By Vumson Suantak
At the beginning of the year 1892 the impact of the British presence was felt everywhere. Coolies were demanded of the villages, and roads for British use had to be built. The British imposed increasingly heavy fines for any sign of opposition. What made the Zo people most determined to oppose the British was their demand for the freeing of slaves and the collection of guns as fines.
In the Hualngo—Lusei area, Nikhuai, a Zahau chief who ruled over a mixture of Lusei, Zahau and Paihte clans, rebelled against the British. Also Lalbura Sailo, a Lusei chief, refused to supply coolies for officers who were then in Zo country to make maps and collect fines or slaves, arid the Lusei chiefs Vansanga, Dokhuma, and Kairuma opposed admission of the British political officer Shakespear into their territories.
In the Gungal area, Kaptel village under chief Thuamthawng attacked the British outpost at Botung. Taking advantage of the attack, the’British demanded the surrender of Thuamthawng, all slaves in the area, and a number of guns.
To make matters worse, Mesan, a Burmese slave of Thuariithawng. left his master and fled to Fort White and found sanctuary with the Township Officer Myook Tun Win, an Arakanese. But Mesan was not happy with Tun Win and returned to Kaptel, where on arrival Thuamthawng shot and killed him. The incident gave the British additional grounds to demand heavier fines from the Kaptel chief.
The Sizang, who had ceremonially taken the oath of friendship with the British were not happy with the treatment they received. Their grievances had been :
- Pu Kamsuak, who shot and killed Major H. F. Stevens before the oath of friendship was taken, arrested and put into jail.
- Pu Onvum, who was looking after a British garden at Fort White, was accused of stealing the vegetables and killed.
- Pu Vumson, who was plucking mango fruits in his field at Kalzang, was used by soldiers as a target for shooting competition, thereby injuring him so severely that he lost one leg.
- Pu Onson, who was harvesting sweet potatoes in his field at Ciintam, was shot and killed without any reason.
- The British demanded all guns and when delivered broke them and buried them with salt.
- The British demanded that all slaves be given to them.
- The British started collecting taxes.
Preparation for the Myook Suam
To avenge their grievances Ensuang, Kamngo and Sontuang killed a Gurkha sepoy at Sapan. Another sepoy was killed at Aicik by Thanghau, and Takthuan killed five mules belonging to sepoys at Aicik.
Thuamthawng did not bow to British demands, but instead instigated other Zo people, especially the Sizang, to stand against the British. The Sizang chiefs welcomed Thuamthawng and Paudal with open arms when they visited and explained their intention to oppose the British. Vumlian, Kamngo, Mangphut and Hangkhup discussed the matter at Kamlam’s house at Pumva, Kamlun contributing a pot of zu for the important occasion. The Sizang chiefs, except Manglun of Limkhai, held a conference at Vanleal’s hut in Voklaik. They agreed unanimously to turn agabist the British and to drive them out of Zo country.
Khaikam of Khuasak was sent to Thuamthawng to discuss further details of the planned attack on the enemy, and Khaikam, Thuamthawng, Paudal (son of Thuamthawng) and Khanhau (chief of Heilei) decided to send messengers to Lusei, Haka, Tlasun and Zahau chiefs. The messengers brought back news of the willingness of these people to cooperate with them, and it was decided to ambush and kill the political officer, Mr. Carey, who was to be invited to Pumva. It was further planned that direct confrontation with the enemy’s forces was to be avoided, but that wherever possible the enemy should be ambushed, their telegraph lines cut, and their mules killed—which it was hopedwould force the enemy to leave Zo country.
The Execution of the Plan
Thuamngo, a Sizang, served as a policeman at Fort White. The Sizang sent him to the political officer with a message from Thuamthawng, which said that he was ready to surrender himself and that he brought with him an elephant tusk, a rhinoceras horn and 150 guns to be presented to the political officer.
But Mr. Carey was called to southern Zoram, and Myook Tun Win was designated to go to Pumva to receive Thuamthawng and the presents. When the news was received at Pumva the Zo leaders decided to go on with their plan. Tun Win was not an enemy as he was not white, but he served the British, and the Zo people were not ready to serve anyone—whether white, Burmese, Arakanese or from any foreign power.
The problem remaining to be solved was who should kill Aungzan the interpreter, who was the son of a Burmese slave and a Phunom woman. Because of the tradition of “an eye for an eye” the Phunom relatives of Aungzan would avenge his death. But the problem was easily solved as the Phunom themselves came forward and agreed to shoot Angzan.
On October 9, 1892 Tun Win marched from Fort White to Thuklai. He was accompanied by two interpreters, Aungzan and Aunggyi (who spent 15 years in the Sizang valley as a slave) and 30 rifles as a body guard. The Sizang welcome the party at Muitung, and to avoid arousing suspicion they were very friendly to all members of the party. Then, saying that they were going to make preparations for the ceremony at Pumva, they hurried to Suangbum and waited for the arrival of the Tun Win party.
Hangtuang fired the first shot, which was returned by the guards. Although the shooting was nearly point blank five soldiers escaped, and after the skirmish one man from Thangnuai was found killed. On receiving news of the attack from the escapees the British sent a large force to the Sizang area and, with the exception of Limkhai, burned all the Sizang villages. The British then demanded the return of all slaves and guns—but the people instead took to the jungle. At a conference held at Kaptel the Zo leaders pledged to disturb the British movements more than ever.
In retaliation, the British sent Brigadier General Palmer with a force of 2,500 rifles. More Villages were burned, livestock taken away and fields destroyed. Due to the resulting lack of food it was difficult to keep women and children in the jungle, and they were back to the villages after half a year of hiding. The British finally took family members of resistance fighters as hostages. Thus it was no longer possible to rebel against the British, and in July 1893 Kamlian and Thuamngo (Thuklai), Dolian and Kamcin (Buanman), Khamhau (Heilei) and Lalnang (Muizawl) surrendered themselves. They were arrested and deported to Burma. Thuamthawng and Paudal gave themselves up during late 1893, after which they were also deported to Burma. Dothang (Sukte chief) and Manglun were accused of helping the rebels and arrested, and their guns and slaves were confiscated. In Haka and Falam the British demanded all guns be turned over to them.
By the end of 1893 the British managed to position small army detachments in all key villages. Their mam object was to capture or eliminate Khaikam and Khuppau and their some 127 followers. All paths and all villages were closed to them, and they had to switch their headquarters to the jungles near Yazagyo. In May 1894, after their family members were taken hostage and threatened with death unless the “rebels” surrendered, Khuppau, Khaikam, Vumlian and Suangson gave themselves up. This was the last group resisting British rule. Khaikam was deported for life to the Andaman Islands, and all the others were banished to Burma.
This article was originally appeared in the Zo History written by Pu Vumson Suantak