Insurgency in Mizoram
The antecedent causes of the Mizo conflict included dissatisfaction with the Lal (chieftainship) system, the British colonial policy residue of treating Mizo-inhabited areas as ‘excluded areas’, resulting in separatist tendencies, lack of civic amenities, economic backwardness, and the continuous insensitivity and regional hegemony of Assam.
Mizo society had started reacting against the oppressive rule of the Lals, even before independence and this took on an organized political form under the aegis of the Mizo Union (MU), which was formed on 9 April 1946. Besides fighting the Lal’s oppressive rule, the other main objectives of the MU were autonomy in matters of land, customary laws, culture, and identity, and recognition of the Mizo dialects.
The interim Government of India in 1946 had made an attempt to address these issues by setting up the North East Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas Committee of the Constituent Assembly in 1947, which was headed by then Assam Chief Minister Gopinath Bardoloi. The committee recommended the provision of District Councils in Article 244 (2) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution whereby Autonomous District Council status was accorded to Lushai Hills.
The Mautam Famine
The immediate reason for conflict in Mizoram was a dreadful famine of 1959 as a result of bamboo flowering and consequent boom rodent population. When rodents finished bamboo seeds, they turned towards crops and houses and causes devastating loss to cash crops. The devastation of this famine called “Mautam Famine”, was so terrible that the Mizos needed to collect roots and leaves from jungles to survive and thousands of Mizos died of starvation.
In the wake of the famine, a Mizo Cultural Society renamed itself to “Mautam Front” and took lead in raising demands of the Mizos. This resulted in political mobilization and mass support.
In 1960, this Mautam Front again renamed itself to Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF) and thereafter dropped the name “Famine” from its name to become the Mizo National Front (MNF) in 1961 under the leadership of under the leadership of Pu Laldenga with stated objective to achieve sovereign independence of Greater Mizoram.
Thus, within two years, the lack of state action to address the condition of the hill state led MNF to launch insurgency and seek independence from India. The MNA started taking various posts in not only India but also in Burma. In the initial fights, the Indian Army recovered the posts and forced the guerrillas to shift their headquarters across border to East Pakistan. By 1966, the MNA merged into population and started launching guerrilla strikes against army.
The rise of MNF resulted in large scale disturbances in Mizoram. In 1967, Government outlawed MNF.
Mizoram Towards Peace
During the Indira Gandhi regime, the demand for sovereignty turned into a demand for a separate state; the MNF outfit came to the negotiable table with the centre. The Central Government offered the proposal to turn the Mizo Hills into a Union Territory in 1971, and this proposal was accepted on the condition that UT will be soon converted into a full-fledged state. Thus, in January 1972, the Union Territory of Mizoram came into existence.
In 1985, Pu Laldenga met with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and this paved the way for both sides to be flexible enough to pursue a path to peace. On pre-condition of statehood to Mizoram, the Mizo Accord was signed on 30 June 1986. The MNF fighters surrendered en masse and government fulfilled its promise by giving full-fledged state status to Mizoram. In this way, the Mizo Accord, signed in 1986, put an end to a bloody conflict. This is considered to be the most successful agreement with insurgents in India. The MNF leaders, who once challenged the democratic system of India, ended up becoming a part it. Laldenga, eventually fought elections and became an elected chief minister of the state.
Factors for success of Mizo Accord
Mizo Accord is considered to be the most successful agreement with insurgents and in fact it’s the only successful accord in India. Further, it is called the only insurgency in the world that ended with a “stroke of pen”. Further, this accord has stood the test of time in North East India.
There are several factors behind this. Firstly, there was a sincere attempt to all inclusive identity of the Mizos (Lushai and non-Lushais) and the demand for separate homeland for Mizos was based on the basis of common geographical location and not on common ethnic kinship. The other insurgencies in North East demand separate home on ethnic lines rather. Thus, the demand of Greater Mizoram united the Mizo clans instead of dividing them. Secondly, both the sides (centre and insurgents) were flexible. While Laldenga was flexible in giving up the idea of sovereign Greater Mizoram, the other leaders accepted it and gave way to MNF to talk with the centre. Centre also tried to accommodate all legitimate demands of the Mizos. Thirdly, various stakeholders of the Mizo civil society including Church, Young Mizo Association (YMA) and the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) [This means Mizo Student Association] played a crucial role in sustaining the peace process. They worked in tandem without contradicting each other’s objectives.
Current Other Insurgencies in Mizoram
Some demands for autonomy are still raised by Hmars, Chakmas and Brus people. In 1995, the Hmar People’s Convention-Democracy was created for an independent Hmar State.