Khamptis revive age-old South East Asian link

By Pradeep Kumar

ITANAGAR, Feb 13: Tai Khamti, having Mongoloid features, one of the 27 major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh, originally belonging to Tai ethnic group and native of Hkamti Long, Mongaung and Myitkyina regions of Kahin state and Hkamti district of Sagaing division of Myanmar, had migrated to India long ago.

Present towering Tai-Khamti leader-cum-Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein leading a 131-member delegation including MLA Chow Zignu Namchoom had visited Myanmar and attended sacred ‘Poi Kongmu Loung Chow Kaang-kham’ in Kachin state on February 7 last is nothing but reviving the age-old relations.

The delegation was divided into many groups. While eight-member headed by Mein returned but others toured other parts of that country. A-45-member young group of boys and girls led by Chow Sila Pachina Namchoom, while talking to this editor from a Buddhist monastery at Pangliang, said that they were feeling at home due to uncanny similarities in lifestyle, food and language. Tai-Khamptis have script, known as ‘Lik Tai’, which was originated from the Shan (Tai) script of Myanmar and closely related to Thai and Lao.

“We travelled through historic 1726-km Stillwell road, built from Ledo in Assam to Kunming in China up to Mechanma and then to Pangliang and move by road for two days to Mijina to Imper and after spending a day there will take flight to Guwahati on return journey. In fact, Pachina could be contacted through his friend Chow Khangkao Wailong, a graduate trying to be an entrepreneur.

DyCM Mein visits South East Asian nations often and I along with then speaker Setong Sena had travelled by road to Pangsau Pass in February 2005 when the road was totally dilapidated but border trade between Myanmarees and Arunachalees was thriving at Nampong.

However, Army Gen (retd) JJ Singh after taking over as governor on 27.01.08 had visited insurgency-infested Changlang and Tirap districts repeatedly  beginning from Khonsa on 02.02.08 to instill a sense confidence among the locals, victims of decades-old insurgency, with his avowed principle “velvet gloves for the civilians and iron fists for the terrorists”. Then chief minister Dorjee Khandu and Nampong lawmaker Setong Sena’s initiative turned Jairmapur-Nampong-Pangsau Pass into a famous tourist hub.

When world’s 50 per cent rich live SEA nations, developing proper communication with that developed region would immensely benefit Arunachal Pradesh socially, culturally and economically.

Tai-Khamptis strong believer of Theravada Buddhism whose population is around 40,000 in Arunachal Pradesh, mostly in Namsai and Changlang districts, while about 60,000 in Assam living in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji districts and  Munglang Khamti village in  Tinsukia district.

The Tai Khamtis who inhabit around the Tengapani basin were descendants of migrants who came during the century from Hkamti region, the mountainous valley of Irrawaddy. Interestingly, Tengpani tucked amidst panoramic beauty, had entered global tourism map in February 2010 with a majestic Burmese-style Buddhist temple Golden Pagoda built built by DyCM Mein and his wife Nang Sati Mein, also known as Kongmu Kham, in a 20-hectare complex.

Coincidentally, pioneer leader Chow Chowkhaman Gohain, who was nominated to Lok Sabha from North-East Frontier Agency in 1970 after the death of first union minister Daying Ering and re-nominated again, was a great social worker including member of NEFA Social Welfare Advisory Board,  Lohit Bodhi Society and Khaunti Council secretary and Tribal Welfare Timber Board chairman. Though he died on 17.02.14 but I had the luck to meet him once along with then IPR deputy director CM Longphong at Namsai.

Nang Gifsana Mannow, who worked with National Youth Project, when contacted, said that her great grandfather Chow Tichana Khen was one of the first Tai-Khampti to migrate to NE India and settled down at Changlai village under Piyong circle, about 15-km from Namsai. His son Chowking Khen, her grandfather, was a very influential local leader and also very close to DyCM Mein before he entered politics.

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