Lack of proper appreciation the social, political and demographic peculiarities of the region is, to a large extent, responsible for many of the troubles and turmoil that have been plaguing the region and straining the national fabric. Peace in the region has been under constant threat.
Over the past few decades, the North-Eastern region has been in turmoil as a consequence of certain politico-social developments. To any discerning observer of the North-Eastern scene, a distinct pattern of development or events will be apparent. It is a circle, so to speak, of quest for identity followed by violence and culminating in quest for peace.This has been the dominant
feature of the changing political scenario. Even after years of strife and tribulations, Nagaland, Manipur and Assam are still restless. There has been temporary respite, but no permanent cessation of violence. Efforts are on to bring back order and peace. But they have so far proved illusiveWhy has the region witnessed so extensive and prolonged violence? Why have the secessionist tendencies, developed? I personally feel that the unrest, violence and separatist ideas that one witnesses in the region are the offshoot of certain grave miscalculations and unrealistic appreciation of historical facts, geo-physical peculiarities, the ethos of the ethnic groups and their political and economic aspirations at the national level. The post-independence resurgence among the people of the North-East, particularly the younger generation, is often wished away. It is not
realised that at the roof of such resurgence are accidents of history and neglect for centuries.
Eastern scene, a distinct pattern of development or events will be apparent. It is a circle, so to speak, of quest for identity followed by violence and culminating in quest for peace. This has been the dominant feature of the changing political scenario. Even after years of strife and tribulations, Nagaland, Manipur and Assam are still restless. There has been temporary respite, but no permanent cessation of violence. Efforts are on to bring back order and peace. But they have so far proved illusive.
Everybody in India longs for durable peace in the sensitive and strategic North-East region. Yet this has not happened even after 50 years
of freedom. Why? Mizoram's Chief Minister, Lal Thanhawla, analyses the scenario candidly and states: Durable peace in the North-East can be ensured only if the distinct identities of the various ethnic groups or sub-nationalities,as they are sometimes called, are protected and, at the same time, their economic welfare is promoted. Armed repression alone cannot subdue a people in search of identity.
I do not for a moment subscribe to or support these violent and anti-national developments. What I want to emphasise is that without a qualitative change in the attitude towards the region through adequate and sympathetic appreciation of its socio-political and economic compulsions, no lasting solution to the vexed problem of the North-East can be found. The rest of India
has taken too long a time to realise that besides the Aryan and the Dravidian strains, the Indian nation has a strong component of Mongoloid people with a district identity of their own.
The fact that the North-East remained independent till a century after the rest of India was subjugated by the British is also not appreciated by many. Nor is it appreciated that partition had aggravated the age old geo-physical isolation of the region.Then, there
is the feeling of economic neglect. Such historical accidents and wounded feelings of neglect led to the post-independence resurgence. It was a mistake to wish it away and not to read the events correctly and initiate measures to assuage the popular feelings. All this is an answer to the basic questions I raised earlier. The important pre-requisite for restoration of peace and normalcy is a policy which takes adequate care of the above mentioned realities.
Durable peace in the North-East can be ensured only if the distinct identities of the various ethnic groups or sub-nationalities, as they are sometimes called, are protected and, at the same time, their economic welfare is promoted. Armed repression alone cannot subdue a people in search of identity. We should remember that the people of this
region, particularly those in the hills, are still adolescent and relatively immature. Refinement in their mental make-up has to be achieved through dialogue and persuasion. This fact has to be borne in mind while striving for peace.
The path to peace is long and hard. The process is indeed a test of patience and perseverance. Peace demands great sacrifices. And when you see light at the end of the tunnel you realise that "peace hath her victory no less renowned than war." This is the Mizo experience. From February 28, 1966, when violence broke out in the State, till June 30, 1988, when the peace accord was signed, for long twenty years the people of Mizoram went through trying times. The state was in turmoil. The sound of the guitar was silences by the boom of guns. Security and
administrative measures were initiated to calm down the outburst. Conciliation and negotiations continued and for twelve years (1974 to 1986) talk with the insurgents, in some form or the other, went on. An agreement was signed in 1976, which could not be acted on. In July 1980, another agreement was arrived at and the new accord also failed.
Fresh talks started in October 1984 and culminated in the signing of the Peace Accord on June 30, 1986, which fortunately has stood the test of time. A democratically elected government stepped down
voluntarily in the interest of peace. Political history has not possibly recorded another sacrifice at the alter of peace like the one in Mizoram. Today, Mizoram is one of the most peaceful states of the Union. The success of the Mizo accord and the efforts that went to make it so many perhaps show to others the path to peace. The Mizoram peace settlement has some morals. There has to be strong political will, an understanding bureaucracy and a determined people to fight against violence and in favour of peace. In the late seventies, Mizoram had all these. The people, by then, were fed up with disturbances and violence and were anxious to rid the state of this scourge. The Church organisations and the student community played a very positive and crucial role in bringing back peace and order. There was no attempt to create alternative leadership to
break the movement. Had that been done, it would have only added fuel to the fire. Dialogue with the old guard alone was continued, which produced results.Basically, a humane attitude and a spirit of accommodation helped win half the battle.
If the way to peace is hard and tough, the task of preserving peace is equally hard. Many of the micro-minority groups within the states of the region have sent out alarm signals. In Mizoram we had to face an agitation by Hmar people, which become violent in a limited way.
Fortunately, the problem was sorted out through negotiations. Besides, there are certain economic and demographic issues relating to the state in the North-East which may ignite revolt against the system and
threaten peace. And there are various elements waiting to fish in the troubled water. It is, therefore, necessary that these problems and issues are handled with understanding and a sense of urgency. As the New Testament states: "Blessed are the peace makers: for they shall be called the children of God" - INFA
Signed between the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Government of India in 1986, the Mizo Accord so far remains the only successful Accord in the country. Security experts even refer to it as 'the only insurgency in the world which ended with a stroke of pen'. Mizoram witnessed two decades of insurgency which had broken out in 1960s and ended on June 30, 1986 when Pu Laldenga signed a Memorandum of Settlement with
the representatives of Government of India and Government of Mizoram. Deepak Dewan writes about the 'Confidential' agreement signed by Late Pu Laldenga with Congress leader Arjun Singh. Incidentally this agreement led to the signing of the Mizo Accord.
IT WAS A CHILLY WINTER AND AS SUCH January is the coldest month of winter in Delhi. I was on a mission to meet Pu Laldenga who was put up in a safe house somewhere in south Delhi, provided by the Government of India. I along with my photographer landed at the house in Chirag Enclave early morning at about 6.45 am and before the guard posted outside could react, I rang the doorbell A minute after a teenaged boy opened the door. While I was asking him about Pu Laldenga, someone interrupted
"Come in. I am Laldenga". and a man with good built stretched out his right hand towards me. I shook hands with him and intro duced myself. "I am Deepak Dewan from Sun. I want to have a chat with you"." Repeat your name once again", Pu Laldenga said. "Deepak, Deepak Dewan," I replied.."Deepak is a good name. It means light. Your Sun magazine I have seen. It is very popular. You can ask questions." said Pu Laldenga with a smile and told a young lady in the house to bring tea for all of us.
While blaming the Government of India for the failure of talks (1982) Pu Laldenga said "On January 12, Home Minister Zail Singh informed me about the talks being called off from their side and said in Hindi 'Laldenga , main bhi mqjboor him aur turn bhi mujboor ho. agar mamla khatam nahin bhi hota to bhi
hamein doston ki tareh vedai leni chahiye'. (Laldenga, I'm also bound and you are also bound, even if we don't reach a settlement, let's part as friends)'. It seems they (The Government.) don't want any solution for the Mizo problem. What they are interested in is MNF surrender only. They don"t agree to my proposals because they think by accepting my proposals they'll be rewarding insurgency..".. " I agreed to surrender with all my underground men in opera-tion. The Government wants only that. But at the same time the Government is not willing to give anything. If you want everything and are not willing to give anything then how can one even negotiate and the question of settlement does not even arise..."
Within one week Pu Laldenga returned to London and insurgency returned to Mizoram.
What I learnt from my sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs was that it was not possible to dismiss or dislodge democratically elected PC Government led by Brig T Sailo to offer the seat of power to MNF Brig T Sailo (retd) being the Army officer had fundamental differences on the approach to MNF issue at that time. While the disturbances continued in Mizoram and in the next elections (1984) the Congress Party promised peace in Mizoram and was voted to power. Pu Lalthanhawla who took over as new Chief Minister and on the first visit to New Delhi he had dis¬closed to me in an interview published in June, 1984. Pu Lal Thanhawla said "My party promised to bring peace in Mizoram and so people opted for us. The undergrounds have high expectations from the new Government. We are going to bring both parties the MNF and the Government of India to an atmosphere in
which the talks can start again. And we hope the talks would restart soon..." During that visit only after meeting the Prime Minister, Lalthanhawla had said with full confidence.
Once again the clouds of disturbances started to clear over Mizoram with Pu Laldenga's positive response to the Centre's offer of resuming the dialogue. This was in August 1984. After working out certain modalities Pu Laldenga once again arrived in New Delhi, and I met him again at his Mahadev Road bungalow and he said "The Government of Mizoram has changed now and it wants a peaceful solution to the problem. Even the party (Congress) fought elections on the issue of a peaceful solution. The Chief Minister Lai Thanhawla also openly declared that it is not the Congress (I) which won the election but it was the people who
struggled for an amicable solution. So that's the hope and the chances are better than they were with Brig Sailo's Government, which was completely against any peaceful solu¬tion.I say this because he (Brig Sailo) wrote about this in an article titled "How to tackle insurgency."
Two years of hectic negotiations yielded positive results and finally on June 30, 1986 the historic Memorandum of Settlement was signed in New Delhi by Pu Laldenga, on behalf of MNF, Pu RD Pradhan, Home Secrtary, Ministry of Home of Home Affairs, Government of India and Pu Lalkhama, Chief Secretary, Government of Mizoram which closed the chapter of 'violent Mizoram'.
But many of us may not know about another agreement signed between Indian National
Congress (I) and the Mizo National Front (MNF). This agreement marked 'Confidential' was signed by Pu Arjun Singh,then the Vice President, Indian National Congress (I) and Pu Laldenga and it was signed in the presence of Pu Lalthanhawla, then Chief Minister of Mizoram. This agreement was signed on June 25, 1986, exactly five days pri¬or to the signing of the Mizo Accord. In fact this agreement led to the signing of the main accord as the agreement took care of Pu Laldenga's demand of installing him as Chief Minister of Mizoram. Text of the Agreement between the Indian National Congress (I) and the Mizo National Front, Mizoram'.
The Government of India under the leadership of the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has brought about a situation wherein the long years of disturbed conditions in Mizoram
are being brought to an end. The Memorandum of Settlement is being signed between the Government of India and Shri Laldenga, President of the Mizo National Front to give shape to this effort to usher peace and prosperity in Mizoram within the framework of the Indian Constitution. Shri Laldenga has pledged to bring the M.N.F. into the mainstream of the Indian polity and irrevocably committed it to strive for a strong and united India.
In order to further strengthen this resolve and to enable a smooth and orderly transition, the Indian National Congress (I) and the MNF headed by Shri Laldenga agree to form a coalition Government. This decision shall be implemented in the following manner soon after the members of the MNF who are underground lay down their arms and join the
On a date agreed to between Shri Laldenga and the Government of India, Shri Lalthanhawla, the present Congress (I) Chief Minister will submit his resignation and Shri Laldenga will be elected the leader of the Government of Mizoram and be sworn in as the Chief Minister there.
Shri Lalthanhawla, the present Chief Minister, will be sworn as the Dy Chief Minister. In addition to the Dy. Chief Minister, four members of the Congress (I) Party shall be made Ministers of the new Government.
In addition to the Chief Minister, three members from the MNF Party will be made Ministers.
The name of the Ministers will be nominated by the respective political parties and the Chief Minister will propose to the Lt. Governor. All issues concerning the formation and induction of this new Govt, will be decided mutually by the Chief Minister and the Dy. Chief Minister.
In order to smoothen the function of the coalition Government, a Coordination Committee will be constituted consisting of the following:
(a) Shri Laldenga — Chaiman
(b) Shri Lalthanhawla— Vice Chairman
Two members of the Congress Party.
Two members of the MNF Party.
This committee will take into consideration all matters concerning the party and the Government which either of the political
parties may deem necessary to bring for its consideration in order to help smooth functioning of the Government and to bring better coordination between the Congress (I) and the MNF.
This Coalition Government will continue to MP function till such date when the President is satisfied that the normalcy has returned and the holding of elections has become feasible. In the event of any difference arising between the two parties in the functioning of the Government or relationship between the parties they would seek the help of the Hon'ble Prime Minister to resolve the same. Whatever was agreed between the MNF and the Congress Party and the Government of India was strictly followed. All the armed cadres of MNF laid down their arms in July 1986. On August 2,1986, the Young Mizo
Association organized a grand reception for the MNF returnees in Aizawl. As agreed, Pu Lalthanhawla stepped down to become Deputy Chief Minister and Pu Laldenga took over as the new Chief Minister of Mizoram. That was the beginning of MNF as an over ground political party in Mizoram. All the cadres of MNF were rehabilitated in due course. All this transition would not have been possible without the will of the Mizos who longed for a lasting peace in Mizoram and now the peace loving Mizos are reaping rich dividends. One needs more Lalthanhawlas in the trouble-torn North East region who are willing to sacrifice their political interest for the sake of peace.
After a decade of being in the opposition, Lal Thanhawla and his Congress party in the last Assembly elections staged an impressive comeback with a thumping majority. On the occasion of completion of one year as a Chief Minister, North East Sun cornered Lal Thanhawla for this exclusive interview. Here we published the excerpts from the interview:
North East Sun: The Congress Government is completing one year in power. What are the major achievements and the remaining targets? What are the major areas of thrust? And plans to achieve the target?
Lal Thanhawla: We have been in power for just a year and in such a short period not much achievement can be expected. Even so, certain significant steps for development have been taken. We have succeeded in
getting a larger Annual Plan sizefor 2009-10. The approved outlay for current year's Plan is Rs 1250 crore which is 25 per cent higher than the previous year's Plan. In fact, it is the highest step up so far. Major thrust where we hope to achieve substantial progress is the New Land Use Programme known simply as NLUP. It aims at helping the farmers to increase productivity and the rural population to get additional income through non-farm activities. The present method of cultivation i.e. slash and burn or jhuming has not sustained agricultural growth and NLUP is expected to replace it gradually by permanent and more productive system. The government at the centre and other economists have appreciated the scheme and the central government is expected to provide the required funds for this project. If this is successfully implemented throughout
Mizoram. the programme may be a model for other similarly placed States of the country.
Our youth have great potential in various disciplines of sports. We are trying to develop them in their teen through a programme called "catch them young". The State does not, as yet have a stadium worth the name and during this tenure of ours, we hope to have one. In fact, we have started construction of Rajiv Gandhi Sports Stadium at Aizawl. We hope to set up a State Sports Academy and Sports Promotion Centre in all the districts. We are providing boxing rings in almost every district Headquarters. My government feels that the future of many of our youth lie in the field of sports. At the same time, we are encouraging various other games like football, hockey, archery, cricket and contact sports, etc.
We have framed Foreign Scholarship and Research Scholarship Rules to encourage our promising students to study abroad knowing very well that many aspiring hopefuls in various fields have had to give up their hopes due to monetary constraints. If everything goes well, we may hopefully get a unique vocational training institute at Aizawl to prepare the educated unemployed youth of the State to become self-employed and to earn a decent living.
Development of Power, sufficient at least to meet the need of our people, is a priority area. Tuirial Hydel Project (60MW), which was started during our earlier tenure and abandoned by our successor government, is being revived. In addition. 110 MW Tuivai Hydel Project is on the anvil. 460MW Kolodyne Project is also being implemented by National
Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). Easy access to and from mainland India is being ensured by bringing rail route to Mizoram. Road construction through Kaladan Multi Nodal Transport Project is being done under PMGSY, etc. My government also proposes to have easy connection with Myanmar up to Kaletwa which is also the nearest river port about 62 km into Myanmar.
Our aim is self-sufficiency in food grains in the shortest possible time through sustainable development of agriculture, horticulture and allied sector. We hope and plan to improve the quality of life of the people by means of improved road connectivity, sufficient power, clean drinking water, satisfactory level of health care and rural housing.
NES: Mizoram is achieving 100% literacy. How
are you planning to utilize the educated Mizo youth?
LT: Admittedly Mizoram has attained a high degree of literacy. I want to point out that this does not automatically mean or indicate better quality of education. High degree of literacy and quality education are two different things. We are trying to improve the quality of education in the schools and colleges. To achieve this, we have constituted an Education Reforms Commission with members comprising of eminent educationists of our country. We are planning to set up institutions of excellence like Institute of Management, Institute of Mass Communication , Agriculture University, etc.
NES: Way back in 1984, exactly 25 years ago, you became the Chief Minister of Mizoram for
the first time and peace was your main agenda. And with your sincere contribution and political sacrifice insurgency ended in Mizoram and it's a peaceful State today. Has the peace paved its dividends to the State?
LT: Peace has paid dividends in all areas of our life. We can now concentrate on all round development of the State which was not possible during more than twenty years of insurgency. We have to catch up with the rest of the country. Plans are on the anvil. With peace prevailing, we can now fulfill the aspirations of the people and remove causes of violence.
NES: Not only Mizoram but the entire North-East still remains a distant destination for the rest of the country. How do you think we can bridge the gap?
LT: The first important thing in this regard would be for the rest of the country to accept North-East and the people living in that region as an integral part of India and the larger Indian community. One way to do this would be through more inter-people contacts, cultural exchanges,interstate visits, etc. The most important step would be to accept that we are all Indians. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had put this in the proper perspective when he said, "India is a vast country with many flowers with different colours and fragrances...."
India is like that. If all of us take time to remember and appreciate it, emotional integration would be strengthened. All of us have to accept the fact that the great Indian society comprise of varied races like Dravidians, Aryans,Mongoloid and other tribes
and to keep caste, creed and religion at bay.
NES: The DoNER Ministry was created for the speedy development for the North-East region. Has it served its purpose?
LT: I am of the opinion that the DoNER Ministry has been most useful in development of the North Eastern Region in many ways. It has supplemented the States' efforts to step up socio-economic development.
NES: Civil Aviation is yet to cover the region in a large scale. Even the NEC has failed to start its dedicated airline for the region. How it has affected Mizoram's communications and growth?
LT: Civil Aviation is yet to cover the region in a large scale. But, I am an optimist. My view is
that if everything has been achieved, there would be no area left for us or our youngsters where we may give our mite for this vast and beautiful country of ours. It is true that the failure of Vayudoot Airlines, which was meant to cater to the requirements of the NE, was a disappointment. In Mizoram we have one state-owned airport and one or two more are being added.
NES: Mizoram has intended border trade with Myanmar and Bangladesh. What potentials Mizoram posses. And your proposal in that regard ?
LT: Border trade with Myanmar is being strengthened through mutual agreement. From Aizawl capital, the road accessibility has been improved from the border point, Roads, are being constructed within Myanmar to
connect Tidim and Falam. A Customs Station is shortly being commissioned in Zokhawthar in Mizoram. Frequent meetings are held with Myanmar authorities and this has generated much economic activities.
Border trade with Bangladesh at Tlabung (Demagiri), which is Mizoram's nearest border with that country, and Thekamukh in Bangladesh are being developed as border trade posts. During the recent visit of the Bangladesh Foreign Minister to our country and his meeting with our External Affairs Minister, it was agreed that Bangladesh shall construct road up to Thekamukh and set up a land Customs Station also.
NES: The Bru refugees issue is still lingering on. How do you intend to solve it?
LT: We have always been agreeable to bringing back the genuine Bru citizens of Mizoram camping in Tripura as refugees. I feel that it would not be in the interest of the country and also of this State to rehabilitate all refugees from Bangladesh whenever they enter this side. They will have to be screened. Negotiations have started through bilateral and sometimes tripartite meetings for the repatriation of the genuine Bru citizens of Mizoram. A Road map has been prepared and sanctioned by the Home Ministry. It is now for the refugees to accept it and return.
NES: Music is another potential area in Mizoram. Like Nagaland are you planning to give music the status of industry?
LT: Music is a passion for the Mizos. We sing when a baby is born, when we worship and
when someone dies. Music is part of our life. Therefore, music is very popular in Mizoram. The Government has an institute of Music and Fine Arts. Prospective youths are trained here. There are many popular singers who are performing regularly in vari ous parts of the country in reputed hotels in the metropolitan cities.
NES: Of late Mizoram is not producing many sports persons. What are the reasons?
LT: A number of Mizo footballers are playing in many premier Football clubs of the country though it has been some years since Mizoram produced the likes of Zoramthanga (Boxer) and Lalremsanga (Archer) although we have produced Jenny Lalremliani (Woman Boxer). Our youth have also won medals in various sports like kick-boxing, Wushu, Taekwando at
the national and international events, etc and this from a people of around 10 lakh only.
NES: What is your dream of a modern Mizoram?
LT: Mizoram of my dream is a vibrant, prosperous State where peace prevails and the people, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, live side by side in harmony and prosperity. I dream of a corruption free society and a people fully developed to take their rightful place in the bigger Indian society and propelling our beautiful State and country forward. I would also like to see the government of the day being governed by people who, in turn, are governed by God. As Walt Disney said, "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." My government has that courage.