Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mizoram: Is there a silent storm?



A lot of things are happening in this tiny hilly state of Mizoram in far away North East, without being noticed by the mainstream media or policy makers.

On 5 August 2011, while addressing Congress party workers in Lunglei in southern Mizoram, Chief Minister Lalthanhawla reportedly stated that Mizos should accept that they are Indians, or face, as a consequence, cancellation of their ration cards.

This is a statement which makes little sense for two very simple reasons. First, ration card is not a document that signifies your nationality as Indian. Ration card is in fact not even accepted as a valid identity card; it is merely to ensure food security to the poor.

Second, in any way you won’t be issued a ration card in India if you’re not an Indian citizen unless you have acquired it fraudulently.     

In other words, this means that for their entitlement of a ration card (as fundamental right to life) the poor people do not need to wear a badge of being an Indian, or shout "vande mataram" in the streets to prove their loyalty towards the Indian constitution.

But the statement of the Chief Minister is bound to receive strong reactions from the Mizos considering the dormant aspiration a significant section of them have for “unification” of all “Zo” clans, one day.

“I am Mizo by birth..Indian by force”, announced a commentator at popular Mizo blog www.lawkrhawm.com, which seems to capture a popular mood of the Mizos on the internet.

On 7 July 2011, chief of an influential regional political party in the state, Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP), Lalduhoma in his speech in Mizoram Assembly exhorted the Mizos to shed their political differences and strive for “greater autonomy, including self determination”, albeit through a non-violent means. The Mizo Peace Accord of 1986 neither healed the wounds of Mizoram nor did it fulfill the aspirations of people, he is reported to have said. Given the political sensitivity attached to the speech, Parliamentary affairs minister Lalsawta was quick to censure Lalduhoma for his “extra-constitutional position”.

However, Chief Minister Lalthanhawla himself assured the Assembly on 25 July 2011 that Mizos won’t accept the political boundary “imposed” on them. He said this while opposing the proposed construction of a fence on India-Myanmar border. The Chief Minister allegedly stated that a large portion of western Myanmar inhabited by the Mizos is “our land”.

Mizoram-based Zo Re-unification Organisation (Zoro), an organisation that aspires for unification of all Zo tribes scattered across the Northeast region of India, Myanmar and Bangladesh, immediately hailed Lalthanhawla’s statement. “Zoro is proud to have such political leaders who firmly believe that all the land inhabited by the Mizos belongs to Mizos”, it stated.

Therefore, the Chief Minister’s ration card vis-à-vis Indian identity statement of 5 August 2011 assumes greater significance. Is he trying to convey that in Mizoram there is a sense of alienation amongst the Mizo people which must be properly channelized before it gets out of hand? The stern sounding diktat-like words of the Chief Minister reflect a storm that is undercurrent. 

The happenings around Mizoram are definitely a food for thought for leaders in Delhi ahead of 64th anniversary of India’s independence. Mizoram may be the only “island of peace” in the troubled-torn North East; but there is an urgent need for Delhi to re-assess whether Mizoram and its people have been taken care of well since the signing of Mizo Peace Accord in 1986, or the feeling of alienation is simply misplaced?
  


3 comments:

Mizohican said...

Completely agree with you regarding your points on ration card. Even many commenters at misual.com have pointed out how this is a very needless statement by our CM.

However, regarding your statement on majority of (online) Mizos not accepting to be a part of India or be called Indians, I disagree. I have been a part of the Mizo online world for almost 10 years now, and yes every now and then, there are the few individuals who do talk about their dissent, but the bulk of Mizos online have always been pro-India.

Also, some Mizos who make anti-India statements and talk about Independent Mizoram etc online are actually not Indians. They have American citizenship, Australian citizenship, etc. so one cannot question their patriotism as they are after all not Indian citizens.

storyteller said...

I agree with Mizohican, and vouch for the many Mizos online who identify themselves as Indian. But one trend i have been seeing in the online space has also been the "right-wing, redneck" attitude that seems to be displayed by many Mizos online. That said, racism seems to be a trait that many Mizos are yet to shed, and that racism is often directed towards both ethnic minorities and majorities as well as religious ones.

storyteller said...

I agree with Mizohican, and vouch for the many Mizos online who identify themselves as Indian. But one trend i have been seeing in the online space has also been the "right-wing, redneck" attitude that seems to be displayed by many Mizos online. That said, racism seems to be a trait that many Mizos are yet to shed, and that racism is often directed towards both ethnic minorities and majorities as well as religious ones.