The Mizo Accord
- Part 4 -

L Memo Singh *

Pu Laldenga
Pu Laldenga :: Pix - Wikipedia/Jona vanchhong

Laldenga appeared anxious and said "Can I consult my colleagues and come back to you?" The Home Secretary replied, "Please go ahead but return before 4:30 PM.

Thereafter I must go and bid farewell to the Home Minister and the Prime Minister and be back for the function in the Ministry," replied the Home Secretary.

Laldenga left in a hurry. The Home Secretary and his Joint Secretary felt that a breakthrough was in sight. The Joint Secretary advised the Ministry officials to postpone the farewell to the next day, of whichthe reasonwas known to him only.

The Home Secretary spoke to the Home Minister and quickly briefed the Prime Minister. He was asked to persist in his efforts and not lay down office.

At 4:30 Laldenga came over with his team. In less than one hour they sorted out their differences of perception on outstanding matters and cleared a draft.

A couple of really vital points were left for the final decision of the Prime Minister, on the clear understanding that none of the matters settled between them would be reopened by Laldenga in his meeting with the Prime Minister. The Home Secretary warned him that the clock was ticking away for him.

A short while later, both the Home Secretary and Laldenga went over to 7 Race Course Road, the Prime Ministerquickly cleared the two pending points.

The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs met at short notice and approved the draft of the agreement.With the task accomplished, the Home Secretary bade goodbye to the Ministers. As he was about to take his final farewell of the Prime Minister, the latter said, "Pradhanji you have worked hard in shaping the accord. I want you to sign it before you retire. Do it within half an hour so that it comes over the 9:30 pm TV news." The Home Secretary was deeply touched at the Prime Minister's gesture."

It was already 8:30 pm. The Home Secretary's mind was very clear that under the Civil Service Rules, he already stood retired after office hours and thus he could not affix his signatures to a formal document. He mentioned the fact to the Prime Minister. He looked at the Home Secretary and said in all seriousness, "Why can't I give you an extension?"

It was fully within Prime Minister'spowers. But the Home Secretary had decided long back that he must retire on that day. He said to Prime Minister, "Sir, you have publicly declared that you will not give any extension to any retiring office. I would beg of you not to make an exception in my case."

Rajiv Gandhi was determined. He asked the Home Secretary to consult the Law Secretary in his presence. The Home Secretary got the Law Secretary over the RAX. He advised that if the Home Secretary had not formally handed over charge to his successor, he would stand retired only at midnight. ThePrime Ministerwas happy. He asked the Home Secretary to hurry over to his office and sign the accord with Laldenga.

Rajiv Gandhi asked V. George to make all arrangements for Doordarshan to cover the historic event. He wanted to witness it on the TV screen.

By 9:00 pm Laldenga has arrived with his wife and his colleagues. A few ministers from Mizoram, including the Chief Minister LalThanhawla were already seated at the long table.

In the short time available, R. Vasudevan had efficiently, prepared the document titled "Memorandum of Settlement on Mizoram." They had affixed their signatures respectively: Laldenga for the MNF, LalThanhawla on behalf of the Mizoram government and the Home Secretary RD. Pradhan on behalf of the Government of India.

Laldenga said a few words into the microphone. The Home Secretary was overcome with emotion. Here is gist of what he said, "I thank the Prime Ministerfor allowing me to handle these negotiations. I am grateful to him for giving me the unique distinction to say farewell to my service career. I would like to convey over Doordarshan my grateful thanks to the nation for all the opportunities got to serve it and to seek fulfilment in my work. I wish the Mizo people all the happiness and prosperity on this joyous occasion."

He was grateful to Laldenga as well. He paid his regard as such, "A realist, Laldenga had fought for a cause, patiently negotiated for an honourable settlement and clinched peace at the right moment."

The Home Secretary walked out of Gate No. 4 of the North Block with a sense of relief. He was happy as he could help the PM to translate his hope and vision into accords.

In July, 1986, Rajiv Gandhi went to Mizoram himself in quest of peace. A seventy two hour tour of good will was the follow up to his Mizo Accord. Laldenga became the joyful leader of the interim government. With the surrender of arms by the Mizo, National Front guerrillas, after 20 years of strife, Rajiv Gandhi promised statehood to Mizoram, the introduction of Mizo as an official Indian Language, and strong efforts towards the revival of the Mizo economy. The Prime Minister emphasized that the centre would not tolerate renewed violence. On August 7, 1986, the Indian Government conferred statehood on the territory of Mizoram. The Mizos were also promised constitutional protection for the religious and social customs and laws of the Mizo people.

In implementing the Mizo Accord, there had arised some difficulties. Opposition parties like the Janata party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communists, and the Congress(S) opposed the Mizo Accord, condemning it as "buying peace from armed rebels" rather than seeing it as a victory for national interest.

On the other hand, Rajiv Gandhi's conclusion of the Mizo Accord was built upon earlier unsuccessful efforts of both Indira Gandhi and Moraji Desai to bring peace to the region. Rajiv Gandhi had already taken a view publicly that welfare of the people was more important to him whether the Congress (I) remained in power in Mizoram or not. The Prime Ministerwanted real peace to be restored to Mizoram. Much of the opposition to the Mizo Accord was based on politics, not on the Accord, which was the result of long years of consultation and negotiation. Rajiv's success in bringing an end to twenty years of sustained jungle warfare was a victory in itself. It is doubtful that a rebellion of such magnitude will occur again among the Mizos.

Concluded ...

* L Memo Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on August 03, 2014.

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