After long peace, Mizoram facing terror again

By Sujit Chakraborty,

Aizawl : Nearly 30 years after Mizoram embraced peace, there are signs that terrorism may be raising its “disturbing” head in the northeastern state bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Support TwoCircles

Mizoram was the first and the only state in India to get Rs.182.45 crore from the central government in 2000-01 as “Peace Bonus” for keeping peace after decades of insurgency. That record was shattered on March 28 when the Manipur-based Hmar People’s Convention-Democratic (HPC-D) ambushed a police party in Mizoram and killed three policemen and seriously wounded six others.

The dead included Sub Inspector Zoramthara Khawlhring.

The incident occurred when a police party was accompanying a state assembly team led by deputy chief whip R.L. Pianmawia in Aizawl district. The area is in northern Mizoram bordering Manipur and Assam.

The terror attack, which occurred after many years of peace in the state, forced Mizoram to approach the union home ministry to ban the HPC-D. It also sought that the state’s northeastern part, where the Hmar tribals are concentrated, be declared a disturbed area under the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958.

“The recent attack brings to the fore a disturbing trend which had for the last few years been largely ignored,” security analyst Manas Paul told IANS.

Paul, who has written books on terrorism and security affairs in India’s northeast, pointed out that Mizoram became a peaceful state after the 1986 accord ended two decades of militancy by the Mizo National Front (MNF).

As MNF’s founder leader Laldenga, a former Indian Army havildar, became chief minister and his group took to mainstream politics, calm returned to Christian-majority Mizoram for decades, except for stray violence by HPC, Paul said.

The HPC wants an autonomous council inside Mizoram since 1994.

Mizoram’s Additional Secretary for Home, Lalbiakzama, said: “The situation in the state was reviewed at a meeting chaired by Home Minister R. Lalzirliana this week.”

An official told IANS that there was a proposal to train Mizoram’s armed policemen at Vairengte’s Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School along the Mizoram-Assam border.

There could also be tactical and advanced training with Assam Rifles.

Mizoram Chief Secretary Lalmalsawma met his Manipur counterpart to deal jointly against the HPC-D militants, whose main hideouts are in Manipur.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said the militants, responsible for the recent attack, had violated the law on many occasions.

“These militants have links with the other extremist outfits of northeast India,” an official said.

The chief minister said: “The militants … have deceived us by killing our policemen. We take this as an outright challenge.”

The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) is also known to use Mizoram to transit after a fence came up on the India-Bangladesh border.

In the past two years, a huge quantity of weapons have been seized and Myanmar and Bangladeshi nationals arrested in Mizoram, which has an unfenced 404 km of border with Myanmar and 318 km of border with Bangladesh.

According to intelligence officials, Bangladeshi rebels belonging to the Chakma tribal community are involved in arms smuggling.

A Tripura Police official said in Agartala that militants used Mamit district in Mizoram as a corridor to carry out their trans-border movement involving Bangladesh, Mizoram and Tripura.

The MNF was born on October 22, 1961, under the leadership of Laldenga. It launched violent attacks from February 28, 1966.

The insurgency continued until a tripartite accord was signed between the MNF and the central and state governments on June 30, 1986.

In all, 614 MNF cadres came out of hiding and surrendered with a huge quantity of firearms in 1986. It then fought elections and ruled Mizoram.

The legendary Laldenga was the chief minister of Mizoram for two years from August 1986. He died of lung cancer in 1990.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted [email protected])