The Politics of Identity Formation Among the Ethnicities in North-east India: A Case Study of the Kuki Mizo Chin

Lianboi Vaiphei, Indraprastha College, Delhi University, India

The demarcation of political borders is one of the man made realities that has a profound impact and its consequence influences the societies, especially when the borders demarcation is made by external factors and not by people within the borders. One of the colonial legacies that have percolated to the contemporary politics is the ambiguous construction of the borders region in Northeast India that demarcates South Asia from South East Asia. The political boundaries being man made demarcates across the habitats of ethnic communities to become transborder ethnic communities as they live across the political borders of India with the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries.One of the ethnic communities that represent ethnological transition across the international political borders is the Kuki Mizo Chin. The people of the Kuki Mizo Chins live across the political border of India and Myanmar, while the Kukis and Mizos live in the Khuga Sadar hills of Manipur and Lushai Hills respectively which is within the national sovereignty of India and the Chins live across the border in the Chin state of the present day Myanmar, although they share the same cultural and social trait and identify themselves as kinsmen.

The term Kuki Mizo and Chin are generic names which has been appropriated by the different ethnic communities as an identification of being an indigenous people. The process of identity formation occurred when the process of socialization began with the ‘others’ and therefore the need to assert its distinctive identity arise in the wake of the anti colonial struggle during the Colonial period. The need for an identity to distinguish and define what constitute as ‘self’ viz a viz that of the ‘other’ was felt, when the Kuki Mizo Chins started having an encounter with the others. They lived in close proximity with different social and ethnic communities who are distinct from them and their inhabitants are spread across different hills in northeast India and beyond.

The invincibility of the hills has alienated them from the mainstream and these perceptions has percolated to the state’ policies and administration. The sense of alienation has marginalized the people in asserting their ethnic identity and has spread ethno nationalism in northeast India. The plurality of the term Kuki Mizo Chin witnessed the assertion of the ethnic identity in its singularity from the erstwhile struggle of the Mizo National Front in the Lushai Hills of Mizoram to the Sadar Hills of Manipur and the adjoining hill districts of Karbi Anglong and the North Cachar Hills in Assam which has become one of the factors to define the political dynamics in northeast India and its neighbouring places.

The paper seeks to study the Politics of Identity formation taking the case study of the Kuki Mizo Chins by analyzing the historical factors that has led to Identity formation and the causal factor that has influenced the political dynamics that has occurred in Northeast and its neighbouring places due to the assertion of ethnic identities and ethno nationalism.