Sinlung /
24 December 2012

Disasters, refugee issue dominate Mizoram scene in 2012

By H C Vanlalruata

Aizawl: 2012 was a year of disaster, both man-made and natural, in Mizoram and an acute shortage of essential commodities throughout the year added to people's woes while the vexed issue of repatriation of Bru refugees continued to haunt the government.

With the Christians-dominated state scheduled to go for assembly elections next year, Opposition parties were very vocal in their criticism of the Congress government.

Two issues that dominated the year dealt with minority communities -- Hmars and Brus, also known as Reangs.

Acute shortage of essential commodities, especially cooking gas, resulted in Opposition parties stepping up their attacks on the government and even distributing bags of charcoal to the people.

The main opposition Mizo National Front also distributed candles free of cost to people in protest against the intermittent power supply in the state.

Nine persons were killed and more than 10 injured due to several fire incidents till October while 152 houses were gutted and properties worth Rs 17.12 crore lost.

The worst fire incident was in February when 29 houses and three government buildings were completely gutted at the Bazar Veng locality in south Mizoram's Saiha town.

Opposition parties alleged that most of the fire incidents occurred due to acute shortage of cooking gas and electricity as people resorted to alternate cooking and lighting devices like kerosene stoves and candles resulting in frequent accidents.

More than ten people including a woman and her daughter were killed due to landslides triggered by monsoon rains.

Many people were killed in several road mishaps with the worst accident being when 18 people died and 19 were injured when a bus was swept down to a deep gorge by a massive landslide in July. In March, 16 people died and 23 were injured when a bus fell into a deep gorge near the Mizoram-Manipur border.

In the beginning of the year, Mizoram Home Minister R Lalzirliana said that the state government would not consider resumption of peace talks with the Manipur-based Hmar People's Convention -- Democrats militants with whom the government signed Suspension of Operations in 2010.

The state government even launched a crackdown on the HPC-D after the group's threats resulting in disband of the most powerful body Young Mizo Association in the Hmar-dominated areas adjoining neighbouring Manipur.

In a major setback for the HPC-D, its self-styled army chief Lalropuia and self-styled deputy army chief Lalbiaknunga were arrested. Then its 'chairman' H Lalsangbera was arrested in Delhi [ Images ] in July.

The strained relations between the Hmar militant group and the state government resurfaced when the state election commission failed to conduct village council polls in the Hmar-dominated areas as no nomination was filed despite repeated postponement of the last date of filing of nominations.

The failure of the state election to conduct elections to the 15 village councils in the Hmar-dominated areas during October might have prompted the state government to reconsider its stance on the talks with the HPC-D as the talks on the official level began again on December 13.

Another issue that continued to haunt the state government and the people was the vexed issue of repatriation of Bru refugees lodged in the six relief camps of North Tripura district since late 1997.

Though the repatriation of the Bru refugees was stalled during mid-2011 due to different reasons including demands by Mizo NGOs for rehabilitation on 83 Mizo families displaced from Sakhan range in Tripura, the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram's [ Images ] efforts prompted resumption of the repatriation process materialised from April 26.   

However, the fourth phase of Bru repatriation could not be implemented due to massive opposition from the bodies representing the refugees including the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum as only seven families returned to Mizoram during the fourth phase and the state government submitted its report to the Union home ministry saying that the repatriation could not take off due to opposition from the refugees themselves.

Mizoram also witnessed unprecedented spurt of abductions for ransom by militants with the first case being the kidnapping of six executives of the Assam-based construction company -- the Anupam Bricks and Concrete Industries Limited on March 25 from south Mizoram's Mauzam hamlet by suspected NLFT cadres.

The abducted persons, for whom Rs 120 lakh was demanded as ransom, were released after being held hostage for more than a month, reportedly after the ransom was paid.

In another incident, three non-tribal timber traders were abducted by suspected militants belonging to the newly-formed Borok National Council of Tripura and NLFT combine in November and were taken to and kept as hostages till date in a jungle near Zopui and Thangnang villages in Bangladesh.

On the religious front, the Presbyterian Church of Mizoram, which severed its decade-long ties with the Presbyterian Church of the US after the latter was considered to be too liberal on the issue of homosexuality decided to have relationship with the Presbyterian Church in America.

The Synod of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church made the decision to snap ties with the Presbyterian Church of the United States after the latter agreed to ordain gays as priests and also to the marriage between people having the same sex.

The Presbyterian Church finally agreed to do away with the Mizo traditional 'Hlamzuih' concept, which regarded that infants who died before attaining three months do not deserve decent Christian burial.


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