The unresolved issues of the Hmar

By Lal Dena

Year: 2002
Mizoram is a multi-ethnic and pluralistic state comprising as many as 14 tribes with different languages and dialects. During the British rule, Mizoram was known as the Lushai Hills District, which formed a part of Assam. In 1954, its name was changed to the Mizo Hill District. After the secessionist movement under the Mizo National Front (MNF) arose, it was upgraded to the status of a centrally administered union territory. In 1987, it attained full statehood. In Mizoram, there are two groups of Hmars those who are completely Mizoised; and those, who are only partially assimilated by Mizo culture. The Hmars in the first category are satisfied to consider themselves Mizos. They have now totally forgotten even the Hmar language as well as their cultural ethos and values. On the other hand, the partially assimilated Hmars, while identifying themselves as Mizos, are also at the same time fully aware of their distinct identity, traditions, customs and language. This is more so among those Hmars living outside Mizoram. Even at higher secondary school level they can offer Hmar language as one of vernacular papers (now Hmar language is being processed for inclusion in the degree course also). It is among this group of partially assimilated Hmars that the search for a separate identity has gained momentum. It has never been the intention of Hmars living in and outside Mizoram to distance themselves from the mainstream of Mizo society. When the Mizo Union was formed in 1946, all Hmars living in different, parts of northeast India, particularly those in Manipur opted for integration with Mizoram. As a matter of fact, the Hmars in Manipur boycotted the first Manipur general election of 1948 to join the 'Mizo Sorkar'. This had never materialized because the Union leadership in Mizoram did not utter even a word to include their brethrens in Manipur in the Mizo Hills Autonomous District Council. Again, when the MNF started it independence movement in 1966, the Hmars an and outside Mizoram joined the movement on the promise of a "Greater Mizoram", which meant the integration of all areas inhabited by Mizos in northeast India under a single administrative unit. Keeping this objective in view, the Mizo Integration Council (MIC) was formed in Manipur at the time of the talks between the MNF leadership and the Government of India. But when the Mizo Accord was signed on 30th of June 1986, no mention was made for integrating Hmar's inhabited areas with Mizoram. The only redeeming feature of the accord was that the rights and privileges of the minorities in Mizoram as envisaged in the Constitution of India should continue to be preserved and protected, and that their social and economic advancement should be ensured. Disillusioned with all these false hopes and promises, the Hmars in Mizoram began political consultations among themselves, and finally formed the Hmar People's Convention (HPC) in 1986. Since then this party spearheaded the demand for creation of an autonomous self government covering north and northeast Mizoram. Because of the state government's inept handling of the situation, the HPC had, from April 1987, been compelled to wage an armed struggle for autonomy. The movement had gained momentum when it set up clandestine links with Naga militants to co-ordinate guerrilla raids. This armed confrontation continued till the HPC representatives and the government of Mizoram mutually agreed to ministerial level talks in 1992. After having nine rounds of talks, the memorandum of settlement was signed at Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram on the 27th of July 1994. Some of the salient points of the agreement are as given below: 1. On the question of the restoration of normalcy, the HPC agreed to undertake every necessary step to end underground activities within the agreed time frame. All underground personal of the HPC should undertake to return to civic life by giving up their arms is a way of abjuring violence

and helping to restore normalcy. 2. The HPC was to take all necessary steps to amend its articles of association/ constitution, so as to make them con- form to the provisions of law. 3. The HPC agreed to undertake not to extend any support to the NSCN, the ULFA or any other such underground groups by supplying arms or providing protection or helping them in any other way. 4. For its part, the Government of Mizoram agreed to take steps towards the relief and rehabilitation of all HPC underground personnel who gave up the struggle. They also agreed to make an ex-gratia payment to the next of kin, heirs and dependants of HPC members killed during the period of the struggle. 5. With a view to satisfying the desires and aspirations of the Hmar community in Mizoram, the state government agreed to initiate measures to introduce Hmar language as a medium of instruction up to primary level. They also agreed to recognize Hmar language as one of the major languages of the state of Mizoram. 6. The Government of Mizoram also agreed to take steps to help promote and preserve Hmar culture. 7. To further the social, economic, cultural and educational development of the people in the north and northeastern parts of Mizoram, the government of Mizoram agreed to set up Sinlung Hills Development Council that would cover an area to be specified and agreed upon by it and the HPC, by notification in the official gazette. A separate fund would be earmarked for schemes to be implemented in the area cover by the Council. 8. Regarding' political safeguard as available under Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, the government of Mizoram would take immediate measures to include in the Schedule (Tribal) Area of the Sixth Schedule an area to be specified which includes both areas demanded by the HPC and other non-scheduled area of Mizoram. Soon after signing the agreement, the state government and the HPC had got bogged down in procedural wrangles over such matters as the demarcation of the so called Council's boundary. As a result of both internal divisions within the HPC's leadership and the government’s apathy, basic issues relating to the right of self-determination and autonomy has so far not been addressed to. Even if the state assembly recommends scheduling the areas which the HPC has been demanding under the Sixth Schedule, the Central, Government would not be in a position to rush the bill through a divided parliament. Dissatisfied with the implementation process of the agreement, the HPC, (Democracy) has parted ways with the overground HPC leadership and has now been spearheading the underground movement for the creation of Hmar homeland in Mizoram. In the past the short-sighted state administration had used excessive force as a counter-measure, a strategy which only worsened the situation and led the HPC to increase their political demands to nothing less than demanding statehood. What is now required is not another series of counter-offensives, but the speedy resolution of all pending basic issues. The present Government is well placed to do this because of its past experience as guerrilla fighters. The sooner the better. (Courtesy: The Sangai Express)