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Is Kuki Zo Crisis Providing Fodder to Demand of ‘Greater Mizoram’?

After displaced Kuki Zo people fled Manipur and migrated to Aizawl, the demand for demarcating an area on ethno-religious lines is getting wider political support.
prof Sawma General secretary of young Mizo Association

Prof Sawma General secretary of young Mizo Association

Aizawl: It’s still not 20 days since the Zoram People's movement leader, Lalduhoma, a former IPS (Indian Police Service) officer, took oath as the sixth Chief Minister of Mizoram, one of most peaceful states in India. However, the former architect of the Mizoram Peace Accord (along with Mizo National Front leader Laldenga) has been clear from the first days of his oath in office that he is open to the dream of Mizo-Chin-Kuki (CHIKIM) people of creating a ‘Greater Mizoram’.

When NewsClick met Lalduhoma in his office at Aizawl recently, he said was open to the idea of ‘Greater Mizoram’ adding that was for the people to decide whether they want it or not.

He said he recently met the eight elected MLAs of Manipur representing the Kuki Zo people, where “much transpired between them.”

It may be recalled that both Lalthanhawla, the former Congress Chief Minister of Mizoram, and Zoramthanga, the chief minister of Mizoram who recently lost to Lalduhoma, are big supporters of the demand to create a ‘Greater Mizoram’.

CM lalduhoma meeting with reporters in Aizwal

CM lalduhoma meeting with reporters in Aizwal   

Zoramthanga lost this election on issues such as poor governance and corruption. Yet, before relinquishing office, he took a major decision in favour of the Kuki Zo people -- he opened the state’s doors to around 50,000 Kuki Zo people who lost their homes due to fierce Meitei-Kuki ethnic violence in the Manipur hills and the Imphal valley. About 13,000 Kuki people are now staying in the 11 districts of Mizoram, mostly in relief camps.

In the Tuikhuahtlang area of Aizawl, about 670 Kuki Zo families have been rehabilitated in a camp named as Falkland camp, constructed under the Rajiv Awas Yojana.

The small camp, with cloth used to separate 10 to12 families living under the same roof in a hall, tells the story of the plight of displaced Kuki Zo people who are facing all kinds of hardships.

Pastor John told Newsclick that it was conducive for them to move out from the Chandel area of Manipur and migrate to Aizawl and stay in transit camps set up by the Young Mizo Association en route from Chandel.

Both the Mizo people, the Kukis and the Chins are from the same ethnic community, he said, adding that most of them had embraced Christianity. The pastor said their village church was set ablaze by Arambai Tenggols in Chandel district in the initial days of the ethnic clashes, following which these people fled their homeland and are now living170 kilometers away from Aizawl.

Some Kuki people said in Aizawl they were living under constant monitoring by YMA and the local ITLF (Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum), who were looking after their needs.

Sien Lunfim, 40, said from a Jhum cultivator in Chandel, he had turned into a daily wage-earner in Aizawl. There are jobs available here that pay Rs 500 a day, mainly in the road-building sector.

It may be recalled that National Highways are being four-laned in the state and the new Chief Minister Lalduhoma has already met the National Highways Authority of India officials to boost work in the road-building sector.

But things have become tougher for Sien Lunfin, as he has to maintain a family of six with wages of Rs 550 a day. The family lives in the relief camp.

Rice and pulses in these camps are being paid for by the churches, YMA and ITLF, but for protein intake they need meat and poultry, which they have to buy themselves. Those who haven’t managed a job, have to settle with eating only rice and pulses.

NewsClick also met professor Sawma, general secretary of YMA in his office at Aizawl. The YMA is the largest NGO in Mizoram with more than five lakh members. YMA members can be seen on the outposts as well as the length and breadth of every road in Aizawl city.

Aizwal  a scenic view.

Aizwal  a scenic view.  

YMA also keeps a close watch on the drug menace and provides help to the administration in maintaining law and order. “So far, we have been able to raise Rs 2.30 crore as donations to help the IDP (internally displaced persons) who are coming from Manipur and even from Myanmar (Chin refugees have been displaced due to the Myanmar civil war.

Prof J Doungel of Mizoram University, elaborating on the demand for ‘Geater Mizoram’, said for centuries the Chin, Kuki and Mizo people have lived as ‘brothers’ in the hilly tracts North East India and Myanmar. “For you, political boundaries are like the inter-state boundaries and the international boundaries that demarcate the land, but for the general people of the region, it is just about the village boundary,” he said.

Recall that ‘Greater Mizoram’ incorporates the demand to merge the state of Mizoram with parts of Manipur inhabited by the Kuki Zo community, parts of Assam and even parts of Myanmar.

But, for the time being, the demand is to push the Union government to build a ‘Greater Mizoram’ on ethno-religious lines while maintaining the international boundary, where the CHIKIM people can live harmoniously without the fear of being persecuted, a political analyst, requesting anonymity, told NewsClick.

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