Immanuel Zarzosang Varte, PhD
Center for Organisation Research and Education (CORE)
Hmar is one of the tribes of North East India belonging to the Chin- Kuki- Mizo ethnic group. They arefound today in Cachar and North Cachar Hills of Assam and the adjoining states of Manipur,Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura in India and Bangladesh and Myanmar. The Hmar tribe became arecognized Scheduled Tribe of India in 1956. Colonial writers were confused about the real identity of the Hmars and commonly clubbed them as Kukis. The term „Kuki‟ was first used by the Bengalis and later on by British officials to identify the hill tribes of Manipur other than Nagas. Kuki was later onclassified into two groups: Old Kuki and New Kuki in terms of the period of their migration to India.
J.Shakespeare included Hmar in the Old Kuki clans and also used the term Khawtlang (people who lived in the west) and Khawsak (people who lived in the east) interchangeably to mean Hmars. J. W. Edgar, a civil officer who accompanied the British column to Tipaimukh on April 3, 1872 reported:
“The name Kuki has been given to the tribe by the Bengalis and is not recognized by the hill men themselves and Ihave never found any trace of a common name for the tribe among them, although they too considerdifferent families belonging to a single group, which is certainly coexistent with what we call Kuki tribe” (emphasis added).
As far as written literature is concerned, it was only in 1904 that the term "Hmar‟ spelt as "Mhar‟ was first formally used by G. A. Grierson in his Linguistic Survey of India.