Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Saluting the Pragmatism of Mizos

(The major portion of the following piece also appeared in The Statesman --- in popular North East page published every Monday)

Welcome to the island of peace, Mizoram.
The general impression about Mizos is that they are a labourious lot. The oft-repeated diagnosis of a principal malady of the North-east ~ the “White Collar Job Syndrome”, the well-known craze for easy office going jobs, somehow does not apply to Mizos. They are used to hard work. Therefore, it is ironical that when confronted with the rat famine, locally called Mautam, and caused by flowering of bamboo hit the then Lushai Hills district of Assam in 1959 they approached the government for immediate relief. But when it did not come in time they set up an organisation calling itself the Mizo National Famine Front. The late Laldenga, a clerk in the district council then, headed the organisation.
He subsequently dropped the word famine in 1961 and took up arms against the establishment demanding independence. The “Operation Jericho” by the Mizo National Front caught the Centre napping. For many days, they were virtually in command of the district town of Aizawl. The lush green landscape burnt for many years.
In 1986, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi struck a deal with Laldenga. The Mizoram Peace Accord was signed on 30 June by Laldenga on behalf of the MNF, RD Pradhan, then Union home secretary and then Mizoram chief secretary Lalkhama...
This year marked the completion of 25 years of the accord. Mizoram celebrates 30 June as “Remna Ni”, the annual peace day. Present chief minister Mr Lal Thanhawla, a Congress veteran, has his own reasons to describe the pact as “the most successful accord in the country”. Truly, one of the most violent forms of insurgency ~ where bombing and even merciless killing of civilians on both sides was the order of the day ~ had come to an end with the stroke of a pen. Mr Lal Thanhawla had to bow out of office as chief minister to pave the way for Laldenga to take charge.
However, amid jubilation the credit for the same should also be given to the sagacity of Laldenga as also to the pragmatism of the Mizos as a community. In fact, unlike other rebel leaders like Nagaland’s AZ Phizo, Laldenga could carry the entire militant MNF with him. So, following the latter’s coming to the national mainstream, there was no splinter groups left in the jungles.
Despite peace being restored, Mizoram was haunted for sometime by a neo-insurgent group Hmar People’s Convention, clamouring for an autonomous district council. They however surrendered on 27 July, 1994 and ended their five-year rebellion. The Mizoram government still confronts the Reang (now known as Brus) National Front which operates from their camps in Tripura. But on the whole, Mizoram today is an island of peace. In fact, within a short period after assuming power, the Laldenga-led MNF government was toppled making way for the Congress. The MNF men could have been frustrated but it was the Mizos’ spirit of pragmatic thinking that prevented them from taking up guns again. Lal Thanhawla says most clauses of the historic accord have been implemented. But a years ago, the Peace Accord Mizo National Front Returnees’ Association, alleged they have not received the full amount as promised to them. This needs to be addressed. The Mizo Accord, like that of Nagas, also makes a veiled reference to the issue of unification of Mizo- inhabited areas of other adjoining state. One only hopes the Mizos will remain a practical lot.

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