Sinlung /
11 February 2015

Mizoram: Unsettled Peace

By M. A. Athul

The 20-year long insurgency in Mizoram (1966-86), led by the Mizo National Front (MNF) was resolved as far back as in 1986, and the State has, since, been at peace in terms of that stream of insurgency.

Nevertheless, the ethnic polarization and tensions provoked by the MNF insurgency continue to trigger occasional violence linked to a range of other armed groups, some of them located in and operating from neighbouring States.

On February 2, 2015, suspected armed militants of National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and Bru Democratic Front of Mizoram (BDFM) abducted 22 people from an area close to the Indo-Bangladesh border in Mamit District of Mizoram. Sources disclosed that around 10 militants armed with sophisticated weapons later released 20 of them, while holding back two hostages - Hokum Singh and Mohammad Buizul Islam. The hostages are employees of the Border Roads Task Force (BRTF).

On February 1, 2015, the Mizoram Police and Assam Rifles, in a joint operation, arrested two arms dealers from Vanzau village in Champhai District near the Indo-Myanmar border. One M2 carbine along with two magazines and a 9mm pistol along with a magazine were seized.

These incidents reflect the continuance existence of forces, though miniscule, inimical to enduring peace achieved in the State. Mizoram boasts of being the most peaceful state in the entire North-eastern region, barring Sikkim which has never witnessed any insurgency in its history.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, Mizoram has recorded at least 46 insurgency-related fatalities since 1997, including 15 civilians, 22 Security Force (SF) personnel and nine militants. The trend of low to zero fatalities recorded after 2007 continues, with no fatalities in 2013, and two in 2014. On October 15, bodies of two non-tribals, suspected to be those of a truck driver and his helper, both believed to be from the Kamrup District in Assam, were recovered from Tuikhurhlu in Aizawl District. No further detail is available in this regard.

The State had last registered an insurgency-related fatality in 2011, that too of a civilian, when a member of the Bru community was shot dead by suspected United Democratic Liberation Army (UDLA) militants at Thinglian village of Kolasib District on July 17, 2011.

Other parameters of violence like explosions, arsons, abductions-for-extortion, also registered a marginal increase through 2014, as against the preceding year.

Three explosions were recorded in 2014, as against none in 2013. In one such incident, on January 30, 2014, an explosion took place near the State Assembly Secretariat in Aizawl, the State Capital. On February 20, 2014, an explosion took place at Borabazar area in Aizawl city. Again, on August 1, 2014, an explosion took place near the residence of Mizoram Parliamentary Secretary for Home in Mission Veng locality in Aizawl. No casualties were reported in any of the three explosions, though damage to property did occur.

Meanwhile, two instances of abduction were reported through 2014. On June 14, 2014, three traders and their driver were abducted by NLFT militants from Phaileng village in Mamit District. Subsequently, on October 10, 2014, suspected NLFT militants abducted 15 persons from Amchurmukh, near Rajivnagar, in Mamit District. Four of them were released on the same day. The remaining 11 persons were released on November 7, 2014. Initially a ransom amount of INR 3 million was demanded by abductors, which was later reduced to INR 1.1 million. It is not clear if the ransom was paid or not.

In 2013, two incidents of abduction had been reported.

Apart from the Tripura-based NLFT, the Hmar People's Convention-Democracy (HPC-D), a group demanding self-government in the north and northeast of Mizoram, remains active in the State. Significantly, on February 21, 2014, Mizoram Police confirmed the arrest of five suspected HPC-D militants from Parvachawm area in Churachandpur District of Manipur for their involvement in the explosion near the State Assembly Secretariat on January 30, 2014. On November 10, 2014, the Border Security Force (BSF) stated, "At least 55 camps of northeast India militants are still functional in different parts of Bangladesh and opposite to Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam's borders with Bangladesh." Mizoram faces a residual threat from such groups.

The unresolved challenges of the State were compounded by the continuing activity of arms smugglers who use Mizoram as a transit point. According to SATP data, at least four incidents of recovery of arms and seven arrests of persons engaged in such traffic, occurred through 2014, as against two such incidents and four arrests in 2013. In one such incident on November 6, 2014, Mizoram Police recovered 19,300 detonators from two suspects, from the border village of Zokhawthar in Champai District. On further investigation another suspect was arrested from an unspecified location on November 6, 2014.

Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) racketeers have also been using the State as a transit point. In 2014, at least two incidents of recovery of FICN were reported as against none in 2013. In one such incident on October 4, 2014, BSF and Police recovered FICN worth INR 184,000 in the denomination of INR 1,000 at Tlabung Market in the Demagiri area of Lunglei District and arrested two suspects, Chandalay Chakma and Taranga Mohan Chakma. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of BSF [Mizoram and Cachar Frontier], Satish Budakoti, stated that FICN was brought from Bangladesh to Demagiri in order to take them to the interior areas. On December 1, 2014, Dinesh Kumar Upadhyaya, Inspector General, BSF, stated that BSF's Mizoram and Cachar Frontier units recovered FICN worth of INR 513,000 in 2014.

Ethnic strife between Bru tribals and Mizos continues to simmer, occasionally manifesting in violence. In one such instance, on January 14, 2014, at least 2,423 Bru tribals from at least three villages in Mamit District fled to Tripura, after the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP, Mizo Students' Association), a powerful student body, started a mass 'voluntary search operation'. After the exodus, the Mizoram administration agreed to provide security to Bru families in the western part of Mizoram to prevent more Brus from leaving.

Further, the repatriation of Bru refugees, who had been sheltered in Tripura since 1997, resumed in 2014. On January 30, 2015, Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana stated that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had agreed to organise a final six-month repatriation process for internally-displaced Bru tribals, after which all those who do not return home from Tripura would be removed from Mizoram's electoral rolls and further relief to them would also be stopped. Official records show that almost 4,000 Bru families, who have voting rights in Mizoram, continue to live in the relief camps in Tripura. It has also been decided that, in the interim, Tripura, where many of displaced Brus live in six relief camps, would improve living conditions there and double the current financial aid allotted to each displaced Bru tribal.

Meanwhile, the law and order situation in the State gives serious cause for concern. Significantly, the rate of crimes registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 2013 stood at 165.6 per 100,000 population, much higher, for instance, than in the insurgency-afflicted states of Manipur (126.3), Meghalaya (121.1) and Nagaland (52.6), according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) Data. NCRB data also showed that Mizoram, with a tiny population of 1.016 million, recorded 27 murder cases, 19 cases of attempt to murder and 89 cases of rape during 2013. Though NCRB data for 2014 is yet to be published, the Crime Branch of the State Criminal Investigation Department disclosed that Police Stations and outposts across Mizoram registered 45 murder cases, 23 cases of attempt to murder and 125 cases of rape through 2014.

A crisis of drug use also afflicts the State. Mizoram has one of the highest reported incidence of Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in India, with at least 4,169 Human Immuno Deficiency Virus/ (HIV)/AIDS infected people. Recent studies have shown that almost one third (31.8 per cent) of HIV infections in Mizoram are among injecting drug users. According to Mizoram's Excise & Narcotics Department (END), as against 36 drug related deaths in 2013, year 2014 recorded 38 deaths. In fact, an August 20, 2013, report noted that, in a span of two decades, from 1984 till August 7, 2013, Mizoram recorded 1,241 drug-related deaths. The drug which caused the maximum damage was Proxyvon/Parvon Spas. In 2014, END officials seized 10,289 capsules of Proxyvon and 18,874 capsules of Parvon Spas, adding to the seizure of 2,440 Proxyvon capsules and 2,87,923 capsules of Parvon Spas in 2013. It is useful to note that insurgents in the Northeast have long used drug money to arm and fund their operations.

Mizoram with its literacy rate of 91.91 per cent, well above the national average of 74.04 per cent, has the potential to be the powerhouse of development in the region. It has a vast potential for energy production, including a hydroelectric power potential of 4,500 MW, of which just 0.7 per cent has yet been harnessed. Governance and administration remains abysmal, and a virtual 'dole economy', overwhelmingly financed by the Centre, continues to exist. More than 28 years after the end of a virulent insurgency in the State, there is still little evidence of the promised 'peace dividend' in terms of any dramatic development in the State.

The writer is a Research Assistant at Institute for Conflict Management


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