Mizo Contemporary History Needs Thorough Revision Part-2

Mizo Contemporary History Needs Thorough Revision Part-2

 Ruata Lungchuang 

The initial installment of my piece, Mizo Contemporary History Needs Thorough Revision struck a chord with many. Tens of thousands of you dove into it, both on the website and on Facebook. This response has been a revelation for me as a writer and a Mizo. It's both reassuring and inspiring to discover that many young Mizos share similar thoughts. Recent years have witnessed a renewed focus on Mizo culture and politics, particularly among educated youth. The current explanations of Mizo history, often based on biased or poorly researched sources, and the Church's agenda-driven perspective, simply no longer resonate with the intellectual curiosity of many young Mizos. Reconstructing or revising Mizo history is a monumental task, even for someone with formal historical training, which I lack. However, all of us possess the ability to reason. There's a clear need to address the flaws in our current understanding of Mizo history. With humility and a desire to share accumulated knowledge, I aim to explore this further. The Double-Edged Sword of Colonial Records and the Church's Influence

Our understanding of Mizo history is like a house built on a shaky foundation – colonial writings. These British records, while a primary source, paint a caricatured picture of the Mizo people. Unlike other Northeast Indian ethnicities, the Mizos had the dubious fortune of being extensively documented due to their fierce resistance against British rule that stretched well into the 20th century. But before we get too caught up in condemning colonialism's skewed narratives, let's address the elephant in the room: the Church. Yes, the Church's role in Mizoram's history is undeniable. It was the forerunner of education, a window to the modern world for the Mizo people, and undeniably played a commendable role in uplifting Mizo society. However, this giant institution, also a keeper of Mizo history, comes with its own baggage. The Church's narrative, while influential, isn't exactly rooted in historical accuracy. It presents a sanitized and agenda-driven version of Mizo history, one that can't quite capture the full picture. Growing up Mizo, we all hear the Church's version of history – a narrative that's seeped into our literature and even snuck into secular studies. This version paints a picture of our ancestors as helpless savages, yearning for a saviour. It's a classic "white savior" complex, portraying Mizos as miserable souls worshipping rocks and trees until the missionaries arrived with civilization. This narrative, with its religious and mythical trimmings, became ingrained through constant Church teachings. Over time, these embellishments and biased memories solidified into gospel truth. Thankfully, evidence from both British records (flawed as they may be) and neighbouring kingdom’s chronicles tell a different story. It reveals a far more empowering truth: the Mizo people were capable individuals engaged in territorial expansion when the British showed up. It is now known that the notion of Mizo people worshipping trees and stones before Christianity is simply a massive misinterpretation of thier animistic beliefs, seen through the distorted lens of Victorian missionaries. However, despite being debunked, this false history persists. It lingers in the minds of both religious and secular scholars, holding strong as the dominant narrative in Mizo society. The Church seems reluctant to let go of this story. It could be that some leaders fear abandoning these church lores would delegitimize their role in Mizo society. But that couldn't be further from the truth! In this time of renewed enlightenment, powered by the digital age, we don't need a saviour narrative to appreciate the Church's good works. Perpetuating a lie only hurts the very people they serve. The Church needs to wake up and embrace the truth – it won't diminish its positive impact. Remember, when we say "the Mizo Church," we're not referring to a specific denomination. It's a broader term encompassing the state's collective religious institutions. The Mizo Inferiority Complex: Holding Ourselves Back

Let's face it, Mizos often struggle with a serious case of inferiority complex. With the things that have influenced or histography, it's no surprise some of us view ourselves and our place in the world with pretty low self-esteem. Sure, humility can be a good thing – it helps us learn from others. But take it too far, and it breeds self-hatred. Look at any proud society – they all believe they're somehow special. When they encounter something impressive, they figure it must be connected to them in some way. After all, sophistication is their birthright, right? Savages can't possibly create something truly great – unless, of course, they learned it from them. The Mizo worldview flips that script on its head. We see something valuable, and instead of claiming it as our own, we chalk it up to another group. It's like we're programmed to believe Mizos are just stuck in the mud on all fronts. Take the early British missionaries, for example. They were blown away by our complex customs, rich culture, and surprisingly deep theological concepts. Their minds were boggled – how could "Mongoloid savages" possibly have developed such things? They concocted this theory that the Mizos must be a lost tribe of Israel. "Surely," they thought, "no mere tribal people could have such ideas – they must be Semitic!" This idea unfortunately seeped into the Mizo mindset, and some even entertained the notion of "Mizo Israelism," latching onto any perceived similarities. Their logic went something like this: "Israelites were kind of like us, so that must mean we're Israelites, not the other way around!" They got so caught up in finding connections with the Israelites but the possibility of Israelites stemming from Mizos never even crossed their minds. Meanwhile, across the pond, some fringe groups in America are pushing the idea that ancient Israelites were actually British. Talk about a contrasting worldview! The powerful see every culture as an extension of themselves, while the ruled see any similarities as something borrowed, not something they could have originated. Now, to be clear, Mizo-Israelism isn't exactly mainstream among Mizos worldwide. However, it does have consequences. We see people converting to Judaism based on this theory, and countless others clinging to the "out of Israel" narrative. If we had invested the same amount of effort and time into revising and properly understanding Mizo culture, instead of attempting to realign our history with Israel (as many do), we would be much further ahead in comprehending Mizo history. This "white savior" complex and inferiority complex are precisely why the Church's version of Mizo history desperately needs revision, or at least a clear label: religious lore, not factual history. Because that's exactly what it is. The fight for an accurate understanding of Mizo history goes beyond colonial records and the Church's narratives. A more insidious threat emerges in the form of cultural appropriation and historical revisionism by neighbouring communities. Recently, a video surfaced online showcasing a neighbouring community performing a bamboo dance. While clad in their own attire, they claimed it as their unique tradition. The dance bore a striking resemblance to the Mizo Cheraw and used a Hmar song – a clear sign of borrowed elements. Disturbingly, comments portrayed the Mizos as mere imitators. This incident highlights a worrying trend: the manipulation and rebranding of history and cultures across Northeast India and beyond. This specific community appears to be actively reshaping its cultural identity. Inspired by the "Korean Wave," they've seemingly remodeled their places of worship to mimic East Asian pagodas and even overhauled their folk music to resemble Korean styles. These new expressions are presented as ancient customs and are paraded by the media just as that. They will soon find their way into scholarly papers, as that is one of the best tools that one can use to propagate one’s own made-up history. Peer review and others hold little ground in the circus show of India in the 2020s, where myth triumphs over history.

A Call to Action: Reclaiming Our Narrative

The cultural appropriation example highlights another critical issue: the Mizo community's own role in safeguarding its heritage. We, the Mizos, seem to be lagging behind when it comes to defining, enriching, and fiercely protecting our culture. At the current rate, we risk becoming passive bystanders as our heritage gets absorbed by others. Any historical monument is readily attributed to foreign influences without proper investigation. Alternative narratives to the dominant one are dismissed as fringe interpretations. Here's the wake-up call: Mizo scholars, artists, filmmakers, and writers must take action. We need to understand the forces shaping our culture, both internally and externally. How are other cultures influencing ours, and how are they actively promoting their own heritage, even if it means embellishing it? We cannot afford to be passive consumers of our own history. The time for action is now. Resources are available for those willing to delve deeper. We must become active participants, interpreting our own history, revising it where necessary, and uncovering the true reasons behind the Mizo community's greatness. The prevailing narratives simply don't do justice to the rich tapestry of Mizo history and achievements. We must rewrite our story, reclaiming our agency and ensuring its accuracy for future generations. ALSO READ: Why Mizo freedom fighters have no presence on National media and textbooks?

The Mizos

The Mizos is a one-man team news blog, that brings you news and stories from Mizoram, Northeast India and the rest of the World.

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