Interview with Dr. R. Sanga Laingek, Convener, the 3rd World Zomi Convention, 2013

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Dr. R Sanga Laingek - The 3rd World Zomi Convention 2013
Dr. R Sanga Laingek - The 3rd World Zomi Convention 2013

1. First of all we wish you all the best for the 3rd Zomi Convention. Kindly brief us about the main objective of the convention and how it is going to be organized? Please enlighten us on the history and origin of the Zomi Convention.
Ans: Thank you. It may be recalled that, the 1st World Zomi Convention was held at Champhai, Mizoram during May 19 – 21, 1988 organized under the leadership of Mr. (L) T. Gougin, President of Zomi National Congress (ZNC), Manipur and Brig. Thenphunga Sailo, President of People Conference (PC), Mizoram. The 2nd World Zo People (Zomi) Convention was held at Vanapa Hall, Aizawl during June 17 – 18, 1991 under the leadership of Mr. R. Thangmawia, President of Zo Re-Unification Organization (ZORO) and now; The 3rd World Zomi Convention is being organized by the Zomi Council, General Headquarters in pursuing of its Assembly Resolution No. 8, dated 23rd day of April, 2013 for which the Core Committee was constituted by the Council. We have conscientiously chosen, "…Marching on…." for the theme of the Convention since it is the long felt need of forgetting the past mistakes and move forward to in spite of the numerous challenges that we, as a nation, encountering now-a-days.

2. Do you think the convention would bring more unification among the Zo people?
Ans: See, unification of any community can be viewed differently, at different level. Culture has no boundary and, thus, cultural integration may be achieved without disturbing the existing boundaries; political and geographical integration is another level of unification which may not be possible without adjusting the colonial boundaries or the boundaries created alongside decolonization process in Indian sub-continent. Political integration sans cultural integration may not be fruitful.

As we are aware, unlike the First and Second Zomi Convention which were purely political in nature, the Third Convention would focus on Cultural aspects; in fact, the Inaugural Programme on 25th Oct, 2013 is intended to be a 'Grand Cultural Exchange and Cultural Exhibition Prgramme'. There will be a marathon Seminar/Workshop on, "Issues, Challenges and Opportunities of the Zomi"; a never before Pulpit-Exchanges-Programme amongst the Zo people which is designed as Worship Programmes where the different Speakers would speak on, "Be a Blessed Nation (Gen.12:1-3)"; and a Joint Fellowship on its Concluding Day. We firmly believe that such events would have positive impacts on the people.

3. Why there's so much noise regarding the words Zomi and Zo people?
Ans: Such noises are unnecessary, totally uncalled for because there is no ambiguity between Zomi and Zo people. Literally, Zo + Mi are Zo + People, so is with Mi + Zo, meaning Zo-fate, Zo-suante, Zo-hnahthlak. All the three names emerged from the concept of the people being descendants of "Zo". There are numerous historical records, cultural and traditional practices in support of this proposition. It is undeniable fact that, the people whom others called as Chin, Kuki or Lushai are one community.

Any person who truly understands this fact would never create noises or pursue divisive policy. Yet, we should also understand that, (i) most of the divisions within the Zo people today are not their own creation, but a British legacy carried forward by different states (nation-state); (ii) there exist unequal level of political consciousness among the Zo people - some are engrossed with clan or tribe-level politics whereas some have pursued national politics, some might have enjoyed statehood status whereas some of them are struggling for survival, some may find it more convenience to use the "given names" in politics whereas some are advocating the use of "indigenous names"…So the existence of some noises here and some noises there can never be ruled out, but it will be unrealistic to expect such noises from a person who fully understand the uniqueness of our nationality. What is more important than those noises is the decision to move forward for our collective survival…

4. What's next after the convention?
Ans: After the Convention, we expect that the Zo-suante will realize the importance of "WE" than "I"; understand the changing geopolitical situation and the need for peaceful co-existence with neighboring communities; realizing the impending economic changes in Asian continent and prepares themselves to face the onslaught; understand the fate of their land and resources, customs, culture and traditions that have been deteriorating and diminishing year after year; etc.

5. Where are we heading to for our political survival?
Ans: As I have stated earlier, this Convention will not be a political convention, so it may not be appropriate for the Organizing Committee to comment on the fate of our political future. As long as the people decided to stay together, struggle together for a common cause then there will be nobody who can stop them from achieving what they want.

6. How many turn up do you expect from the convent and what is your opinion on ZORO press release?
Ans: The turn up is expected to be in thousands. We received an overwhelming response from the people, even from unexpected quarters. At least three prominent Choir groups from Mizoram, Cultural troupes from Meitei, Naga and from various tribes of the Zo people have confirmed their participations. About 10 Speakers will speak at selected Church-Buildings in and around Lamka town area. The Choir groups, 20 or more Cultural troupes and the Zo Artists (a collection of Artist from the various Zo tribes) are sure to mesmerize the participants.

The ZORO leadership is the first people whom we approached for the Convention. We received a very encouraging letter from them, and what appears in the newspaper later was created by few individuals who do not understand our vision as well as our reasons, perhaps such vested individuals are having negative views on the success of the Convention. But even that issue was sorted out, and we are confident that the ZoRO would be participating in the Convention.

7. What are the hurdles and challenges that you have faced for the convention?
Ans: Life is full of challenges and hurdles if anyone is willing to do something big. The hurdles are the best events as we go along on the way to preparation of the Convention. All different tribes within the Zomi and frontal organizations as well as sub-committee members are excellent in co-operating with each other. Even the hardest challenge what we have been facing today is too small to stop us from conducting the Convention. God has been with us through and through and we truly praised Him.

8. What are your expectations out of the convention?
Ans: By and large, this has been already stated.

9. Do you get enough supports from various tribes within the Zomi and do we make sure they have active roles in the making of the convention?
Ans: As for the various Zomi tribes, this is their Convention and there is no question of not supporting or non-participations. The Organizing Committee thanks them for their far-sightedness and full support in our endeavours.

10. Do you think it would be a good idea to continue the convention going forward?
Ans: People to people contact are the best mechanism to build mutual confident and trust which will subsequently create love, peace and tranquility. Organizing more programmes of such nature will do better than harm-creating to the entire society.

11. What is your comment on Manipur CM Ibobi remarks regarding Kuki and Naga's political aspiration being nulled? Do you think it will have impact ours as well?
Ans: As the Convener of the Zomi Convention, it will be inappropriate to comment on the statement. Yet, I always believe that, inclusive mind, inclusive policy and inclusive demands are far better, pragmatic and realistic than exclusive politics.

12. Why do we invite Mr Oscar Fernandez as our Chief Guest for the convention? Do we have any expectation from him?
Ans: We highly appreciate that Shri. Oscar Fernandes has accepted our invitation to grace the Convention. Perhaps, he is one of the few Indian politicians who has empathized the cause of the Northeastern people. As far as our knowledge goes, Mrs & Mr Oscar Fernandes hardly fail to turn up for any North-Eastern cultural programmes that used to organize in Delhi. It is never a bad idea to have him, and get him to have a taste of the ground realities.

It would be wonderful things to happen if he could spare his valuable time to travel on the Roads (National Highways in Manipur) in his capacity as the Hon'ble Union Minister, Ministry for Road Transport and Highways, Government of India. Even his physical presence for a few hours could be a milestone for the people of Manipur in particular and Northeast India in general because the best way to connect people is to better the means of communications.

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This article was posted on September 17, 2013

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