Officials said the Lal Thanhawla-led Congress government was keen on signing Suspension of Operations (SoO) pact with the Hmar outfit within this month. "The government wanted expeditious resumption of the parleys initiated at Silchar in Assam on December 13 last year," an official said. He added that a large number of the Chalfilh electorate belonged to the Hmar community and would be highly influenced by the diktats of the HPC-D leadership.
A plethora of things have happened since the Mizoram government signed SoO with the Hmar militant group on November 11, 2010 in Aizawl. The 2010 SoO, which expired six months later, was never renewed and no effort was made to resume negotiations as both the parties were at loggerheads over some issue or the other.
The HPC-D's direction to all branches of the Young Mizo Association (YMA), the most powerful organisation of the Mizos within the "Hmar-inhabited area" to dissolve themselves last year, was the last nail in the coffin of the rickety honeymoon-like relationship between the two parties.
State home minister R Lalzirliana made a big gamble and acted after the Hmar outfit targeted the YMA by arresting Lalropuia and Biaknunga, self-styled army chief and deputy army chief respectively of the militant outfit on June 10, 2012, from Silchar Airport, soon after he arrived from Imphal.
The state police again arrested H Zosangbera, the chairman of the outfit, who also boarded an aircraft in Imphal from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on July 17, 2012.
While the state administration might have felt proud, the drawbacks came when no candidate, irrespective of party affiliations, filed nomination for the elections to the village councils in the 15 villages dominated by the Hmar community adjoining Manipur state.
Despite repeated postponement of the last date of filing nomination and even the date of the polls, the state election commission was forced to permanently postpone the local body elections in October last year as no one, including the ruling Congress local leaders, came forward to contest the polls.
Was it the fear of bullets that the people of the area ditched the ballots or is it that the militant outfit has the mandate of people to the extent that everyone obeyed the "appeal" of HPC-D. The answer will be out after the bypoll results are declared on February 28. The government insisted that the HPC-D, which signed SoO with the security forces in Manipur under the supervision of the ministry of home affairs, violated the terms and conditions of the pact. "The Hmar militants moved around with arms while the condition of the SoO required them to deposit arms and stay in designated camps," alleged Lalzirliana.
The HPC-D, meanwhile, accused the state government of arresting its top leaders knowing fully well that they (the leaders) were leaving Manipur to initiate negotiations with both the Centre and the Mizoram government.
It is yet to be seen whether the ruling Congress would soften its stand eyeing not only the bypoll, but also the general assembly elections to be held by the end of the year and whether it would be too late to for Congress to regain the support of the Hmar community which it had during the 2008 assembly polls.