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Hmar Autonomy

Friday, April 27, 2012

/ Published by Simon L Infimate
When Mizoram became a full-fledged state in 1987, late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi advised MNF chief Laldenga that Mizos should prepared to accommodate the aspirations of the smaller tribes if they expected India to take care of theirs.

On the day of conferment of statehood, Gandhi addressed a huge rally at Aizawl’s Assam Rifles ground and that is where he made Delhi’s stand unambiguously clear. But no government in Mizoram, MNF or Congress, have been prepared to do what Gandhi expected them to do. Reach out to the smaller tribes, who are ethnic minorities in Mizoram, and make them comfortable with some autonomy. The Rajiv Gandhi salvo was meant to stop Laldenga in his tracks because the rebel leader, just before taking over as chief minister, had raised the issue of abolition of the Chakma district council.

Rajiv Gandhi, the man who brought peace to Mizoram by sacrificing his party’s interest by asking his own chief minister to step down, also scuttled efforts to abolish the Chakma district council. Now, one can expect the MNF to pander to Mizo chauvinism, which is why former chief minister Zoramthanga was not even prepared to accept the Brus (Reangs) as original residents of Mizoram during negotiations on the refugee issue with the Centre and t he Tripura government.

But it comes as a pleasant surprise that the home minister of the present Congress government, Lalzirliana, would rail against the autonomy structure existing in Mizoram and encourage the YMA to oppose any kind of autonomy for the Hmars. The Congress has always positioned itself as the defender of ethnic minorities in Mizoram and that has paid off in electoral terms. When the Mizo Hills was an autonomous district council in Greater Assam, the three smaller tribes — Lais, Maras and Chakmas — had regional councils.
Later, when Mizoram became a Union Territory separate from Assam, those regional councils were upgraded to district councils. So, Delhi was always aware of the minority situation in Mizo Hills and the autonomy structure was arranged accordingly. Hence, Lalzirliana’s complaint that those three autonomous councils were created during the Union Territory days when the Mizos had a limited voice smacks of a lack of a sense of history. As if he is trying to say, we already have three councils we don’t want, and then here are the Hmars who also want it.
The Hmars fought shoulder to shoulder with the Lushais during the days of the MNF-led insurrection. Zoramthanga’s staff officer, Anthony Vanlaltluanga, was a Hmar. But it is the failure of Mizo nationalism to absorb the aspirations of even tribes like Hmars who are ethnically so close to the majority Lushias that has led to Hmar irrendentism. There is an argument with some truth in it that if the Hmars are given an autonomous council and then one is created for the Brus, the state government will be hardly left with any authority anywhere in the state.
The counter- argument is that an autonomous council each for the Hmars and the Brus will only trigger an inclusion process that will bring all the ethnic minorities closer to the Lushais and make the Mizo identity a powerful overarching one covering the whole state. Post-1986, Mizoram is an oasis of peace in troubled Northeast.
That will not be the case if majoritarian chauvinism prevails the way it becomes evident from minister Lalzirliana’s pronouncements. If the ruling communists in neighbouring Tripura could create an autonomous council for the tribals (just one fourth of the population) by covering 68 per cent of the state’s land area and then not experience undermining of the state’s government authority , the ruling Congress in Mizoram should not worry too much of possible ill-effects of autonomy.

Source: Seven Sisters' Post

* Hi thuziek hi Seven Sisters' Post-Daily Newspaper ami ka hung lak sawng a nih, a ziektu hming khawm an ziek chuong nawh, Editorial anga an insuo ni awm a nih!

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