The Chin and Mizo: Ex-brothers?
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The Chin and Mizo: Ex-brothers?


By Karin Kaasik/Mizoram, India APRIL, 2004 - VOLUME 12 NO.4


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“The Mizo should give credit to the highly educated teachers from Burma. We contributed positively to the development of Mizoram,” Sakhong says. Today the Mizo no longer need the Chin. But the Chin are still there and they continue to come. The Mizo should give credit to the highly educated teachers from Burma. We’ve contributed positively to the development of Mizoram The total Chin population in Mizoram is estimated at 50,000, with most living in areas abutting the border, while in the city of Aizawl, it is between 9,000 and 15,000. Peace, stability and economic development—in sharp contrast to Burma—lure the Chin to Mizoram. In many cases, the Chin have no alternative but to cross the border, fleeing persecution at home. Pi Par, a 50-year-old Chin woman who speaks fluent English, came to Mizoram from Kalaimyo four years ago. She says that her salary as an English teacher in Kalaimyo was 7,000 kyat (US $9) a month, while in Mizoram it is 2,500 rupees ($57). It was not the salary, however, that made Pi Par leave Burma. Burma’s ruling military government, the State Peace and Development Council, closed the Christian school where she used to teach and tortured some of her friends. She describes what happened to some Chin pastors: “They [the SPDC] beat them, put a plastic bag over their heads…[they] let them live by occasionally removing the plastic bag to let them breathe. They repeated this again and again.” Pi Par’s dream of someday, under different conditions, returning to Burma and establishing a private English school in her hometown, remains. Generally, the Mizo recognize that Burma’s military government is responsible for the exodus of Chin into India, yet many Mizo see the Chin who reside in Mizoram as nothing but beggars and street laborers. From their traditional reference as khua-chak, or southerners, the Chin have now become known as Burma-ho, a strongly derogative term for people from Burma. “The Mizo look down on the Chin,” Pi Par says. History has demonstrated that those who are culturally and ethnically different to the Mizo have, in the past, been considered a threat and therefore rejected by society—from attacks on the Gurkha presence at the end of the 19th century to today’s dislike of Indians, the Mizo remain united in safeguarding the cherished distinction of their state as the only state in India where only one language is spoken—Mizo. But just 22 km away from the newly opened border trading post, on the Burma side, sits Rih Dil Lake, an idyllic and tranquil heart-shaped lake believed to be the place where the souls—of Chin and Mizo alike—pass to their eternal abode. “Being a Chin and not having ever seen the lake is like something is missing in life,” Sakhong says. Mizos must feel the same, as nearly every Mizo in the Champhai border area, but also many in Aizawl, 240 km and a 10-hour drive away, admitted to having visited the lake—long before Mizoram’s “new gateway” opened on the road to the sacred lake. Karin Kaasik is a researcher based in Thailand.


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