Zomi Idol: Beyond Imposed Boundaries

Global Zomi Voice Echoes in Zomi Idol

Transcending the cocooned tribal mindset and thinking ahead, Pu T Gougin started pan-Zo or pan-Zomi solidarity movement to mobilise co-ethnic members or Zou people in Manipur, Mizoram and Myanmar in the 1950s. The movement eventually created a strong global Zo community and its aspirations to exist as one people cutting across all imposed boundaries found resonance in the Global Zomi Idol 2015.

TULSA, Oklahoma in the United States of America hosted the grand finale round of the much waited and coveted “Global Zomi Idol 2015 Contest” from 2-4 July, 2015. Marred by a few visa hiccups, the mega event otherwise made an impressive statement of unified Zomi people and its sustaining tradition in the face of westernization.

Seven popular and famous Zomi singers from all over the world — selected through contests held locally in countries with mared presence of Zomis – participated in the historic finale organised under the aegis of Zogam Artistes Association (India), Zomi Music Upliftment Society (Myanmar), and Global Zomi Inkuan (Zomi Community) USA. The list of the contestants was further narrowed down and the global event culminated at Tulsa.

“The Zomis consider Tulsa as the City of Zomis. We have a population of 6000 Zomis in Tulsa. In Florida alone, around 1000 Zomis are believed to have settled down in United States of America,” said Mr Cin Khan Mung, a recipient of Global Zomi Idol Best Expression, based in United States.

The swanky Auditorium of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa was fully packed with colourful audiences attired elegantly in Zomi traditional attire.

Around 10 thousands of Zomis flocked together to have a glimpses of the Zomi icons representing different states or countries.

The 12 Zomi Idols selected for Global Zomi Idol 2015 were Miss Cing Don Zam & Miss Go San Nuam; Mr Cin Khan Mung, Mr Gin Lam Khup & Miss Paal Nu of USA; Miss Dim Sian Mung of Australia Mr Vum Lam Mung Singapore; Miss Chingngaihlian & Miss Lawmnakim Hrangate representing India; Miss Nang Sian Cin & Mr Suum Ngaih Muan representing Malaysia; and Miss Lun San Niang Sukte representing the Europe Zone. Only 7 could make it to the finale.

At the end of the event, Mr Vung Lam Mung of Singapore was crowned ‘Global Zomi Idol 2015’. He took away home US $ 5000 and a trophy. The sub-title awards carried US (Dollar) $ 1000 and a citation.

Miss Chingngaihlian earlier won the Zomi Idol India 2015 title with Miss Lawmnakim Hrangate and Miss Tracy Ngaihching Gangte being adjudged the second and third. The Indian chapter of the Global Zomi Idol was held in February earlier this year at Lamka, a small town in Churachandpur, one of the nine districts of Manipur. It was organized by the Zogam Artistes Association (ZAA), an association of musicians in Lamka. Sadly for the Indian winners, they couldn’t board the flight to US of A due to Visa troubles. According to Mr B Muan Ngaihte, Information Secretary (Social & Media) of Zomi Idol 2015, Miss Chingngaihlian and Miss Lawmnakim supposed to represent India in the Global Zomi Idol Contest in Tulsa, were not been able to get Visa from US Consulate Kolkata. Similarly Zomi Idols of Malaysia and Europe failed to get Visa.

“It was a great loss for these promising Zomi singers,” lamented Mr Ngaihte whose latest album ‘Pianna Zogam (Zogam Government)’, a popular album worldwide in the Zomi community, was released by Mr Thang Lian Pau, President of Zomi Re-Unification Organisation recently.

Best Female Voice: Miss Go San Nuam
Best Male Voice: Mr Gin Lam Khup
Best Country Music: Miss Paal Nu
Best Rock Music: Mr Vum Lam Mung (Global Zomi Idol)
Best Performance: Miss Dim Sian Muang
Best Expression: Mr Cin Khan Mung
People’s Choice: Miss Cing Don Zam

*ZOMI is the name of a major tribe found in various part of South and South East Asia. The term Zomi meaning, “Zo People” is derived from the generic name ‘ZO’, the progenitor of the Zomi. They are found in northwestern Myanmar, northeastern India and Bangladesh. Anthropologists classify them as Tibeto-Burman speaking member of the Mongoloid race. In the past they were little known by this racial nomenclature. They were known by the non-tribal plain peoples of Myanmar, Bangladesh and India as CHIN, KUKI, or LUSHAI.

There were two views about the origin of the word, ZO. The first and most acceptable view is that ZO is a person whose descendants are called ZO-fate or ZO-suante. Some scholars like Pu Thawg Khaw Hau and Pu Captain K A Khup Za Thang presented the genealogical table of various Zomi clans in which they strongly claim that they are the descendants of ZO. ZO Khang Simna Laibu and ZO Suan Khang Simna Laibu (Genealogy of the Zo Race of Burma) cover extensively the geanology of Zo people in Chin State as well as those living in Mizoram and Manipur. Dr Vum Kho Hau and Dr Vum Son (Suantak) trace all the Zomi lineal to Zo. 

Pu Dr V Lunghnema wrote the Genealogy of the Hmar tribes, a branch of the Zo family, and he identified Zo as the ancestor of the Hmar clan. This interpretation of the term ‘ZO’ is substantiated by the fact that Zomi have a tradition of naming their clans after the head of each clan, thereby, Hualngo, Zahau, Guite, Singsit, Sailo, etc. clans carry each of their fore-father’s name. Likewise, it is logically true with Zo. Dzo or a very similar sounding one for the name of Zo as the founder of Zo people of Zomi. So the word Zo is a generic name and Zomi is derived from the name of the ancestor with reference to his descendants.

The second view suggested that the term Zo might have been derived from the Zo King of the Zhou Dynasty (B C 1027-225) of China. The main argument in this regard is that in ancient times the names of the ruling dynasty became the identity for the people.

ZOMI IDOL INDIA 2015:  Pu Langkhanpau Guite presented
the coveted prize to Miss Chingngaihlian (1st),
being watched by Miss Tracy Ngaihching Gangte (3rd),
Miss Lawmnakim Hrangate (2nd) at YPA Hall, Lamka.
Pic: Bruce K. Thangkhal
Pu T Gougin was one of the best known political leaders who hailed from the Zou community. He transcended the narrow interests of his own ‘tribe’ to launch a pan-Zo or pan-Zomi solidarity movement to mobilise his co-ethnic members n Manipur, Mizoram and Myanmar. A recent piece published from Mumbai by the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) made the following observation about Pu T Gougin.

“At a time when tribal leaders were vying for state recognition of their dialectal communities as “Scheduled Tribes,” Gougin began to conceive the idea of Zomi, i.e., “Zo People” in 1955 while serving as a clerk of the Tribal Development Office, Imphal. This prompted him to resign from his clerical job in 1958, and then pursued BA (honours) at St Edmund’s College, Shillong. As a final year student, he founded the United Zomi Organisation (UZO) at Singtom Village (Manipur) in 1961 to unite “all ethnic Zomi groups” (Gougin 1988:3). When UZO was reduced to mere vote bank politics to the complete neglect of the wider Zo solidarity, T Gougin launched on 28 January 1972 a new organization, Zomi National Congress (ZNC). He owned a printing press which helped him to propagate his nationalist vision through pamphlets, booklets and ephemeral literature. The Discovery of Zoland (1980) is perhaps Gougin’s most enduring political writing”.* 

~ Bruce K. Thangkhal [NORTH EAST SUN, August 31, 2015, New Delhi]



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