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Hmar, also spelled as Mar, is an ethnic group living in Northeast Indian state of Manipur and Mizoram, western Myanmar (Burma) and eastern Bangladesh.
According to the 2011 Indian Census, there were 98,988 Hmar speakers.
In the 2011 census, there were 49,081 Hmars in Manipur.
The exact population of the Hmars in Mizoram is not known. In the first census of 1901 there were 10,411 Hmar language speakers. By 1961 the population was assessed to be 3,118, and then 4,524 in 1971. In the 2001 census, 18,155 Hmar speakers were found in Mizoram, but most of the Hmars of Mizoram speak Mizo languages.
An overwhelming majority of the Hmar people practice Christianity.
The Hmars trace their origin to Sinlung, the location of which is hotly debated. The term “Hmar” is believed to have originated from the term “Hmerh” meaning “tying of one’s hair in a knot on the nape of one’s head”. According to Hmar tradition, there were once two brothers, Hrumsawm and Tukbemsawm. Hrumsawm, the elder brother, used to tie his hair in a knot on his forehead because of a sore on the nape of his neck. After his death, all his descendants followed the same hairstyle, and the Pawis, who live in South Mizoram, are believed to be the progeny of Hrumsawm. However, the younger brother, Tukbemsawm, tied his hair in a knot on the back of his head. The Hmars, who continued Tukbemsawm's hairstyle, are believed to be the descendants of Tukbemsawm (Songate, 1967).
Several theories have been put forward regarding the origin of the Hmars, but it appears that the Hmars originally came from Central China. A Hmar historian, H. Songate (1956), proposes that the original home of the Hmars might be the present-day Tailing or Silung in South East China, bordering the Shan state of Myanmar. According to Songate (1956), “The Hmars left Sinlung because of the waves of Chinese immigrants and political pressure drove them away to the south. The exact time of departure from Sinlung and the original route they followed is not known to this day. However, traces have been found in poems and legends that they came to the Himalayas, and the great mountains made it impossible for them to continue their southward journey. So, they turned eastward of India from there.”
The Hmars are part of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups of people found in North East India, Burma and Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The Hmars treasure their traditional arts including folk dance, folk songs, and handicrafts. The crafts display scenes of adventure, battle, love, victory, and other experiences throughout history.
The majority of the Hmars were cultivators. The Hmars in South Manipur were introduced to Christianity in the year 1910 by Watkin Roberts, a Welsh missionary.
After the signing of the Mizo Accord in July 1986, some Hmar leaders in Mizoram formed the Mizoram Hmar Association (later renamed the Hmar People's Convention (HPC)). The HPC spearheaded a political movement for self-governance of the Hmars in Mizoram, demanding an Autonomous District Council (ADC) comprising Hmar-dominated areas in north and northwest of Mizoram for the protection of their identity, culture, tradition, language, and natural resources.
To quell and suppress the political movement, the Mizoram government deployed the Mizoram Armed Police (MAP) against the HPC activists, which forced the HPC to take up an armed struggle by forming an armed wing, the Hmar Volunteer Cell (HVC). The armed confrontation continued until 1992 when HPC representatives and the Government of Mizoram mutually agreed to hold ministerial-level talks. After multiple rounds of talks, a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) was signed in Aizawl on 27 July 1994 between the Government of Mizoram and the HPC. Armed cadres of the HPC surrendered along with their weapons in October 1994 and later the Sinlung Hills Development Council (SHDC) was established. Some of the HPC leaders and cadres, however, rejected the Memorandum of Settlement and broke away from the main HPC, forming the Hmar People's Convention - Democratic (HPC-D), which continued an armed movement for autonomy in the form of an Autonomous District Council under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India within Mizoram. Over one hundred militants of HPC-D surrendered with their weapons in April 2018 following a peace pact signed with the Mizoram state government, which led to the formation of the Sinlung Hills Council
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