Ethnic History and Identity of the Zo Tribes in North East

By H. Thangtungnung

North East India is a hotspot of identity crisis and ethnic divisions. The Chin, Kuki, Zomi and Mizo tribes who are collectively known as Zo people are no exception. They have close cultural, lingual and religious affinities and a common ancestor called Zo. Historically, they have different theories of origin and migration based on their folklores, folktales and songs narrated down from one generation to another. The different origin theories like the Khul/Chhinlung or Cave origin theory, Chin Hills origin theory and Lost tribe (Manmasi) theory are among the most significant theories so far which speak, to some extent, something about their history and origin. Of late, the Lost Tribe theory has gained momentum which claims that the Zo tribes are among the ten lost tribes of Israel, particularly from the tribe of Manasseh. Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar had recognised them as descendents of Israel in 2005, which was also approved by the Israeli government. Many have consequently immigrated to the ‘Holy Land’. In this backdrop, this paper is attempts to critically analyse and assess the ethnic origin of the Zo people with special reference to the lost tribe theory. Based on cultural and oral traditions, and Biblical sources, it also attempts to support that the Zo people are the ten lost tribe of Israel by substantiating various arguments to validate this origin theory.

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