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Mizoram Backgrounder

The Mizo National Front (MNF)-led terror campaign came to an end in the Northeast Indian State of Mizoram in 1986. The MNF transformed itself into a regional political party subsequent to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of India on June 30, 1986. It also formed the government, winning in the State Legislative Assembly elections, following the formal declaration of Mizoram as a State in 1987. Since then, no State-based terrorist outfit has risen to an extent that would disrupt the overall peaceful environment prevailing in the State.

Intermittent incidents, nevertheless, do occur. These involve terrorist outfits whose primary area of operation is outside the State of Mizoram, but have a presence in the State. These include the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF), Chin National Army (CNA) and the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), among others. The BNLF, which occasionally operates in the Mamit and Lunglei districts of Mizoram, is Tripura-based where approximately 32,000 Brus (Reangs) have been camping in the Kanchanpur sub-division of North Tripura district. The BNLF’s proclaimed objective is to secure a homeland for these 'refugees', and is currently engaged in negotiations with the State government. The UNLF is Manipur-based, whereas the CNA has its base in Myanmar.

The current situation in Mizoram appears near totally peaceful if seen, especially, in the background of the insurgency that lasted for two decades, between 1966-86. There were no terrorism-related casualties in the year 2001. However, a few incidents of abductions and attacks committed by terrorist outfits operating from across the State's border were reported. The UNLF attacked the New Vervek police outpost (Aizwal) on March 2, 2001. Reports on December 27 said the Vaitin police post (Aizwal) was attacked again by the UNLF. However, the attacks were repulsed and the security forces did not incur any loss. Two Power Grid Corporation of India employees and two of the State Public Welfare Department (PWD) were abducted by Manipur-based Hmar People’s Convention — Democrats (HPC-D) terrorists, on April 11, 2001. They were later released, on June 24, 2001.

The year 2000, however, was not so as peaceful. On June 30, 2000 suspected BNLF terrorists killed seven members of the anti-terrorist Hunter Force of Mizoram police and injured four others in an ambush laid along the India-Bangladesh border in the Mamit district. Barring this lone incident, no major terrorist activity was reported in Mizoram.

13 terrorism-related incidents occurred in the State between December 1998 and March 2000. These included the killing of five police personnel by suspected Manipur-based People's Liberation Army (PLA) cadres, at the Vaitin foothills, near Sakerdawi in Aizawl district, on March 24, 1999. This incident again occurred in the border areas of Mizoram.

Seen retrospectively, a perceived sense of loss of identity to Assamese domination was one of the basic factors that worked continuously to the dissatisfaction of a section of the Mizos. Mizoram was previously the Hill District Council of Assam State. Alleged discrimination against the Mizo people in various fields, including incommensurate representation at various levels of governance was another contributing factor. Finally, the alleged neglect of the sufferings of the Mizos during the 1959-famine by the Assam and Union governments, among others, worked as the immediate cause that led to the launching of the insurgency in Mizoram.

The Mizo insurgency, and its termination, is concurrent with the activities of the MNF. Insurgency in the State was at a peak when the MNF perpetrated violent acts against state structures and civilians. With the signing of the Mizo Accord on June 30, 1986, and the transformation of the MNF into a regional political party, the group has remained a part of the active political process in the State. Initially, the group was known as the Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF). It was later renamed Mizo National Front (MNF) on October 22, 1961, with Pu Laldenga as its chairman. The organisation's proclaimed objective was the attainment of a 'sovereign independent greater Mizoram'. However, it was on February 28, 1966 that the 'movement' turned violent. Government installations at various places, including in Aizawl, Lunglei and Champhai, were simultaneously attacked, under Operation Jericho. By March 5, 1966, the Mizo National Army (MNA), the armed wing of MNF, had taken over these districts.

Security forces (SF) secured these places in approximately 10 days during the subsequent counter-insurgency operations conducted in those parts. 95 MNA cadres were killed and another 558 arrested during those operations. 59 SF personnel lost their lives fighting the insurgents. By end-March 1966, MNF leaders, including its president and the top-leadership––the 'high command', were compelled to seek refuge in the Chittgong Hill Tracts (CHT), in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The MNF was outlawed the year next, in 1967.

The Mizo insurgency entered a new phase of intensity with the MNF adopting guerilla tactics. Counter-insurgency operations, therefore, became more difficult as MNF cadres mixed themselves up with the local civilian population. The SFs suggested resettlement of villages as a counter-strategy. Named 'Operation Accomplishment', it was launched in January 1967, after the Union Home Ministry gave its consent. Accordingly, 109 villages were relocated into 18 group centres of what was called Protected and Progressive Villages (PPVs), closer to either side the of Vairengte -Aizwal-Lunglei main road. In the ensuing counter-terrorism operations, 36 MNF cadres were killed. 75 security force personnel also lost their lives between January 4 and February 15, 1967. The SFs also arrested 100 MNF cadres. Phase II of Operation Accomplishment was launched in 1968-69. During the operation, approximately 240,000 persons constituting some 80 per cent of the total population in the Mizo Hills were organised into 102 groups by the year 1972. The idea was to isolate the terrorists from the civilian population. The terrorists, this way, would head to the nearby jungles. Security operations would be, consequently, directed against the insurgents and civilian deaths could be minimised.

Operation Accomplishment was supplemented by Operation Blanket during the later half of 1960s. Self-contained groups of 10 to 15 SF personnel would station in a particular location for a prolonged period of 15 to 20 days under this strategy. This was to give a feeling that their presence was not for a short duration and they were there to stay for the safety of the local population. The villagers would thus feel secured in the presence of the SFs. This was also done to encourage the local population to associate themselves with counter-insurgency operations, and to win their confidence. Also, information about the MNF would come through, it was felt, in the wake of diminishing fear of reprisal by the latter.

The following period saw intensified military action against the MNF. The Bangladesh War and its subsequent liberation from Pakistan in 1971 also led to erosion in the MNF’s support and strength. The Union government, after securing a military advantage over the insurgents, offered a surrender package to the MNF. In August 1968, the Union government offered the first amnesty package to the Mizo insurgents. This included pardon to surrendered terrorists for waging war against India, and compensatory money for depositing the arms they possessed. 1,464 unarmed and 64-armed terrorists surrendered under the scheme.

The demand for a separate State also gained momentum during the period. A Mizo District Council delegation met the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in May 1971, and put forth the demand. The Union government’s offer of conferring Union Territory status on the area was accepted with the condition that Statehood would be granted in the near future. Mizoram, thus, became a Union Territory on January 21, 1972.

Simultaneously, the government also kept the option of talks with the MNF open. Laldenga was invited to Delhi and talks and he held talks with Indira Gandhi in 1980. Although the talks failed, contacts were maintained between the Union government and the MNF leadership. Eventually, an Accord was signed when Rajiv Gandhi was the Premier in June 1986. Laldenga was appointed as the Mizoram' Chief minister during the same year. Mizoram also became a full-fledged State on February 20, 1987. Thus, the MNF-led two decades of insurgency came to an end, during which period the State witnessed killings of 350 civilians by the MNF in two phases - 1968 and 1973-74.

The continued prevalence of peaceful environment has allowed Mizoram to endeavour on the path of development. With a literacy rate of 88.49 per cent, as per the provisional data of 2001 Census of India, the State continues to be the second most-literate Indian State.





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