The Zomi Revolutionary Organization (ZRO) was formed in 1993 and its armed wing, the Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA), was formed in 1997 following an escalation of ethnic violence between the Kukis and Paites in the Churachandpur district of Manipur.
The purported objective of the ZRO/ZRA is to protect the interests of the Paite community from the ‘onslaught of any community or group’. It further attempts to bring all the Zomi people, divided by artificial State boundaries in various countries, specifically in Myanmar (Chin State), India (Manipur and Mizoram) and Bangladesh (Chittagong Hills Tracts), together under one administrative unit, a ‘Zogam’, which means ‘land of the Zomi’ under the Indian Union.
Leadership and Cadres
Thang Lian Pau, reportedly a former Member of Parliament in Myanmar, is the ‘President’ of ZRO and Judgeson, the ‘Defence Director’. K. Marx Vaiphei functions as the ‘Information and Public Relations Secretary’ of the ZRO. Phanznianpau Guite is the ‘President’ of the ZRA. D Kamsuanthang is the outfit’s ‘General Secretary’ and Jimmy Suanpu is its ‘Information and Publicity Secretary’. Its cadres are mostly from the Paite community.
Areas of Operation
The outfit primarily operates in the Paite-dominated areas of Churachandpur district in Manipur, especially the Singnat sub-divisional headquarter bordering Myanmar. Its activities have also been noticed in the bordering areas in Mizoram and Manipur.
Source of Funding
The ZRA funds its activities primarily through extortion and collection of ‘protection fees’ from the civilians in its areas of operation. According to a June 2004 Frontline report, ZRA cadres, in return for a small toll fee, ensures that travellers are not looted, abducted or shot at by other armed groups.
The ZRA, according to media reports, in June 2004 alleged that some of its cadres were paid only partially by the Mizo National Front (MNF) Government in Mizoram for having campaigned for its candidates in Champhai constituency bordering Manipur. Opposition leader in Mizoram, Lal Thanhawla, alleged on June 12, 2004, that the MNF ‘owed money’ to the ZRO from “services rendered” and since a part of the money is yet to be paid, ZRO activists had resorted to collecting money from the people of Mizoram.
The ZRA maintains close links with Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), a valley-based outfit of Manipur, and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM). The ZRO also has maintained fraternal ties with the Kuki Liberation Organisation (KLO), each providing the other “full cooperation in all spheres with the objective of strengthening the blood ties among the Kuki-Chin-Mizo-Zomi people.” A ‘memorandum of understanding’ was signed between the two outfits on December 17, 2002.
Similarly, the ZRA ended its hostilities with the Hmar outfit, the Hmar People’s Convention-Democracy (HPC-D), by signing a peace agreement on April 8, 2004, at Lailam Veng, Lamka in Churachandpur district. According to terms of the agreement, both outfits agreed to work closely “in the spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation for the welfare of the people and for achieving their shared objectives.”
A statement by the ZRO on August 9, 2005 said that the outfit has reached a cease-fire understanding with the security forces for a period of six months, beginning August 1. The statement said that the outfit “viewed the steps taken by the Indian government in this regard as a positive approach towards better understanding of our unique history and realisation of the need for permanent solution to the long standing aspirations of the Zo people.”
However, the ZRA, in spite of the announcement, continues to indulge in terrorist activities in the targeted areas.