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Mizoram remembers its men who signed ‘independence declaration’

Mizo Zirlai Pawl commemorates 8 surviving signatories, of the 61 total, in recognition of their valour on the 53rd anniversary of the state’s declaration of independence

Henry L Khojol

Aizawl: On March 1, 1966, just a few minutes past midnight of February 28, the Mizo National Front (MNF) led by legendary Laldenga declared independence against India, after launching coordinated attacks on security forces installations in different parts of the Mizo district (now Mizoram) in undivided Assam, which dragged the region into a 20-year-long arm struggle for sovereignty.

The independence declaration was signed by 61 Mizo brave hearts, of which only eight are now alive.

On the very 53rd anniversary of declaration of Mizoram’s independence on Friday, state’s apex student body the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) commemorated eight living or surviving signatories of the independent declaration at its office in Aizawl in recognition of their valour, which contributed to the growth of Mizo nationalism in fighting for self-determination of the Mizos.

The surviving signatories being commemorated were C Lalkhawliana (hails from Reiek), H Thangkima (originally from Pukpui), R Zamawia, Bualhranga Senator, Dr Saikunga Sailo, Zoramthanga, all of them now permanently settled in Aizawl, Khawlremthanga from Zohmun village in Aizawl district and V Lalchhawna from south Mizoram’s Siaha town.

Only six of them were present at the felicitation programme.

Speaking on the occasion, MZP president L Ramdinliana Renthlei said they have taken pride in the courageous act of the signatories in declaring Mizoram’s independence, which paved the way for 20-year-long freedom struggle against the India government.

“We value and honour you as you have fought freedom to achieve sovereignty and self determination for the Mizo nation,” he said.

He said Mizoram originally belongs to the Mizos and has never been part of India or any country during Mizo forefathers’ time. He said that the British annexed Mizoram, then Lushai Hills in 1890 and was integrated to Indian union by force one year before the country got independence from the British in 1947.

According to the leader, the Mizos did fight independence not because of their rebellious and unbecoming nature, but due to the desire for permanent freedom from their rulers.

He said that the Mizo people had faced enormous hardships during the 20-year-long insurgency and warned that such sufferings and hardships should not be underestimated by anyone.

Though Mizoram has celebrated 32nd anniversary of its statehood on February 20 this year and many MNF leaders have given up the ambition to achieve sovereignty, some former rebels still could not give up the hope of Mizoram becoming a sovereign state.

For R Zamawia, one of the surviving signatories of Mizoram’s independence declaration 53 years ago, a sovereign Mizo state is a living dream. “I still believe that someday the people of Mizos, divided by the British in three different countries of India, Burma and Bangladesh will come under one sovereign state. I may not live to see that day,” the defence minister of the underground MNF government said.

But armed struggle like that of the 1966 rebellion is out of question. “We can achieve our dreams through constitutional procedure without violence,” he added.

Zamawia alleged that the Mizos were never consulted on joining the Indian union when Indian became an independent country in 1947.

According to him, the British, before living Lushai hills, gave the Mizos the option to either join the Indian union or becoming a British crown colony.

“The Mizo union, the first and only political party of that time chose the first option on the condition that the Mizos would review their entry into Indian Union after 10 years and would then have the freedom to leave if they were not satisfied with being part of India,” Zamawia said.

“But the India government did not allow the Mizos to review their merger with India,” he added.

The Indian government led by late Indira Gandhi was quick to react to the MNF uprising and recaptured all the places seized by the MNF by 25 March 1966.

During the operations to suppress the rebellion, the Indian Air Force allegedly carried out aerial strike in Aizawl and neighbouring villages on 5 March, 1966. This, according to Mizo historians, remains the only instance of India carrying out an airstrike in its own civilian territory.

March 5, the day Indian Air Force allegedly launched airstrike in Mizoram is celebrated as “Zoram Ni” by MZP.

On June 30, 1986, the government signed a historic Mizo peace accord with the MNF, ending the 20-year long insurgency in this northeastern state. Mizoram became the 23rd state of the Indian Union on August 14, 1986.

Many leaders are now in the wish of observing March 1 as ‘Mizo National Day’.