The Church is as much a religious institution as it is a watchdog to ensure free and fair polls in the state
Aizawl: Christianity has often been credited for the socio-political and economic growth, not only in Mizoram, but also a larger part of the Northeastern region. In fact, the social values in Mizo society were founded upon Christian doctrines and principles.
Mizoram has been through its fair share of ups and downs, which have been in some way or the other led to the deepening of people’s faith in the Church and thereby increasing its role in the state.
It all started in 1959, when the people of Lushai Hills woke up to ‘Mautam’, a strange ecological phenomenon that occurs in cycles of 50 years, causing famine and immense hardship to Mizos who were earlier totally dependent on agriculture. The government’s apathy towards containing the famine resulted in the formation of the Mizo National Famine Front to provide relief to far-flung areas of the state. The body came to be known as Mizo National Front in 1966 when it launched an insurgent movement indulging in a separatist battle with the Indian Armed Forces.
With Mizoram being in an utter state of chaos, the Lunglei Citizens’ Committee was formed on March 8, 1966 by a group of Baptist Church leaders. It was through this Citizens’ Committee that the Church took an active part in rehabilitating and maintaining social as well as political order within the famine affected district of Mizoram.
With the insurgent activities intensifying and the counter-insurgency measures stepped up in the whole state of Mizoram, the Standing Committee of the Presbyterian Synod held another meeting on March 14, 1966, which led to the formation of a ‘Christian Peace Committee’ with members being drawn from both the Presbyterian and Baptist churches.
“The committee set up various cells or sub-committees to provide relief measures to the people. However, the prime objective was to restore peace and harmony in the state. With that objective the church leaders initiated a number of peace missions during the insurgency period, between the Indian government and the MNF that spanned for almost two decades, pleading both sides to take their problems to the negotiating table and work out diplomatic solutions to such political problems,” said Rev Lalramliana Pachuau, senior executive secretary, Presbyterian Church of India, while speaking to EastMojo.
The first visible engagement of the Church in the electoral process was seen in 1972, when election was held for the first time in the newly formed Union Territory of Mizoram. In this election, the Church leaders issued a statement, appealing and urging the politicians, candidates and the members of the Church for a clean, free and fair election.
Since then, issuing election related guidelines and messages had become a regular activity of the Church in their efforts to ensure free and fair elections till today. In fact, it was due to the efforts of the Church leaders during the period of insurgency that can be considered as one of the important reasons that brought the government of India and the MNF to negotiating tables many times, and ultimately to the signing of the Peace Accord in 1986.
The importance of the voice of the Church was further strengthened when another strong and influential civil society organization, the Young Mizo Association (YMA), joined the movement in 1987. In the subsequent elections, they have involved themselves deeper and further by taking up a proactive role in the voters’ sensitisation and electoral participation. As a result, the first state-level Co-ordination Committee on Election was formed in 1993.
“The efforts of the church to hold fair and peaceful elections further culminated in the establishment of the Mizoram People’s Forum (MPF) in 2006, which comprises of most of the major Churches and NGOs in Mizoram. Since then, we try to educate the people to be wise while electing their leader without being inclined to any political party,” the reverend added further.
The venture further solidified the platform for civil society organisations to launch an all-out effort in order to involve themselves deeper in the electoral politics and administration of the state.