TODAY -

Litmus test for Mizoram

Ninglun Hanghal *

Over 100 HPC (D) cadres lay down arms at Aizawl  on April 13 2018
Over 100 HPC (D) cadres lay down arms at Aizawl on April 13 2018 :: Pix - TSE / Newmai News Network



A large number of cadres belonging to Hmar People's Convention –Democratic ( HPC-D) are trudging through the rough terrain of the Lushai Hills towards Sesawng , a village in Thingsulthliah Block of Aizawl district, about 39km from away for the April 12th historic "home coming". They will be laying down their arms in the aftermath of the peace accord signed between the group and the Mizoram government on April 2.

It took eight years to finalize come to a conclusion and an agreement for a 'settlement' between the government of Mizoram and the Hmar People's Convention ( Democratic) thus ending the more than three decades long years of political conflict.

The peace talks began in 2010. After series of dialogues, the final pact was signed on Monday April 2, by state Chief Secretary Arvind Ray on behalf of the Mizoram government and H. Zosangbera chairman of the HPC-D. This is second time wherein the Hmar underground rebels had laid down their arms to come to join the mainstream society. The first was in 1992.

Some Hmars ( an ethnic groups in north –east India) in 1986 formed the Hmar People's Convention ( HPC) a militant underground outfit . Significantly this armed group came into existence immediately after the historic 1986 Mizo Accord the RAjiv GAndhi government signed with legendary Mizo leader Laldenga, ending two decades of rebellion.

The HPC felt that the Hmars were left out of the "peace accord" that saw several ethnic minorities in the new state of Mizoram coming under various administrative 'autonomous' district councils. The group took up arms against the establishment demanding autonomy and there have been many cases of bloodshed and violence since. Over the years, the underground rebels managed to strengthen themselves and with more and more accumulation of sophisticated weapons and reportedly support from other rebels in NE India.

The HPC even demanded 'HmarRam' a separate homeland for the community claimming parts of Mizoram, Manipur and Assam under one administrative unit. A breakthrough came in 1992 when the HPC leadership headed to the call of Mizoram government for 'talks'.

An odd nine rounds of "ministerial level" talks were held between the rebel HPC and the Mizoram government. On July 27, 1994, HPC Chairman Hmingchungnung a memorandum of settlement at Aizawl on behalf of the group and the state's chief secretary Lalfakzuala on behalf of the Mizoram Government. This was for setting up a "Sinlung Development Council". Eventually HPC cadres numbering over 300 surrendered along with their arms. They also agreed to take part in elections.

But, unfortunately in 1995 a disgruntled faction of the HPC leadership once again regrouped and rechristened the new outfit HPC – Democratic. They were apparently unhappy over the non implementation of the Memorandum of Settlement which envisage formation of "Sinlung Hills Development Council' under the sixth schedule of the constitution. No election to the council was nor were there any socio-economic development.

The Sinlung Hills Development Council comprises Hmar inhabited areas in Mizoram – mostly in the north. Under the new agreement the Sinlung Hill Development Council is being re-christened Sinlung Hills Council by an act of of the state legislature.

According to the April 2 Memorandum of Settlement, the Sinlung Hills Council will have administrative autonomy within the framework agreed upon by both the parties in terms of socio-economic political and cultural development of the people under the jurisdiction of the council.

The Sinlung Hills Council will consist of 14 members including 2 nominated to be headed by a chief executive member. This will initially function for six moths as an interim arrangement. The Memorandum of Settlement also stipulated that all the HPC-D cadres who come overground will be granted amnesty and provide ex-gratia, relief and rehabilitation. There are more than a hundred cadres. It also envisaged that the peace agreement signed by the then HPC and Mizoram government in 1994 stand superseded.

Many doubt about the success of the "peace accord" as there is nothing new in it. Given the backdrop of ethnic feuds and conflict so common in north-east India, the 'peace accords' may not necessarily bring in "ethnic harmony'. Many imagined that in such peace settlements , many populations will be moved from one administration to another or in a more gruesome imagination of an event that followed India's partition.

It may be understood that such incident as terrible as that of India-Pakistan in these generation is unlikely to happen. That era is long gone and many in the establishment or the rebels too knew this very well. Moreover , citizens, civilians, the establishments including the rebels would not like that to happen. It is still too early to comment upon the success or failure of just concluded 'peace accord' with the HPC-D.

But surely this event leading to the settlement is an encouragement for the other numerous rebels who are in the process off "talks" particularly in the hills of Manipur, one of the key bases of the HPC-D outfits. The various outfits under the umbrella of the Kuki National Organization ( KNO) and the United People's Front ( UPF) are yet to hold serious political talks. The happening in Mizoram could well be a beginning of ushering peace perhaps in the Hills of Manipur as well.

Indeed the impact of the 'settlement' would be practically visible only after one sees how sincerely the government honors the accord. The response and willingness to cooperate and make the agreement successful will also very much depend on the leadership of the HPC-D and the Hmar people at large .

It calls for the sincerity and commitment from both the sides to make the 'peace agreement' a success. If the people could make the 1986 Mizo Peace Accord a success, there is no reason why the new deal with the HPC-D should not work. It could well be a litmus test for India's most paceful state.


(Courtesy : The Statesman)


* Ninglun Hanghal wrote this article for 'The Statesman' which was later published at The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on April 17 , 2018.



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