Good Samaritan initiatives from the governments especially in the context of North East India are often not publicized well in the national media. Generally, the debate ends up either about violence in the north east or about certain ‘Developmental and Peace’ initiatives undertaken by the government departments and official agencies from time to time. But many good things keep happening. Mizoram has left behind the troubled days of insurgency in 1986. Mizos are known for their hard working qualities and pragmatism in undertaking developmental works and education.
In fact, it would not be erroneous to say that to the natives of Mizoram, ‘development and peace’ are not mere philosophical or ideological concepts. These are no mere wishful thinking too. Leaving bad old days of insurgency behind, the Mizos believe these two traits suit their society and are key stepping stones to a good life.
In Mizoram, even a few years back, the “pro-Hindu” BJP, as was understood in Christian-dominated Mizoram, had few takers. The political class generally believed that the BJP's symbol, the lotus, certainly could not bloom amid hard rock. They could still be right. Notwithstanding the fact that the saffron party has captured power in New Delhi, Mizoram, from voters’ perspective, could be still indifferent to a set-up wedded to Hindutva ideologies. In fact, not many would admire Prime Minister’s party.
On 25th October 2015 ‘Mann-ki-Baat’ radio programme through All India Radio, when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the name of the hitherto little known Mizoram’s Khawalailung village from the remote Champai district, most Mizos were impressed. Almost the entire state echoed in one tone ‘kalaw mein’ (Thank You in Mizo language) to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his radio talk.
An Aizawl-based academician put it well when he said, “For socio-political and also historical reasons, in Mizoram the words Hindutva and BJP almost had negative overtones, while the Congress played up the righteousness card in the state. But PM's reference to the village of Khawlailung, which has been adopted as a model (Adarsh) hamlet, might cause the sitting Congress MP, CL Ruala, to perhaps change things.
Like most North-eastern tribal and ethnic groups, Mizos are very proud of their distinct identity. So is their affinity to Christianity, and thus anything seen as ‘Hindu’ imposition was not only taken with negativity, it also looked irrational.”
Even incumbent Congress chief minister Lal Thanhawla's attending a Durga puja celebration in Kolkata a few years back had made an election issue. But it goes without saying that the reference to Khawalailung village and its sugarcane festival in Prime Minister’s hyped monthly radio broadcast programme has evoked some positive elements towards his government.
The regional Mizo National Front leaders, however, insist Mizos are not that anti-BJP as is made out to be because in the past the regional outfit had cooperated with the Atal Behari Vajpayee government. In fact, then chief minister Zoramthanga had offered to negotiate with the Naga rebels in 1999. Coming to Khawalailung village, it makes this blogger proud of the fact this hamlet of 520 households reflect in more ways than one the conditions in other Mizo villages.
I spent three years (1979-81) in remote Lunglei township bordering Bangladesh during my school days (thanks to my father's posting to the 18th Assam Rifles). The Prime Minister has his reasons to laud the efforts of Congress lawmaker CL Ruala. “He deserves all appreciation for his efforts in making Khawalailung village self-reliant,” Modi said, referring to the MP’s efforts.
Some of the exemplary works being done in the little known village include setting up a machine for juicing surgarcane for 22 households engaged in the manufacture of molasses/raw sugar (gur) at a highly subsidised rate.
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Besides, there were other works, like providing identified families with one piglet, community sensitisation on new textbooks organised for parents, Rs 2.5 lakh distributed to each of three schools for construction of toilets and distribution of fish seeds to 80 families.
Most Mizo villages are community maintained, disciplined and clean. Visitors are often stunned to witness the kind of self-governing mechanism, even symbolism and perfectionist methods are maintained on the movement of dogs, cattle and chickens in these villages. Community and voluntary works are held to clean the village frequently, butchering of animals and selling meat on roadsides are banned and animals are slaughtered only in an appointed slaughter house and meat -staple food of locals are sold only in a designated meat market. There are also segregated areas for selling fish.
Cleanliness of villages across Mizoram, across northeastern India and the rest of India is also part of an ambitious national programme being undertaken under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It’s a national campaign launched by the Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014.
Now the village Khawalailung will be perhaps in a position to be showcased as a model village under both National Clean Mission and also Sansad Adarsh Gram Yozana. The village was adopted by Mizoram’s only Lok Sabha member C L Ruala under Adarsh Gram Yojana. The new Adarsh Gram Yojana is a Rural Development programme, broadly focusing upon the development in the villages which includes social development, cultural development and spread motivation among the people on social mobilization of the village community.
This programme was also launched by the on the birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan on 11 October, 2014. To start with, one vital statistics about the village Khawlailung is that the hamlet has higher literacy rate compared to the state’s (Mizoram) own records. In 2011, literacy rate of Khawlailung village was 95.05 per cent compared to 91.33 per cent of Mizoram. In Khawlailung Male literacy stood at 97.01 per cent while female literacy rate was 93.10 per cent.
But to me, some of the virtues, as claimed about Khawlailung, are akin to remote Lushai villages like Shetlon and Lunglan (around Lunglei town) that I was witness to in 1980-81.
Believe it or not, even those days, as youngsters we were stunned to see the Shetlon and Lunglan villages, where “strict control’' was maintained to ward off dogs, cattle and chickens. Community and voluntary work used to be done to clean the villages frequently, butchering of animals and selling meat on roadsides was banned and there was an appointed slaughterhouse and meat — the staple food of natives — was sold only in a designated market. There were also segregated areas for selling fish.
Thus, when the Prime Minister mentioned a Mizoram village and lauded the activities going on there, more than being surprised I felt happy.
But the buzz among Delhi’s BJP-watchers is what really made Prime Minister laud Ruala, a committed Congressman. It goes without saying in Delhi’s political circle that Modi is a classic 24-hour politician. The best of his bhakts would swear that the Prime Minister does not even say “hello” without some political intent! Or this is what Modi detractors would revel in tom-toming.
Now, about the 80-year-old Ruala, a minister twice under Lal Thanhawla. He broke away from the Congress and even floated the Mizoram Congress Party, which later merged with the Congress in 2008.
Lal Thanhawla, Mizoram’s most endearing chief minister and longtime face of the Congress, can have his reasons not to have much of a liking for Ruala. That may not be important, but the Prime Minister’s praise for Ruala is a minor curious element on the political landscape.
If politics can often be unpredictable, development-politics as unleashed by protagonists like Narendra Modi can be all the more fascinating.