According to a study from the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in Delhi, India, Mizos and Chins share the same genetic, cultural, historical, and linguistic heritage as they all descend from the Zo people, who settled in the Lushai hills some seven centuries ago. At present, the geographic separation of the Northeastern town of India and Myanmar’s western border has drifted the Zos into two ethnic groups of almost the same culture and appearance: the Mizos and the Chins.
The Mizos hail from the northeastern town of Mizoram, a mountainous area of lush hills and vast greenery said to be the most peaceful amongst the troubled northern part of India. The Chins, meanwhile, come from the Chin state in western Myanmar, a place of supposed refuge and peace for this people who find their country’s surreal, uneasy sense of order in total conflict with their reticent, peace-loving nature.
Today, there are at least 70,000 Chin migrants living in Mizoram primarily because of human rights abuse by the military since it came to power in 1962. They have crossed the border, illegally joining the hundreds of thousands of other ethnic Burmans trying to escape the oppression in their native land. In Mizoram, it would be hard for someone to tell who are the Mizos from the Chins. But if one would take a closer study, the ethnic rift would be obvious just around the main market area of the city’s capital Aizwal: Mizos own the nifty shops selling imported goods and electronic gadgets; and the Chins are those on the side streets selling whatever crop they have harvested for the day, usually to buy their families next meal.
As the world’s focus slightly bends towards the country with a surreal sense of order, thousands still try to make their way out of the country. Even with the recent ‘release’ of Nobel Peace laureate and national heroine Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, the majority of the population has yet to be graced with the recent developments. In the hills, the ethnic tribes people such as the Karen, Chins, Mon, Rohingyas and others face hard unpaid labor and abuses from the military. The story of the race divided is but a microcosm of what the whole country as one solid race face.
Their stories have also been told, time and time again in the broadsheets and glossies of magazines. And sadly it has also died alongside with the different headlines, time and time again.
What I want to bring to the attention of my audience is the issue of their personal space or the lack of it because of greed and political backlashes. Involuntary migration is one of the root causes of several human rights issues such as slave trade and prostitution globally. The Chins travel hundreds of kilometers, by foot at times, to obtain a space wherein they could live and raise their children, to build a family, as some had been broken due to distance and escapism. But what good would that bring if the land is not their own? And moreover, in a land where they are not recognized as refugees fleeing from oppression?
This project is part of an ongoing documentary on the lives of Burmese migrants and how they cope with the struggle of being away from their land.