~Robert L Sungte

Opportunities must be created for the most deprived to have their say in issues affecting them.

The game: ‘Building Mizo Society’. At first, at the creation of Mizoram, a large number of closely related ethnic linguistic groups came to form what is now called a ‘Mizo state’. The idea of ‘independent Mizoram’ gave the Mizo National Front and the Mizo nationalists the necessary claim to represent the unity of the several Mizo tribes. But, the creation of Mizoram marked a certain shift away from building a united Mizo society as leaders began to focus on building power base through petty politics.

‘Building Mizo Society’, also called Mizonisation, soon became something to engage with, in moments of elections or moments of danger. However, in case of many Mizo tribes their relationship to the collective unity, Mizo, remained problematic, incomplete and they began to express separatist movements of varying scales and volume — the most glaring example being the Hmar Mizos’ quest for their share in Mizoram political setup. For the State faced by successive ‘threats’ to Mizo unity, Mizonisation was gradually interpreted as the task of controlling or eliminating such movements in order to force their compliance to the authority of the majority Mizo pundits and political class. Thus, Mizonisation arrogated a coercive path rather than a positive, affirmative emblazon.

In this process, the ethic of Mizonisation which was laboriously constructed by the founding fathers of modern Mizoram during the Mizo Union movement is lost sight of. In this process the Mizos somewhat become fragmented as the claims of ‘distinctive language’ became more aggressive. Successive governments at Aizawl instead of addressing this issue in an upright face-to-face dialogue pushed the issue under the carpet. Besides, any person championing the diversity that exists within the various ethnic Mizo tribes were scorn as a bad hat.

This is not to understate the difficult task of building a State with diverse Mizo tribes having specific sub-tribe interests. Several efforts have been made by the State government but many in the political circles failed to see the urgency for the need to preserve domestic harmony and diversity. This only strengthens the legitimacy of rising discontent among minority Mizo tribes like the Hmars, Reangs and others. The callous Lalthanhawla-led government in the early 1990s did what it ‘must’ to subvert the growth of sub-tribe movements. But the result, as far as the Hmar Mizos were concerned, proved counter-productive as it instills more anger among the victims of the coercive action.

Since the fall of the Congress government, economic development, the key to unlock prosperity and unity, gradually replaced coercive action. Whether it is for political gimmick or not, the Mizo National Front government has realized the importance of keeping the interest of all at the fore. Its focus on providing alternative opportunities for the marginalized Mizo tribes healed many hearts though many more needs to be done. With the focus towards economic development of all in the State, the disgruntled ones are left with few reasons to go or remain in the jungles. Some insurgents have surrendered to the State government in the past few years. But, the question remains over whether there is genuine political ideology to support this strategy in the long run.

As Mizoram is good at aping western cultures, it should learn lessons from it especially with regards to inclusive nationalism to draw its political legitimacy so that Mizonisation does not leave out any Mizo tribes. So far, Mizoram politicians have spoken of a government that is friendly to those who use the ‘one and only Mizo dialect’. Disgruntled smaller Mizo tribes’ claims to economic, educational and political power have most often been pronounced as group’s claim and given little importance. As such the process of Mizonisation while expanding does not have a solid political ideology.

The State leaders along with majority community leaders have shied away from the task of presenting the larger scope of the word ‘Mizo’ to the smaller Mizo tribes. As such building a united Mizo society is shrouded in technical language. For instance, the usage of technical term ‘Any Luhsai tribe’ is highly intelligible as it does not reflect the contemporary social setup of the larger Mizo world. The term ‘Mizo’ was supposed to encompass all elements — Lushais, Hmars, Paites, Ralte, etc. As far as dealing with the smaller communities, structural issues are not confronted in the State policy or political debates held to address the growing widening gap within the Mizo society.

Chief Minister Lalthanhawla so is yet to start any formal political debates on how to address the issue ever since coming back to power with a huge majority in the 2013 State Assembly election. The debate on Mizo unity remains confined to the Mizo elites (majority who speak Duhlian dialect) leaning towards ‘Oh, they’ attitude on the one hand and the ‘Mizo sub-tribes’ often leaning towards ‘cut off’ fencing. Efforts to bring these two groups at a discussion table may result in formal decision taken to address the issue.

Giving development councils was once an attempt at ending militancy in the State. But in the rapidly sensitive political circle the space for more councils and districts was replaced by purely ‘economic package’, which is a narrow policy. Economic package will only work if matched with genuine and sustained administration that is close and dear to the people. Opportunities must be created for the most deprived to have their say in issues affecting them. Devolution of powers in the form of Panchayati Raj system or District Council and initiating steps to change certain terms in the Indian Constitution as regards to ‘Who is a Mizo?’ would be a giant step towards building a harmonious Mizo society.

Thus, in the current context, if devolution of powers, efforts to re-define the term ‘Mizo’ and economic development provide the three pillars of building a peaceful and prosperous Mizoram there is a deficit on the first two. Directing resources towards economic development will only bear the desired result if and only when all the three are given equal importance in the scheme of things.

The writer is a journalist based in Bangalore and his views are personal and do not reflect the view of the organization he works for.

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