A case study of MNF movement for independence in Mizoram
Counter-Insurgency Operation and Human Right Violation
- Part 1 -

Dr Th Siamkhum *

Mizo National Front Emblem
Mizo National Front Emblem:: Pix - Wikipedia/

1. Introduction.

Mizoram, a tiny trans-Indo-Mayanmar border state of India, located in the extreme north-east corner of India, bordering Myanmar in the East, state of Tripura in the west, Cachar District of Assam and Churachandpur District of Manipur in the North and Syhlet District of Bangladesh in the South, witnessed one of the most devastating underground movements in India for 20 years from 1966 to 1986. The movement was launched by the Mizo National Front under the charismatic leadership of Laldenga, demanding sovereign state of Mizoram with a strong sense of will and determination to its goal of political independence from India.

The MNA (Mizo National Army) the armed wing of MNF, composed of those young Mizos with high degree of morale for the cause they were for. The initial success of the movement in over-powering almost all security outposts in the District, except Assam Rifles Brigade Headquarters, Aizawl, could be attributed to the fighting zeal and high degree of morale of the MNA fighters to the cause of the Mizos and their independence.

The MNF, after realizing the futility of armed struggle for achieving political sovereignty, decided to have negotiation with the Government of India in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which ultimately culminated into the signing of Peace Accord with Government of India in 1986 known as "The Mizo Peace Accord, 1986". The Mizo Peace Accord 1986, eventually becomes the most successful peace accord ever been signed by the Government of India with any insurgent groups in the north-east, and elsewhere.

While the 'Mautam' (famine) of the late 1950s and early 1960s and the apathy of government to the call of the people for relief supply was the immediate cause of the conflict, there are also a number of historical, political, economic, cultural, social and religious factors which are collectively responsible for the outbreak of violent uprising in Mizoram in 1966.

2. Historical and Political Factors:

Historically, the Mizos lived an independent political life, independent of any foreign power. Each village was ruled over by a sovereign village chief who exercised absolute and indivisible power. He was the final authority within the village in all aspects of village life, and was the chief administrator as well as the chief justice of the village, having the power to give the severest form of punishment, including death penalty to those who violate the unwritten customary laws and traditional practices. However, the British invaded the Mizo/Lushai country and took control of the entire hills on the 6th September, 1895.

Though the British took over the administration of the whole Lushai/Mizo Hills, the chiefs were left with much power regarding customary and traditional practices were concerned. The Lushai Hills District was, then put under a superintendent who, in consultation with the village chief, administered the District. The entire District was put under the Chin Hills Regulation act of 1892 and Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873, and was included in the Excluded Areas along with Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

Sooner than expected, the time came for the British to hand over power to India.At this critical juncture, a critical question inevitably came up i.e. what should be the future status of the District (Mizo/Lushai Hills District), whether it should join Indian Union, Pakistan or Burma; choose to be a Crown Colony under the British or become an independent state.LL. Peter, the then Superintendent of the District called a joint meeting of representatives of different groups and organizations including political party (Mizo Union) Chiefs' Union, Freedom party (those against the chiefs), Ex-Servicemen, MizoHmeichheTangrual Pawl (United Women Organization), Govt. employees etc. to decide the future of Mizo/Lushai Hills District on 14.8.1947. The meeting under the influence of Mizo Union unanimously passed the following three points of resolutions:-

In case, the Mizo Hills was merged with Indian Union,
1. "Mizos would have the right to decide their own future i.e. right to secede from India after ten years".
2. The traditional customary laws and practices should be preserved and protected.
3. Chin Hill Regulations Act, 1892 and Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873 should continue to be enforced in the District.

The Mizos interpreted these pre-conditions, though not a contractual agreement between the two parties (Mizos and India), as their rights. They asserted and re-asserted that they have the right to secede from Indian Union which finally culminated into armed rebellious movement for independent in 1966. The other factors responsible for the uprising was Assam Government's language policy. Under a strong pressure from dominant Assamese, Assamese language was made the official language of the state which was much resented to by non-Assamese speaking Districts. Khasis, Jaintias, Garos and the Mizos refused to accept the imposition of Assamese in their respective District and decided to demand a separate Hill State.

A new political party, APHLC (All Party Hill Leaders Conference) was formed to spearhead the demand for separate Hill State. In Mizoram, the Mizo Union, instead of joining hand with APHLC for separate Hill State, was in favour of a separate State for the Mizos. The MNF (Mizo National Front), on the other hand, was not interested in demanding either the separate Hills for the Khasis, Garos and Mizos nor was it interested in a separate state for Mizos. It was in favour of demanding a separate independence sovereign state for the Mizos, not only outside Assam, but also outside India.

The imposition of Assamese on the Mizos could, therefore, be seen as one of the contributing factors for the movement. The Mizos were not satisfied with the provision of Sixth Schedule of the constitution of India. They felt that the provision of Sixth schedule has not sufficiently protected their language, customs, traditions, religions etc. The imposition of Assamese language on the Mizos was much resented and there was growing apprehension that there would be cultural invasion by the dominant Assamese speaking Hindus. The Mizos were also frustrated with the Assam Government's lack of interest over various issues.

The Mizo Hills District was, then merged with the state of Assam and was given a special protection under the provision of Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India. The nomenclature of the District was also changed to from Lushai Hills District to Mizo Hills District on 19th April, 1954.Soon after Mizoram was merged with Indian Union, discontentment and dissatisfaction, both on the policies of Assam Government and Central government, grew on various issues.

The conduct of public examination on Sunday and the visit of Central dignitaries on Sunday were interpreted as a deliberate attempt to restrict the freedom of worship for those who were involved in such examinations. To testify this, the MNF cited the visit of JL Nehru on Sunday, 3rd April, 1953. The restriction of the entry of foreign missionaries into the District was also seen as an infringement on the religious right of the Mizos. The Mizos, in order to assert their ethnic and cultural identity under the dominant Assamese political set up, strived to have a separate statesof their own.

However, it was realized by a section of Mizo leadership that the assertion of Mizo identity would not be possible within the state of Assam or even under the Indian Union, insurgency was adopted as a better means for Mizo nation building. Another worth mentioning factor responsible for the Mizo uprising of 1966 was racial and ethnic distinctiveness of the Mizos.

The Mizos belong to Mongolian ethnic and racial group with Mongolian physical feature whereas people of mainland India are having Aryan and Dravidian racial background, with quite a distinct physical feature from the Mizos. Majority of Mizos, therefore, feel that their Mongolian background could not support them to be Indians. They maintained, it is the will of nature that they are not Indians, but Mizos. Nature destined them to be Mizos of Mongolian racial stock. This feeling of natural alienation from mainland India is also partly responsible for the demand for independence by the Mizos (MNF).

Historical factors, language policy of the government of Assam, their apprehension of religious interference by dominant Hindu Indians, fear of cultural invasion, lack of development, neglect of Mizo District by government of Assam, assertion of the people that they have the right to decide their own future etc. have their own role in influencing the Mizos to fight for separate independent state. However, Mautam (Famine) which struck Mizo Hills and lack of government's response to the call of the people for assistance is the most immediate cause of insurgency in Mizoram.

To be continued ....

* Dr Th Siamkhum wrote this articlee for The Sangai Express
The writer is Associate Professor, Deptt. Pol. Sc., Churachandpur College, Manipur.
This article was posted on January 01, 2015.

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