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Talks with Hmar rebels under cloud

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

/ Published by VIRTHLI
Silchar, April 26, 2011: The maiden round of peace talks with the Hmar militant group, HPC (Democratic), slated to be held next month, is under the cloud with the Mizoram government firm on its stand that it will not accept an American missionary of Hmar origin as part of the group’s delegation.

Mizoram chief minister Lalthanhawla had made it clear in the Assembly on March 28 that the presence of an American citizen in the official-level peace talks was “simply unacceptable”. The announcement followed reports that Reverend Rochunga Pudaite, an American citizen based in Wheaton, Illinois, had been nominated as a member of the HPC (D) delegation for the proposed peace talks.

Mizoram’s additional home secretary Lalmingthanga today said over phone from Aizawl that his government was firm in its belief that no breakthrough in the talks could be achieved if the HPC (D) included a foreigner in its delegation and, hence, no such talks could be scheduled at present.

The HPC (D), in a statement issued by its publicity and information secretary John F. Hmar last week, said it was yet to constitute a team of delegates for the peace talks and hence the reports of the presence of a US citizen was “a product of demonic calculations”. It alleged that the government was “trying to sow divisive designs” in the talks.

The group has, however, not submitted any official statement to the government in this regard.

The HPC (D), a breakaway group of the Hmar People’s Convention (HPC), came to the fore in the Hmar-dominated areas of northeast Mizoram and adjacent Manipur in 1996 for demanding an autonomous district council for the Hmar areas under the Sixth Schedule.

The HPC (D) broke away from HPC, the first insurgent group of the Christian Hmar community, under the leadership of Lalmingthanga, a college dropout, after the HPC agreed to a development council for the Hmars in Mizoram in 1995. The HPC’s armed cadres came overground after the group signed a truce with the then chief secretary of Mizoram, Lalkhama, in 1994.

The HPC (D) signed a truce with the Lalthanhawla-led Congress government in the state on November 11 last year to pave the path for talks on carving out an Hmar autonomous district council in northeast Mizoram, bordering Assam and Manipur.

A six-month suspension of operations by the insurgent group and the security forces and police in Mizoram came into being from that date.

In the meantime, Lalmalsawma Darngawn, the chairman of Sinlung Hills Development Council, which came into being after the surrender of HPC militants in 1994, has submitted the resignation of all the 18 members of the council. He said the council members, under his leadership, had decided to resign en masse to show their solidarity with the HPC (D).

The move is being seen as a ploy to put pressure on the state government to hold talks with the HPC (D) soon.

The government is yet to accept the resignations of the members of the council which were forwarded to the chief minister last month with a copy to Governor Lt Gen. (retd) M.M. Lakhera.

~ The Telegraph

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