Friday, January 9, 2015

March on Young Mizo Association

Founded way back in 1935, the Young Mizo Association has come a long way and in the process negotiated with various ups and downs in the politics of youth uprising, but the year 2014 would be a remarkable year for itself. 
In Mizoram or interacting with Mizos one would often face a rather succinctly made remark, “If Young Mizo Association (YMA) did not exist, we would have to invent it”. 

I tend to agree with this.

Originally founded as Young Lushai Association (YLA) ever since I have been following YMA perhaps also with other youth organizations in north-east like Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and All Assam Students’ Union (AASU),  I have found it functioning slightly differently. Looking at them one could easily reflect upon the Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s statement: “A revolution is not the same as inviting people to dinner or writing an essay or painting a picture or embroidering a flower…”.

Founded in 1935, YMA (or YLA) has been striving hard to work for the people particularly in the field of ‘cultural conservation’ of the Mizo tribe.

Over the years it has been working on various socio-cultural issues like alcoholism and forest conservation; and accordingly, the good works have been recognized too.

The latest such a high-level admiration came from none other than the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, who in 2013 conferred on YMA leadership the prestigious National Award for Outstanding Service in the field of Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance (Drug) Abuse as the "Best Non-Profit Institution" from the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India. The award carries a medal, a citation and a cash award of Rs 4 lakh.

Earlier, from time to time the YMA has been recipient of other
such awards like Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Awards (1986), Indira Gandhi Paryavaran Puraskar of 1993 from the union Ministry of Environment and Forests and also the Excellence Service Award from the Government of Mizoram for the three consecutive years, in 1988, 1989 and 1990.

But of all its achievements perhaps a most significant one was in 2013-2014 when it worked ceaselessly to ensure release of Deep Mondal, abducted by Bru extremists and the NLFT cadres and kept in captivity for more than 50 days in Bangladesh.
Mondal hailing from West Bengal was in Mizoram in connection with his job with a telecom service provider.
Reports from Aizawl in November 2013 had said that Mondal was abducted along with two native Mizos — Sanglianthanga and Lalzamliana — from interiors Mamit district.
While the two Mizos were released first by January 22nd , 2014  Mondal had continue to remain in captivity as the NLFT commanders allegedly still waited for ‘ransom’ to be paid.
It was then that YMA had taken a serious plunge into the murkier world of insurgency-kidnapping industry supposedly mastered well by the Tripura-based militant group NLFT.

The central committee of the Young Mizo Association  (YMA) held a crucial meeting in Aizawl and decided to warn that Mizos would launch a mass search operation including in the jungles of Bangladesh if Deep Mondal, abducted by Bru extremists and the NLFT cadres, and kept in captivity for more than 50 days in Bangladesh, was “not released” at the earliest. 

“If the abductors do not release him on or before January 31, the Mizo people will launch a traditional search operation,” a statement had said.  This gesture was certainly unprecedented as most youth organizations in the northeast India – tribal-based or otherwise – have been generally afflicted with the serious menace of parochialism. Mondal was an outsider.

In fact, in 1990, the then union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed in the V P Singh ministry had in a written reply in Lok Sabha formally described the much influential Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) as a “parochial body”. One can add that those were different days and even word ‘parochial’ was unpalatable to NSF and the then NSF chief R Paphino had demanded apology from Congress MP Late Shikiho Sema.

Less talk about the parochialism of AASU it’s better as the partisan approach had derailed the highly successful mass movement and at a later stage, the AASU-turned AGP lawmakers found themselves guided by selfish motives, corruption and administrative hara-kiri.
But YMA has stood by its principle even as at times organizations like  Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) or the Mizo students’ federation got itself embroiled into parochialism. Moreover, even till late 1990s, Vai (outsider)-bashing was an annual ritual. 

The protest in 1992 over the admission of the then DIG in Mizoram, Kiran Bedi’s daughter into a popular medical college in Delhi was one such campaign. But it was not a parochial protest. It was a protest rally as Mizos felt let down by a mechanism of law under the rules the northeastern states have. What Bedi did in Mizoram was exploit a loophole in the law. 
All northeastern states are given ‘quota’ essentially to ensure that at least some youngsters (natives) get admission in good educational institutions for medical and engineering courses. These quotas used to be generally mired in controversies. As a cop posted in that state, Kiran Bedi smartly made use of the same. People had taken to the streets in anger, and as they say, rest is history. Thanks to selective amnesia of Indian media and a test case of remoteness of Mizoram, Kiran Bedi stood pristine clean, at least in Lutyen’s city. And in 2011 undoubtedly she was standing shoulder to shoulder with Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare in country’s famous ‘battle’ against corruption. And some of us, albeit in minority, bite our nails (read leaked the wounds), lamenting: if abuse of power and law is corruption, the biographer of the book, ‘I Dare’ (read Kiran Bedi) would find it difficult to plea, ‘not guilty’.

 Well, if abuse of power and the law is not considered corruption, then lesser mortals would be justified in demanding what is!

Nevertheless, YMA wrote a golden chapter in the history of youth uprising in northeast when it shunned any parochialism and went onto depute a ‘search team’ to look for abducted engineer Mondal. He was finally released on March 22, 2014 by the abductors and reunited with his family.
YMA is today an all India organization as a duly registered body under the Societies Registration Act and also has units in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.
In retrospect, the mainstream India ought to say a big Kalaw mein (Thank You in Lushai language)’ to YMA for the good gesture. Other youth organizations can pick up few Lushai traits.  


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