Former Mizo rebels feel betrayed by state

By Sangzuala Hmar, IANS

Aizawl : Twenty years after he surrendered and joined the mainstream, 42-year-old Zohmingthanga, a former rebel fighter from Mizoram, is an angry man today – leading a life of penury and feeling betrayed by the state.

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A former Mizo National Front (MNF) rebel, Zohmingthanga surrendered in 1986 along with his insurgent leader Zoramthanga, now the respected chief minister of the northeast Indian state of Mizoram.

“All I want is the provision to support me and my family. Zoramthanga and I belong to the same constituency, served in the Mizo army for a common goal for more than 15 years, but now he has turned his back on me,” an angry Zohmingthanga told IANS.

Today he earns barely Rs.100 a day by sweating it out and the measly amount is not enough to run his family. Some 570 MNF cadres came over ground June 30, 1986, ending 20 years of violent bush war.

More than 230 surrendered MNF militants are now passing days in abject poverty. So much so that 36 former tribal rebels have threatened to launch an indefinite fast in protest against their condition.

“I am prepared to go on a hunger strike; even if I die, it doesn’t make much difference,” said Lalmuanpuia, a former MNF cadre.

According to the peace agreement reached between the Mizoram National Army, the armed wing of the MNF, and New Delhi, to end the decades of separatist insurgency, each of the surrendered rebels were to receive a rehabilitation grant of Rs.60,000. But in reality, only Rs.40,000 were given and nobody knows what happened to the remaining amount.

“We have filed a court case and the Anti-Corruption Board of the Mizoram government is apparently investigating the matter. But so far nothing is going in our favour,” B. Zorampara, president of the Peace Accord MNF Returnee Association (PAMRA). Some of the surrendered rebels are now even contemplating going back to the jungles out of frustration.

“Our former commanders during our jungle years are now ministers sitting in revolving chairs. Since we can’t have revolving chairs, the idea of having revolvers at our own disposal has now started creeping back into our minds,” Zorampara said.

The PAMRA has urged the state government for financial assistance to its formers cadres, besides housing for those who do not have roofs over their heads.

“The chief minister has the habit of giving us blank promises, we have had enough of it, we made only two demands,” Zorampara said.

The MNF waged a bloody 20-year-old insurgency for an independent homeland for the Mizo tribe. The two-decade long militancy came to an end when the MNF
signed the historic Mizo Accord in 1986 with the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The accord led to the en masse surrender of all the MNF rebels who joined the mainstream with their leader late Laldenga becoming the chief minister after the MNF fought the elections.

(Sangzuala Hmar can be contacted: [email protected])