Mizoram is one of the states scheduled to have elections to the legislative assembly in the current phase, on November 25. It has had a Congress government under Lalthanhawla since 2003. Other parties contesting the polls include the Mizo National Front, the Zoram Nationalist Party and the Mizoram People’s Conference.
Like in many other states in the North East, the people of this region fought for several decades against the Indian Union for their independence. Their homeland was first incorporated into British-ruled India only in 1895, and was made a part of Assam as the Lushai Hills district. From the 1960s, when the Mizo armed struggle began, the Indian state unleashed ruthless repression on the Mizo people. This included the bombing of Aizawl and surrounding areas by the air force, and the notorious forced relocation of villagers in the manner of the British colonialists. The Indian state also put pressure on neighbouring countries not to assist the Mizo fighters in any way. All of this created an extremely difficult situation for the movement for Mizo independence. Eventually, a “peace accord” was worked out under the government of Rajiv Gandhi in 1986, and in 1987, Mizoram became a state of the Indian Union, with one seat in the Lok Sabha and one seat in the Rajya Sabha.
Today Mizoram is touted as one of the “success stories” of the Indian state’s policy in the North East. However, the fact is that in the North East, the Indian state measures “success” by the lack of open insurgency or militancy, and not by the wellbeing of the people.
Mizoram suffers from most of the same problems faced by the other peoples of the North East. The state is not self-sufficient in the major staple of its people, rice. Agriculture is the major employer, and there is hardly any industry worth the name. Young people from Mizoram have to flock to faraway places in India for jobs or for anything more than basic education. In these places, they face discrimination, harassment and constant insecurity. At the same time, the lack of employment opportunities within the state is used to whip up or inflame tensions between different communities who reside there. There is still no rail connectivity in Mizoram, and the state of transport and road infrastructure is abysmal. Despite its potential for hydropower, it suffers from chronic power deficit. It also suffers from environmental degradation, including the loss of precious forest cover.
It is extremely unlikely that the current elections will have any impact on this most unsatisfactory situation. This is because the Indian state is least concerned about transforming the lives of the people here for the better or in investing the resources needed to do so. If it can manage to keep the state “quiet” through a mixture of political manipulation and armed force, then it is not interested in anything else. Even the elected governments or representatives of these states in the North East by and large have very little say in policies that affect their states.
The fact is that the Indian Union has not recognized the national rights and aspirations of the various peoples within it, any more than the British colonialists did before it. The history of the Indian Union’s dealings with peoples who have fought for their national rights, like the Mizos, is a history of brutal force, political intrigue and manipulation. Elections are used to give a veneer of legitimacy to the stranglehold of the Indian state, not to place power in the hands of the people. Real justice and progress for the different nations, nationalities and tribal peoples of this region can only be realized through the reconstitution of India as a voluntary union, in which the rights and sovereignty of each of its constituents is respected and their interests are harmonized.