The Mizo Accord
- Part 3 -

L Memo Singh *

Location map India Mizoram
Location map India Mizoram :: Pix - Wikipedia/Philg88

Laldenga had a hearty laugh. Taking advantage of his good mood the Home Secretary said, "Now let me tell you something more important. You have also said in that interview: "until I sign an agreement, I won't call myself an Indian." In a more serious vein the Home Secretary said, "As Home Secretary I have no business to negotiate with a foreigner. In fact, because you abjured violence and gave us a written understanding that you would discuss within the framework of the Constitution, I am meeting you now.

Laldenga was showing the effects of the soft life. Months of enforced idleness in Delhi, interspersed with occasional talks with the Home Secretary or courtesy calls on the Home Minister, were showing its effects. He longed to be with his people but he would not go to Mizoram, fearing assassination. Nor could he go to London empty handed. He talked to the Home Secretary about his wife and only laughter, who were in London. The Home Secretary learnt from his friend Swamy, the RAW official how they were being taken care of. As Christmas of 1985 approached Laldenga became increasingly homesick.

The Indian Government had made arrangement for his return to London to spend Christmas with its family. Swamy had even arranged for him to take Christmas presents for the family. Laldenga was delighted.

While Laldenga was away, RD Pradhan, the Home Secretary visited Aizwal. Lt. Governor Dubey looked after him and Lalthanhawla, the Chief Minister hosted a lunch for him where he met all his ministers. Besides, the Home Secretary met a number of political leaders. He found the Mizos warm, friendly and always smiling.

He flew in a helicopter all over the southern and eastern parts of Mizoram. He was fascinated by the emerald green forests covering rolling hills all along the Indo-Burma border. He did a reconnaissance by air of the areas where the MNA were expected to come out in the open. He thought of his task to work out a detailed scheme for Laldenga's army to enjoy the fruits of freedom.

In the beginning of February 1986, there were reports that Laldenga was getting restive in London. He started making enquiries at the Indian to High Commission as to when the Government of India wanted him to return. When Swaminathan told the Home Secretary,"In his desperation Laldenga may say or do something foolish," he reported tothe Prime Minister. He sent a message and got Laldenga back in Delhi.

No longer, the Home Secretary had initiated talking about the scheme to enable Laldenga's army to come out. Considerable amount of detailed planning had to be done and cross-checked with the ground reality. Where would MNA enter the Indian territory, at which place should they be met by the Indian Army's representatives; how would they lay down arms and what kind of treatment would they be accorded were matters that required careful consideration. The Home Secretary was in no hurry. He wanted to collect IOUs from Laldenga. He was determined to encash those IOUs at the right moment. Talking of the surrender of MNA personnel the Home Secretary became conscious of the inner turmoil a 'soldier' must undergo when, after two decades of insurgency, he is asked to disarm. To ensure that there was no feeling of humiliation, the Home Secretary worked out a drill. As the MNA members crossed the border at Parva, situated in the southern-most point, each person would enter a hut and deposit all his arms inside. He would come out and walk for a couple of hundred metres before being met by the Indian army personnel. The act of laying down arms was to be made in privacy, so that there would be no humiliation.

Laldenga appreciated all the consideration shown to his army personnel and the facilities that would be awarded to them, once they came out. The Home Secretary's objective was clear : to let MNA's so called Commander-in-Chief known that the Union Home Secretary was a reasonable and sensitive person, he respected a soldier even a rebel. If the accord did not come about, it was because of the unreasonable attitude of their Chief, Laldenga.

There was yet another reason. It was not sure whether the MNA would honour the peace accord reached by Laldenga with Government of India. For several years, Laldenga was living in comfort, far away from his hard-core followers, who were somehow surviving for over two decades in one of the most inhospitable jungles of South-East Asia. His devoted aide Zoramthang was at that time with the MNA and much would depend on his influence with the so-called army officers. It was the assurance of the Home Secretary that Laldenga, through his trusted emissaries, could establish contact with Zoramthanga and get firm assurances from the latter that all MNA personnel would come out with their arms and ammunition. Once that was assured, the Home Secretary would take firm steps to move forward to reach the accord.

In the beginning of June, the Home Secretary told Rajiv Gandhi that the time was ripe to put pressure on Laldenga. Arjun Singh, the Vice President of the Congress Party took responsibility to deal with Laldenga for political matters. An ace diplomat Arjun Singh kept him talking. On 25 June Rajiv Gandhi asked the Chief Minister LalThanhawla to be present with his entire cabinet. A political agreement was signed between Arjun Singh, the congress (I) Vice President and Laldenga in the presence of the Congress President and the Chief Minister and his colleagues. These outlined the coalition arrangements in the Interim Advisory Council to the Lt. Governor of the Union Territory. That was the first time Rajiv Gandhi met Laldenga since R.D. Pradhan, the Home Secretary took over negotiations, but refused to talk to him about the details of the ongoing negotiations.

That morning, before signing the agreement with the Congress(I), Laldenga came over to meet the Home Secretary. He was in a happy mood. He was already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. He told the Home Secretary of high hopes and jubilation in Aizawl and other places in Mizoram. The Home Secretary took Laldenga to Buta Singh, the Home Minister and they assured him of an early solution to the pending issues. That evening the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) was briefed of the stage of negotiations. The Home Secretary was authorised to push ahead, now that a satisfactory political arrangement had been worked out.

The Home Secretary, RD. Pradhan was due to retire from service on 30th June, 1986. He also wanted to complete the task before laying down his office. He had fallen in love with the Mizos. He found himself captivated by Laldenga's enigmatic personality and the easy informality of a Mizo who had, by that time begun to trust him.

June 27 was the birthday of RD. Pradhan, the Home Secretary. He invited Laldenga for a cup of tea and told him that in three days he would lay down office. It was for Laldenga to consider seriously whether he was willing to agree on the terms suggested to him.

He assured the Home Secretary that he would go back to his legal advisor, Swaraj Kawshal and also speak to his colleagues, most of whom were in Delhi. The Home Secretary did not hear from him for two days.

Around 2:30 PM on the 30th June, Laldenga came to see the Home Secretary alone. This was the first time he had done so.

The Home Ministry had arranged a farewell function, when Buta Singh and other ministers had been invited.

The Home Secretary nostalgically recalled to Laldenga their first meeting in his office and about the mutual trust and understanding that they had developed, as two individuals.

Over a cup of tea, he said, "Mr. Laldenga, I have fallen in love with your land and the Mizos. Perhaps one day, very soon, I can greet you and your family there."

Laldenga became emotional. After a pause to clear his throat he said "I wish I could have concluded the accord with you."

The Home Secretary said, "It's too late. In three hours I will not only leave this office but stand retired from government service." But suddenly he said, "Laldenga, if you are ready to be flexible, perhaps we can reach a settlement before I leave this office. You could later sign the accord with my successor."

He added most sincerely,"But as a friend, I ought to warn you that if you do not have a settlement with me, you may have to go on discussing pending issues with my successors for years to come. I do not know how many."

To be continued ...

* L Memo Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on July 29, 2014.

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