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Ropuiliani in Mizo Historiography- A Postmortem

Ropuiliani in Mizo Historiography- A Postmortem

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Published by Lehkhabukhawvel
Dr. H. Vanlalhruaia
Dr. H. Vanlalhruaia

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Published by: Lehkhabukhawvel on Feb 01, 2013
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11/02/2013

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This is a draft paper only and should not be cited without the author's expresspermission.
ROPUILIANI IN MIZO HISTORIOGRAPHY: A POST-MORTEM
(State Level Seminar on ‘Ropuiliani and Zakapa’ organised by Department of History, Gov’t.Hnahthial College, Hnahthial, Mizoram, 8 
th
& 9
th
December, 2011)
Dr.H.Vanlalhruaiah.vanlalhruaia@gmail.comLushai Hills (now Mizoram) was incorporated into the colonial empire by last part of the 19th century. Indeed, resistance against colonialism in Lushai Hills was not less intensethan in any other part of India. The immediate result of colonial expansion was an increase inwidow chiefs. Military officer J. Shakespear noted the condition of South Lushai Hills in1892: “It will be noticed that all these villages except
 Mualthuam
and
 Aithur 
are now ruled byWidows”.
1
The remaining Mizo Chiefs, including widow chiefs, were now in a dilemma andwere forced to negotiate with and to make certain adjustments towards the colonialgovernment. It was under this critical situation that many women Chiefs, includingRopuiliani, emerge in the colonial archive. In the post-colonial and contemporary rethinkingof the history of resistance against colonialism in Lushai Hills, Ropuiliani become an ethnicidol of patriotism, whereas other women (Pi Buki, Lalhlupuii, Rothangpuii, Vanhnuaithangi,Laltheri, Darbilhi, Neihpuithangi, Pawibawia Nu, Dari, Thangpuii, Pakuma Rani, Zawlchuaiiand many others) who also struggled against colonialism remain silent.
2
 This paper wishes to raise questions concerning the post-colonial ethnic recollection of the past that has repeatedly focused on an individual character--a female chief named
 Ropuiliani
. Why are Mizo historians so interested in Ropuiliani, but not
 Dabilhi
or otherfemale Chiefs? Was it because there was not much to celebrate in history other thanRopuiliani? What motivates our interest? Is our interest in the history of Ropuiliani truly just
1
.J. Shakepeare, Report Concerning Ropuilieni Widow of Vandula and Her Son Lalthuama at PresentPrisoners in Lunglei, 1984. Exhibit list, Serial No.28, Government Archive, Aizawl, Mizoram.
2
.For further details, please see H.Vanlalhruaia & Hmingthanzuali; Women and Resistance in ColonialLushai Hills”, in K.N Sethi (ed); Resistance Against Colonialism: The Life and Times of Veer SurendraSai, Shivalick Prakashan, Delhi, 2009.
 
a historical one or is our interest in her history a symbol of ‘ethnic loyalty’? How can oneaccount for the reappearances of Ropuiliani in Mizo historiography? Why have the roles of many ‘others women chiefs’ remained relatively unexplored, though their potentialcontribution in resisting colonialism appears so obviously in both colonial texts and oraltraditions? History should tell us; but often, it does not. These questions have hardly beenasked, let alone answered, in Mizo historiography.My curiosity about the rethinking of Ropuiliani is particularly drawn from GayatriSpivak's most influential essay on the Rani of Sirmur, the wife of the ruler of a hill-state inHimachal Pradesh.
3
In this essay, Gayatri Spivak demonstrates that the Rani of Simuremerges in the colonial archives ‘only when she is needed in the space of imperialproduction’.
4
The British East India Company attempted to control the northern frontier of Shimla hills though various settlement and courtly political affairs. “It is within this politicaland diplomatic framework, where the Company attempted to pacify and subordinate the hill-states through their “Settlement”, that the Rani appears briefly in the Company’s archives as‘a king’s wife and a weaker vessel”.
5
Similarly, I argue that Ropuiliani emerged over and overagain for a ‘purpose’ and that she survived in Mizo historiography for the production of thosewho need ‘her’ for their own respective agendas.In this paper, my interest lies neither in narrating the oft-told history of Ropuiliani, norin re-producing her stories. Rather, I would like to problematize the historiography of Ropuiliani in relation to the way in which Mizo scholars imagined and categorized Ropuilianiin history. The main objective of my paper is thus to engage or to inject a more skeptical viewtowards the historical narratives of Ropuiliani within the larger framework of women historyof Mizoram. I shall begin my discussion with the work of N. Chatterjee “
Position and Statusof Mizo Women in the earlier Mizo Society
”. Before the publication of this monograph in1975, there was hardly any research available on Mizo women's history.
6
The historicalrelationships between Mizo women and colonialism have been largely overlooked byscholars. More general studies on Mizo women were carried out by some historians and their
3
.Gaytri Spivak, The Rani of Sirmur: An Essays in Reading the Archives, History and Theory, Vol. 24,No.3, 1985. pp.247-72.
4
.Ibid.
5
.Tony Ballantyne; Archive, Discipline, State: Power and Knowledge in South Asian Historiography,New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 3, No.1 (June 2001). pp.87-105.)
6
.N. Chatterjee; Position and Status of Mizo Women in the earlier Mizo Society, Tribal ResearchInstitute, Government of Mizoram, 1975.
 
investigation into women's roles were largely confined.
7
The reconstruction of the history of women, most remarkably in politics, was largely overlooked. Consequently, women and theirrole in the freedom struggle against colonialism were neglected until the pre-insurgencyperiod (1947-1966), when the reconstruction of ethno-national identity was taking place.During the course of such ethnic identity reconstruction, the call for an ‘ethno-hero’from the past went hand in hand with the revival of ethnic consciousness. Eventually, theMizo National Front (MNF) drew their inspiration from the Mizo warriors (
Pasaltha)
whohad fought against British colonialism in the Lushai Hills.
8
In due course, the Pasaltha, suchas
 Zampuimanga,
 
Chawngbawla, Taitesena, Vanapa, Saizahawla, Khuangchera
etc., wereincorporated by MNF standing troops as symbols of ‘ethnic patriotism’. Surprisingly, noteven a single woman’s name was included. This is evident also in the historiography of popular struggle in other parts of India, where women were “subsumed...women under thecategory of man thereby ensuring their invisibility, and created [creating] [sic] the myth of women’s passivity, on the other. It gave rise to the belief that men alone were capable of militant action, of leadership, of changing the course of event- in short of making history”.
9
 In fact, the Mizo Insurgency broke out after the first women’s movement (i.e MizoHmeichhe Tangtual) was initiated in the post-colonial period. Ethnic nationalism can at timesbe emancipating; at other times it is a reactionary force of the subjugation of women. Since itsinception, the insurgency organisation (Mizo National Front) was entirely dominated by men.Despite this, many women embraced ethnic nationalism and participated in the insurgencymovement, though the actual practice of ethno-nationalism was reserved for men. Somewomen internalize patriarchal thinking within the politics of over-determined ethnicnationalism.
10
Recent histories of insurgency movements have largely dismissed theircontributions. Insurgency in Mizo hill thus, appears as a patriarchal war against the largerNational State for the restoration of ethnic, patriarchal order in the society. Women aresubsumed under the category of ‘Mizo Nationalism’; this had ambiguous effects, not only on
7
.For example, please see L. Malsawmi, Mizoram Kohhran Hmeichhe Chanchin, Synod PublicationBoard, Aizawl, Mizoram, 1973, Set On A Hill Light on The Lushai Hills After Forty Years Report of Women’s Work, Baptist Church of Mizoram, 1993 and others.
8
For further reading, please see Nirmal Nibedon; The Dagger Brigade, p.
9
.Indra Munshi Saldanha; Tribal Women in the Warli Revolt: 1945-47 ‘Class’ and ‘Gender’ in the LeftPerspective, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XXI, No.17, 1986.p.
10
For further reading please see Denise Adele Segor;Tracing the persistent impulse of a bedrock nationto survive within the state of India: Mizo women's response to war and forced migration, FieldingGraduate University, 2006.

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