lailo, 5. Laitui, 6. Laihring, 7. Tuolngun, 8. Zawhte, 9. Bawlte. 10. Zawngte
After Indian independence, the democratic change in administrative set-up of Mizoram led to an anti-chief movement. Feeling was widespread against the autocratic chiefs and for the Mizo Union. In 1955, at a meeting of representatives of various Mizo villages held in Aizawl, the demand arose for a separate hills state. The local people felt they had been ill-served by the Assam Government during the Mautam famine.
When in 1960 the government introduced Assamese as the official language of the state, there were many protests against the Official Language Act of 1961. This was followed by the March 1966 Mizo National Front uprising, resulting in the attack of the military installations in Aizawl, Lunglei and other towns. The Mizo National Front, formerly known as Mizo National Famine Front, declared independence.
The Indian government designated Mizoram as a Union Territory on 21 January 1972. Pu Laldenga, the President of Mizo National Front, signed a Peace accord in 1986 with the Government of India, stating Mizoram was an integral part of India. Pu Laldenga came to the ministry in the Interim government which was formed in coalition with Congress in 1987. The Statehood of Mizoram was proclaimed on 20 February 1987.
With 91.58% per cent literacy, the second highest in Indian states, Mizoram is a leader in the national emphasis on education. Because of this, its people have demanded that Mizo ṭawng be recognized as an official language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian constitution. The demand is important and expressed in various aspects of social and political life.
The English language is widely used in the state, especially in the fields of education, official matters and other formal domains, as it is in other parts of India. English had already penetrated the life and blood of the Mizo people for a long time along with the spread of education.
Christian missionaries in the 19th century developed the current alphabetic system adopted for a written form of the Mizo language. Adoption of the Roman script has facilitated people's learning English as a second language. The admiration and demand for the use of English in Mizoram is no different from the same attitude in other parts of India.
The Mizo have conducted a long, drawn-out socio-political struggle for identity and recognition, and succeeded in gaining political power from the central government in New Delhi. They fear being assimilated with other communities, and continue to insist on their separate identity and use of traditional languages to help maintain that.