Every nationality has its own national day. We, the Chin people, also have our own national day which falls on 20th February every year. The Chin National Day did not come into being accidentally out of narrow nationalism and patriotism, but it came into existence as a result of the slow and steady struggle against the hereditary feudal system, colonialism and imperialism. We were able to get our national day because of our national unity.
Under the divide and rule policy of the imperialists, the Chins were administered separately from that of Myanmar and other indigenous races. Mizoram was excluded from Chin Hills. The exploitation of Chins by the imperialists took place politically, economically and socially. Under the cover of religion, our national culture was distorted and destroyed.
So, the Chins were in one voice to fight the imperialists although their arms and ammunition were very much inferior to that of the British. The fight against the British imperialists brought about the seed o0f revolution which in turn laid down the birth of the Chin National Day. The British invaded and annexed the Chin Hills in 1892; however the British could administer Chin Hills only after the adoption of Chin Hills Regulation in 1896. Later this Regulation was replaced by Chin Special Division Act of 1948 which was adopted on 22 October 1948.
The Chin nationalist movements took place on 20 February 1928, 20 February 1938 and 20 February 1948 respectively. These nationalist movements are an indication of the strong patriotic spirit of the Chins towards their own state.
Chin Hills Union Organization was born on 20 February 1928 at Hlingzung (Mahtungnu village) in Mindat Township. The founding father of the organization were U Law Ha Hing Thang(Chairman), U Ware Law Ha (Secretary), U Ki Pe Lian (a) Thakhin Aung Min (Treasurer) U Ki Mang (Information ) and seven other members. The formation of Chin Hills Union Organization is a milestone in the history of Chin Hills because this is the first time that the Chins were able to form a political organization in order to achieve their political ambition. It also laid down the political foundation for the introduction of Chin National Day. The first general meeting of Chin Hills Union Organization was held successfully at Ware village on 29 September 1932. The meeting decided to work together for the successful implementation in education, health, economy and social affairs. They also made a painful decision to drive out the imperialists as sooon as possible in cooperation with Myanmar.
In line with the division of the meeting, U Vomhtu Maung, U Ki Pe Liang, U Om Ning(a) Thakhin AAung Nyunt and meet the political leaders of Myanmar in Yangon. From that time onwards, Chin Hills Union Organization and Dobamar Asiayone ware able to increase the political momentum of national liberation movements in the country.
The new executive members of the organization were reelected by means of plebiscite at the general meeting in ware village the line up of new members were:
1. U Vomhtu Maung (Chairman)
2. U Ware Law Ha (Vice-Chairman)
3. U Ki Pe Liang (Secretary)
4. U Shwe Ling (Joint Secretary)
5. U Ki Mang (Finance)
There were also other 10 EC members and 18 circle chairmen.
Thus the political momentum of Chin national unity was developed rapidly. It also tendered a helping had to the Student’s Strike of 1936 and the political crisis of Myanmar era 1300. The organization submitted nine petitions to the British Government for the improvement of Chin Hills in various fields as follows:
1. to grant equal rights in administration to Chins similar to other forign national;
2. to administer Chin Hills according to the rules and regulations adopted by the Chins in cooperation with the Government;
3. to make reformations for the improvement in education system in Chin Hills and
4. to allow the teaching of Myanmar[sig- Burmese language] in addition to English;
5. to permit freedom of religions;
6. to construct roads as soon as possible for the improvement of transport and communications in Chin Hills;
7. to grant free access to travel to Myanmar;
8. to allow Chins to have freedom of relationship with any nationality;
9. to grant independence to Chins simultaneously with Myanmar.
The British Government gave its consent to discuss the 9 proposals on 20 February 1938 under its letter of 17 December 1937. About 300 members of Chin Hills Union Organization attended the general meeting under the leadership of U Vomhtu Maung, U Ware Law Ha and U Ki Pe Ling. About 300 government sevants attended the meeign under the leadership of the Commissioner of Falam and Sub divisional officer of Kanpetlet.
After heated debate between the two sides, the British Government announced that the 9 proposals could not be granted to the Chins. The political leaders of Chins were requested to take high ranking posts of public service in place of political duties. The members of Chin Hills Union Organization refused to take part in the public service and the discussions were in deadlock. Finally, the Government then declared Chin Hills Union Organization as an illegal organization. The Chins were very angry with the one sided act of the Government and as a result, demonstrations against the Government took place in various parts of Kanpetlet.
The high raking administrators of Magwe, Falam and Kanpetlet then ran away to the town of Saw in the same night for the sake of their safety.
After the declaration of Chin Hills Union Organization as an illegal organization, the Government arrested many Chin political leaders. The 36 members of circle chairmen declared their resignations from the public service in defiance of the detention of Chin political leaders. Demonstrations against the Government also took place in many parts of the area. They said that they would no longer pay tax and would not also serve as their coolies. They also stopped their ties with the ruling government.
The popular uprising in Kanpetlet is an indication of the brevity of Chins in their struggle against the colonists. Their act of defiance against the colonists was a right direction for the birth of Chin National Day.
According to the meeting on 13 December 1946 at Aung San’s residence, many commissions were formed to strengthen the friendly ties between Myanmar and various leaders of ethnic community. A Conference on Chin Myanmar friendship was held at Htilin from 4 to 6 March 1947 and friendship treaty was signed on the last day. Dedok U Ba Cho represented Aung San and U Vomhtu Maung represented the Chins. The leaders of Shan, Kachin and Chin also held a conference at Nyaungshwe in March 1947 and they decided to fight for complete independence together with Myanmar.
Aung San Atlee Agreement was signed on 27 January 1947. In line with the agreement, the Constituent Assembly was to be elected to determine future administrative affairs of Myanmar. As such, Panglong Conference was held on 7 February 1947 and Panglong Agreement was signed on 12 Februay 1947.
In accordance with the instructions of the Governor the Frontier Areas administrative officers, U Hlur Hmung of Falam, U Kio Mang of Hakha and U Thawng Za Khup of Tedim were selected by the Deputy Commissioner of Falam to represent Chins at Panglong conference.
Furthermore, Frontier Areas Committee of Enquiry was formed in March 1947 under the chairmanship of the Committee; the Chins opted to elect their own respective Constituent Assembly.
At the request of the Chins, Chin Hills Enquiry Commission was formed with three members on 5 February 1948. The Commission conducted enquiry from 12-23 February 1948 and they recommended the introduction of the rule of democratic system in lieu of hereditary feudal system of administration in Chin Hills and to grant compensation to the chiefs and headmen.
A general meeting was held in Falam from 19-22 February, 1948 to make a choice on the administrative system in Chin Hills and the election of Chin representatives. The meeting was attended by over 5000 representatives of Chins. In the meeting, U Vomhtu Maung acted as Chairman, Captain Mang Tung Nung as Secretary and U Lian THum of Hakha as master of ceremony.
On 20 Feb 1948, the representative of Tedim U Thawng Za KHup submitted a proposal in the general meeting. According to his proposal, the Chins had suffered untold misery under the hereditary feudal chiefs and headmen. They imposed heavy taxes on the common people. They also ordered the common Chin people to contribute voluntary labor without paying their labor charges. Due to their exploitation of the Chins by the feudal chiefs and headmen, no improvement and development of Chin Hills could be made for may decades. So, the majority of Chins were in favor of the abolition of hereditary feudal system of administration and they would like to bring about modern democratic system of administration in the Chin Hill.
The proposlal of U thawn Za Khup was strongly supported by U Sum Mang of Falam and U Thang Maung of Kanpetlet repectively. The popular vote was taken and 5000 representatively voted in favor of the proposal were as 17 representatives voted against the proposal. The Chin representative’s then confirmed the resolution as the vote received and overwhelming majority. Colonialism, the rule of hereditary feudal system by chiefs and headmen were then eliminated for the first time in Chin Hills at this mass meeting and introduced the democratic system which advocates the rule of the people by the people for the people. It is landmark in the history of Chin Hills because it was the first time that all the Chins were able to hold the general meeting and achieves national unity among themselves. So, 20 Feb is a historic and meaningful day for the Chins because all the Chins were able to achieve national solidarity and unity on this very day.
On 9 October 1950 the Chin Affairs Council decided officially to honor 20 Feb as Chin National Day. The first Chin National Day was held in Mindat on grand scale on 20 Feb 1951. Messages of congratulations were received from the President and many Ministers of the States of the Union of Myanmar. The Prime Minister attended the celebration of Chin National Day personally and he also read the message of the President of the Union of Myanmar.
In 1956 the Minister for Chin Affairs U Zahre Lian changed Chin National Day from 20 Feb to 4 December, Hoever, the change was not successful because the majority of th Chins could not accept his order as 4 December has no political significance for Chin nationals.
In Feb 1966, attempts were being made to change the Chin national day to Chin Special Division Day. The matter was referred to the Office of the Revolutionary Council on 11 July 1966. The Office of the Revolutionary Council then informed the Chin Affairs Council to carry out the celebration of Chin National Day as before in its letter of 25 November 1966. In line with the instructions, the Chin Affairs Council issued a notification under letter No. YAKA 29/04(2) of 9 January 1967 announcing that Chins would continue to observe its Chin National Day as usual but not as Chin Special Division Day.
Now, similar attempts are being made by some people to change Chin National Day into “Chin State Day” Chin State has come into existence under section 30(B) of the Constitution of the Union of Myanmar which was adopted only on 3 January 1974. It is therefore, the national duty of all Chins to safeguard its National Day, to preserve and maintain its culture, language and literature if we would like to keep our Chin identity among the family of nations.
Lists of references
1. Salai Lian Hmung, Chin National Day, Chin National Journal(Myanmar Edition) published by Chin National Journal Committee, Universities of Yangon on 20 Feb 1988.
2. Mindat Eugene, Chin National Day Started from the Struggle against Imperialism, a pamphlet in Myanmar Edition, published by Chin National Day Golden Jubilee Celebration Committee, Yangon, 20th Feb 1988.
3. Robert Siang Lian, Chins Choose to Be Free, Chin Magazine, Universities of Yangon, 1984-1985.
4. Robert Siang Lian, The Significance of Chin National Day, Chin Magazine (1973-1974), published by Chin literature and culture Committee, Universities of Yangon, Yangon, 1973-74.
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