The momentous 30th anniversary of ‘Remna Ni’ or Peace Day, the day of signing of the historic Mizo Peace Accord was celebrated across Mizoram by the people cutting across party lines. Addressing the gathering, Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla said the peace accord was not only for the people of Mizoram but for the entire Zo brethren scattered in different states across different countries. “It is something that all should take pride in and work towards safeguarding it at all costs,” he added.
Thirty years ago, on 30th June 1986, the Mizo Peace Accord was signed between the Government of India and the Mizo National Front (MNF). This year it has completed its 30th ‘Remna Ni’ or Peace Accord Day. The official document entitled Mizoram Accord, 1986; Memorandum of Settlement was the landmark that restored peace and harmony in the state. The Peace Accord was signed by Pu Laldenga on the behalf of MNF, the Union Home Secretary R D Pradhan on behalf of the Government, and Lalkhama Chief Secretary of Mizoram .Today Mizo National Front (MNF) is a regional political party in Mizoram.
It was during the British regime that a political awakening among the Mizos in Lushai Hills started taking shape. The first political party, the Mizo Common People’s Union was formed on 9th April 1946. The Party was later renamed as Mizo Union. As the day of Independence drew nearer, the Constituent Assembly of India set up an Advisory Committee to deal with matters relating to the minorities and the tribals. A sub-Committee, under the chairmanship of Gopinath Bordoloi was formed to advise the Constituent Assembly on the tribal affairs in the North East. The Mizo Union submitted a resolution of this Subcommittee demanding inclusion of all Mizo inhabited areas adjacent to Lushai Hills. However, a new party called the United Mizo Freedom (UMFO) came up to demand that Lushai Hills join Burma after Independence. Independence saw the Lushai Hills being retained as a part of Assam state, but with special features. Constitution makers created a special administrative arrangement for the northeast region, particularly its tribal areas, as a measure for tribal self-rule.
The Lushai Hills Autonomous District Council came into being in 1952 which led to the abolition of chieftainship in the Mizo society. The autonomy however met the aspirations of the Mizos only partially. Representatives of the District Council and the Mizo Union pleaded with the States Reorganization Commission (SRC) in 1954 for integrating the Mizo dominated areas of Tripura and Manipur with their District Council in Assam. The tribal leaders in the Northeast were laboriously unhappy with the SRC Recommendations. They met in Aizawl in 1955 and formed a new political party, Eastern India Union (EITU) and raised demand for a separate state comprising of all the hill districts of Assam. The Mizo Union split and the breakaway faction joined the EITU. By this time, the UMFO also joined the EITU and the demand for a separate Hill state by EITU was kept in abeyance.
In the year 1959, Mizo Hills was devastated by a great famine known in Mizo history as ‘Mautam’. The cause of the famine was caused due to flowering of bamboos which consequently resulted in rat population that boomed in large numbers. After eating up bamboo seeds, the rats turned towards crops and infested the huts and houses and became a plaque to the Villages. The havoc created by the rats was so terrible that very little of the grain was harvested. For sustenance, many Mizos had to collect roots and leaves from the jungles while a considerable number died of starvation.
In 1955, Mizo Cultural Society was formed and Pu Laldenga, a retired Army Havildar who had also worked as an accounts clerk in the Assam government, was its Secretary. In March 1960, the name of the Mizo Cultural Society was changed to ‘Mautam front’. During the famine of 1959–1960, this society took lead in demanding relief and managed to attract the attention of all sections of the people. In September 1960, the Society adopted the name Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF). The MNFF gained a considerable popularity when large number of Mizo Youth assisted in transporting rice and other essential commodities to interior villages. The Mizo National Famine Front, which was originally formed to help ease the immense sufferings of the people during the severe Mautam Famine in Mizoram, dropped the word ‘Famine’ and a new political organization, the Mizo National Front (MNF) was born on October 22, 1961 under the leadership of Pu Laldenga with the specified goal of achieving sovereign independence of Greater Mizoram.
Thus MNF was emerged from the Mizo National Famine Front to protest against the inaction of the Indian central government towards the famine situation in the Mizo areas of the Assam state in 1959. While the Mizo Union’s demand was limited to a separate state for the Mizos within India, the MNF aimed at establishing a sovereign Christian nation for the Mizos. The extremist section within MNF advocated the use of violence to seek independence from India. A special armed wing called the Mizo National Army (MNA) was created for the purpose. The MNA consisted of eight infantry “battalions” organised on the pattern of the Indian army. One of the battalions was named after Joshua, while the rest were named after the legendary Mizo heroes: Chawngbawia, Khuangchera, Lalvunga, Saizahawla, Taitesena, Vanapa and Zampui Manga. The Lion Brigade (Chawngbawla, Khuangchera, Saizahawla and Taitesena battalions) operated in the northern half of the district, while the Dagger Brigade (Joshua, Lalvunga, Vanapa and Zampui Manga) operated in its southern half. MNA consisted of around 2000 men, supported by another group called the Mizo National Volunteers (MNV), which comprised an equal number of irregulars. Pu Laldenga and his lieutenant Pu Lalnunmawia were arrested by the Government of Assam in 1963 on the charge of conspiring against the nation, but were released in February 1964 after an undertaking of good conduct by Pu Laldenga. However, shortly after their release, MNF strengthened its secessionist activities.
The MNF declared its aim for the creation of a sovereign state of Greater Mizoram, which would be independent from India. The MNF wanted that Greater Mizoram should include the borderline territories of Tripura, Manipur and Cachar districts of Assam. The sign of secession and armed rebellion was running high among the Mizos. Strengthened by arms and training provided by East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) the MNF launched “Operation Jericho” on February 28/1 March, 1966, after launching coordinated attacks on the Government offices and security forces posted in different parts of the Mizo district in Assam. Thus in 1966, MNF led a major uprising against the government, followed by years of underground activities but failed to gain administrative control of the Mizo district. The secession movement held on for about two decades. During that time, they invaded Burma claiming chin state and Tahan to be Mizoram since most of the residents in Tahan are Mizos. The Army launched an operation against the MNA, driving it across the border into East Pakistan.
The MNF received arms, funds and training from China and Pakistan. The Government suppressed the uprising and recaptured all the places seized by the MNF by 25 March 1966. The Government of India’s response was nothing less than brutal, uprooting two-thirds of the civilian population from their homes, burning villages and settling them in new fenced-in protected villages or regrouping centres. The Mizo National Front was thus outlawed in 1967. Counter-insurgency operations continued over the next few years, although the intensity of the rebellion diminished over time progressively till its complete resolution in the 1986 peace talks.
Rajiv Gandhi’s assumption of power following his mother’s death signalled the beginning of a new era in Indian politics. Under his leadership, it had brought about a situation where in the long years (1966-1986) of disturbed condition in Mizoram came to an end. Laldenga met the Prime Minister on 15th February, 1985. Some contentious issues, which could not be resolved during previous talks, were referred to him for his advice. All trends indicated that neither the Centre nor the MNF would waste the opportunity that has now presented itself. New Delhi felt that the Mizo problem had been dragging on for the long a time, while the MNF was convinced that bidding farewell to arms to live as respectable Indian Citizens was the only way of achieving peace and development. Statehood was a prerequisite to the implementation of the accord signed between the MNF and the Union Government on 30 June 1986
The period of revolution finally came to an end with the signing of the Mizoram Peace Accord on June 30, 1986 between the underground government of the Mizo National Front and the Government of India. Under the terms of the peace accord, Mizoram was granted statehood in February 1987.
However questions are being raised whether the government has fulfilled all the commitments it had made in the accord to facilitate all round development of the tiny state that has few sources for internal revenue generation.
Matters like unemployment,mass exodus to cities, rehabilitation of former MNF rebels and facilitate border trade have been fulfilled partially, but much is yet to be done to tap the real potential of the state in respect of tourism, ethnicity, and horticulture etc sectors.The way forward would be full implementation of the accord with all inclusive participation of stakeholders.
The signing of the Peace Accord is, indeed, a turning point in the development history of Mizoram. The era of peace and progress has now come. The agreement has made Mizoram one of the most peaceful states in the country. If one is really keen to analyse the socioeconomic development scenario of the eight North Eastern States, one could easily find out that Mizoram is ahead of other northeastern states in many respects.
As the reward for peace, development initiatives have been taken on various fronts and the people of the State are the real beneficiaries of the fruits of development. The steady rate of increase in literacy and general education after Independence, particularly after 1981, is no doubt the result of an all-round improvement in educational infrastructure both at the elementary and secondary educational levels. At present, Mizoram has the highest literacy rate among the Northeastern States. Gender differences in work participation in Mizoram, that is, gender gap is one of the lowest in India. This is something that deserves recognition of the authority. Another remarkable progress made in Mizoram is in the field of eradication of poverty. Mizoram has the least number of families living below poverty line in the whole Northeastern States. Had there been no peace in the state, it would not have been possible on the part of Mizoram to achieve this commendable position. The fact that peace has been sustained for three decades is no mean achievement and has only happened because of the determination shown by a highly knowledgeable and educated public, the church, the governments of different parties and civil society.