Land of Highlanders - Mizoram


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bamboo flowers




**pictures collected from internet ..all credit goes to the respective photographers

One particular species of bamboo only flowers every 48 years. This occurred during 1911, 1961 [and in 2007]. The bamboo flowers, produces its fruit, and withers away. The fruit or seed seem to contain some vitamin which makes the rats which feed on them unusually big and fertile. When the seeds are all consumed the rat population reaches pestilential proportions. They devour everything edible in sight and loose all fear of man. The standing crops are devoured just before harvest. The slender bamboo walls of the traditional local house offers no protection from their voracious appetite. They boldly invade houses, run across the rafters, steal and defile the rice in the rice bin in the corner of the house, and even sink their teeth into the flesh of the unwary as they sleep in bed. The rats also carry infection.

In the years 1911/12 the villagers planted their rice and saw the bamboo blossoming. Most had never seen bamboo flowers before but they sighed and noted the omen.“We are planting what we shall never eat”, they told each other. So it proved, though the rice grew as usual. In fact elderly locals commented the harvest looked unusually promising. But as the rice grain was about to ripen the rats appeared overnight, as if by magic. The catastrophic harvest compelled villagers to scrabble for jungle roots, delving ever deeper into the jungle as the weeks went on. The survivors lived on this unpalatable diet and on what little rice they could obtain.

While the famine raged many people moved away from their native villages, going as far as to settle over the border in Tripura, Manipur, or Western Burma, thus causing further changes to the social pattern. Considerable numbers died of malnutrition and starvation. It is said that the children were always the last to suffer, and parents as well as Christian often collapsed in their efforts to find food for their little ones.

Some relief came from the Welsh churches in Britain to be distributed by Jones ‘Zosaphluia’ and Fraser. The dining room of Jones’ ‘Zosaphluia’ new bungalow was converted into a store room where he placed stocks of rice he had bought and brought up from the Plains where there was no plague. Silchar and Karimganj were able to give considerable support to the locals.

mizo uprising

Before the formation of the Mizoram state in 1987, the Mizo-dominated areas in India were a part of the Mizo district of the Assam state. The Mizo organizations, including the Mizo Union, had long complained of step-motherly treatment at the hands of the Assam Government, and demanded a separate state for the Mizos.

And this took place during Mautam leads to widespread famine in this region. When such a famine started in 1959, the Mizos were left disappointed by the Assam Government's handling of the situation. The introduction of Assamese as the official language of the state in 1960, without any consideration for the Mizo Language, led to further discontent and protests.

The growing discontent with the Government ultimately resulted in a secessionist movement led by Mizo National Front(MNF), an organization that had evolved out of a famine relief team. While the Mizo Union's demand was limited to a separate state for the Mizos within India, the MNF aimed at establishing a sovereign Christian nation for the Mizos.

And this forced Mizos to seek independence from India and MNA (Mizo National Army ) was formed which was a special arm wing of MNF (Mizo National Front)

In the early 1960s, the MNF leaders including Pu Laldenga visited East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), where the Government of Pakistan offered them supply of military hardware and training. Laldenga and his lieutenant Pu Lalnunmawia were arrested by the Government of Assam on the charge of conspiring against the nation, but were released in February 1964 after an undertaking of good conduct by Laldenga. However, shortly after their release, MNF intensified its secessionist activities. The MNF members forcibly collected donations from the Mizo people, recruited volunteers and trained them with arms supplied by Pakistan. By the end of 1965, the MNF weapon cache consisted of the plastic explosives stolen from the Border Roads Organizations , rifles and ammunition obtained from the 1st Assam Rifles (AR) headquartered at Aizawl, crude bombs and sten guns.

The Indian armed forces, fresh from the Indo-China of 1962 and the Indo-Pak war in 1965, were focused on the Indo-Pak and Indo-China borders. The extremist MNF leaders wanted to take advantage of this situation by starting an armed rebellion to establish an independent Mizo nation. The rehabilitation of the pro-Government Chakma refugees from East Pakistan in the Mizo district further instigated them.

On 27 February 1966, Pu Laldenga and some other MNF leaders decided that the armed insurrection would start on 1 March. The instructions were sent to the to launch simultaneous attacks on the posts of the 1st AR and the BSF. In case the attack failed, an alternate plan of concentrating near the Indo-Pak border was also made.

reaction from India

The Government authorities did get some indications of the upcoming armed action, but failed to anticipate its intensity. On the night of 27 February, Rokima, the brother of the MNF lieutenant Pu Lalnunmawia was killed in an apparently accidental blast, which was noticed by the AR personnel. All AR posts were alerted to keep a watch on the movements of MNF members.

One month and four days after becoming prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi was faced with a problem familiar to her father, Jawaharlal Nehru: an insurgency in the north east. On February 28, 1966, the Mizo National Army (MNA) revolted against India and fighting broke out across the region. In response, the Indian state did two unprecedented things.

By March 2, the MNA had overrun the Aizawl treasury and armoury and was at the headquarters of the Assam Rifles. It had also captured several smaller towns south of Aizawl. The military tried to ferry troops and weapons by helicopter, but was driven away by MNA snipers.

So, at 11:30 am on March 5, the air force attacked Aizawl with heavy machine gun fire. On March 6, the attack intensified, and incendiary bombs were dropped. This killed innocents and completely destroyed the four largest areas of the city: Republic Veng, Hmeichche Veng, Dawrpui Veng and Chhinga Veng.

Locals left their homes and fled into the hills in panic. The MNA melted away into surrounding gorges, forests and hills, to camps in Burma and the then East Pakistan. The air force strafed Aizawl and other areas till March 13. One local told a human rights committee set up by Khasi legislators GG Swell and Rev Nichols Roy that, "There were two types of planes which flew over Aizawl — good planes and angry planes. The good planes were those which flew comparatively slowly and did not spit out fire or smoke; the angry planes were those which escaped to a distance before the sound of their coming could be heard and who spat out smoke and fire."

This was the first— and only — time that the air force has been used to attack Indians in India. It cleared Aizawl and other cities of the MNA, but did not finish off the insurgency, which would last for another 20 years. Till the 1980s, the Indian military stoutly denied the use of air attacks in Mizoram in 1966.

By 1967, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act was in force in the area that is now Mizoram. That year, the eastern military brass, led by the then Lt General Maneckshaw, and government decided to implement the second terrible thing it did in Mizoram. This was called 'regrouping of villages.'

At the that time, there was one road coming south from Silchar in Assam, that traveled all the way down to where the state's limits ended. To the east and west of this road were vast tracts of forests, hills and ravines, dotted with hundreds of villages.The military plan was to gather villagers from all over, and cluster them along the side of this road. These new, so-called Protected and Progressive Villages (PPVs), were nothing but concentration camps, minus gas chambers. The movement was supposed to be voluntary — people in some far off hamlet were supposed to jump with joy when told to give up their land, crops and homes to trek hundreds of miles and live behind barbed wire. Actually, the military told villagers to take what they could carry on their backs, and burn everything else down. Elders signed 'consent' papers at gunpoint.

In every case, villagers refused to move. When they were coerced to march, they would refuse to burn down their properties. Then, the military officer and his men would torch the whole place down. They would march in a column guarded by the military, to their designated PPV.

Life here was tough: each resident was numbered and tagged, going and coming was strictly regulated and rations were meagre. In the PPVs' confines, tribal conventions broke down. In the scramble for scarce resources, theft, murder and alcoholism became widespread.

The regrouping destroyed the Mizos' practice of jhum, or shifting cultivation. There was little land inside the PPVs and their original jhum areas had been left far behind in the interiors. Farm output fell off a cliff. Mizoram suffered from near-famine conditions, supplemented by what little the military could provide, for the next three years.

Why were the villagers herded into the PPVs? The military reckoned that keeping villagers under their eyes would keep them from sheltering insurgents or joining the MNA. The original villages, crops and granaries were destroyed to deny wandering insurgents shelter and food.

These ideas were picked up by our officers from the colonial British playbook. The British had regrouped villages during the Boer war in the early 20th century, in Malaya, where they interned Chinese in special camps and in Kenya where villages were uprooted to crush the Mau Mau revolt.

The scale of the Mizoram regrouping was awesome. Out of 764 villages, 516 were evacuated and squeezed into 110 PPVs. Only 138 villages were left untouched. In the Aizawl area, about 95% of the rural population was herded into PPVs. No Russian gulag or German concentration camp had hosted such a large chunk of the local population.

The first PPVs were dismantled in 1971, but the last ones continued for another eight years. The MNA revolt ended in 1986. No government has expressed regret for the bombing and regrouping.

Perhaps India is the only nation which used Bombs on his own people.. sigh!!

it happened finally to me

so much histories had been attracting me from a long time .. finally i got a chance to visit the land..
Honestly my plan in March was going on without any destination.. I just booked flight ticket to Kolkata and return from Guwahati to Kolkata and then to Bangalore..

So many places were running in my mind.. Manipur,Myanmar,Bangladesh and of-course Mizoram..
No plans nothing..Before 3 days of my journey i decided yes Mizoram would be my destination.. but I was not at all sure how much i could cover in those short trip of 10 days.. I took the morning Indigo flight to kolkata and survived a day in that hot pot city...

Next morning my hotel arranged the taxi for airport drop.. Yes I had to board the Air India flight to Aizawl..I was excited,worried and yes confused.. Honestly i even did not know how to reach Aizawl city from Airport which was 35KM... Thinking all those reached airport... and waited for my turn to board the flight.....
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