Mizoram 2015: Of Government appointments, Brus, & liquor ban lifting

Aizawl: Frequent change of governors dominated the political scenario in Mizoram in 2015 which also saw lifting of an 18-year-old ban on liquor in the state.

The year began with the swearing-in of Aziz Qureshi as governor on January 9 by Justice Michael Zothankhuma, who himself was sworn-in as a judge of Gauhati High Court two days ago.

Repatriation of Brus lodged in six relief camps in North Tripura district also dominated headlines.

Qureshi was then removed on March 28 and West Bengal Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi was asked to take additional charge of Mizoram.

On May 26, Lt Gen (Retd) Nirbhay Sharma, the present governor, was sworn-in at the Durbal Hall of Raj Bhavan.

The frequent change of governors drew sharp criticism from many quarters and the Mizo Zirlai Pawl or Mizo students’ federation staged a protest demonstration in front of the Raj Bhavan on April 4, just before Tripathi was sworn-in.

The central committee of the Young Mizo Association (YMA), the largest community-based organisation in the state, also condemned the frequent change of governors.

Sharma is the eighth governor of Mizoram to be appointed after Vakkom Purushothaman resigned on July 12, 2014 in protest against his transfer to Nagaland by the NDA government.

After the state remained under a stringent prohibition regime for 18 years, the Mizoram Liquor Prohibition and Control Act, 2014 came into force from January 15 and liquor shops opened from March 16 in Aizawl from where permit holders could buy and consume Indian made foreign liquor.

Following this, Conference of the Synod, the highest decision-making authority of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church, decided that people selling liquor and holding permit for purchase and consumption of alcohol will not be allowed to take active part in church activities.

On the Bru issue, the Mizoram government chalked out a road map for repatriation commencing from June 2 and to be continued till September 4.

According to the road map, it was planned that Mamit district along Mizoram-Tripura border would host 2,594 Bru families, while 628 would be resettled in Kolasib district along Mizoram-Assam border and 233 families in south Mizoram’s Lunglei district.

However, the mega plan for which Rs 68 crore was earmarked failed as not a single Bru came forward for identification as bona fide resident of Mizoram.

The Brus had migrated to Tripura from Mizoram en masse during the later part of 1997 after militants belonging to the erstwhile Bru National Liberation front gunned down Lalzawmliana, a forest guard working inside the Dampa Tiger Reserve near Persang hamlet on October 21 that year.

The first effort to repatriate the Brus on November 16, 2009 was not only hampered by the murder of a Mizo youth, Zarzokima of Mizoram-Tripura border Bungthuam village by Bru militants on November 13, 2009, but also triggered another round of exodus.

Though hundreds of Bru families have been repatriated since 2010, many of them refused to return to Mizoram due to obstruction from anti-repatriation leaders who made a plethora of demands to the Centre and the state government.

All the civil societies in the state opposed the Election Commission’s decision to conduct special summary revision of voters’ lists in the six Bru relief camps in Tripura resulting in the obstruction of the state election department officials from leaving for the relief camps from Mamit on November 9.

The civil societies and leaders of the political parties insisted that those Brus who refused to return to Mizoram despite repeated pleas should be disfranchised in the Mizoram voters’ list.

The death of former Chief Minister Brig Thenphunga Sailo, a towering figure among the Mizos and also well-known in the national politics, on March 27 was a blow to the state.

Sailo formed the Peoples’ Conference (PC) on April 17, 1975 and it won the Mizoram union territory elections in 1977. Subsequently, it formed the government with Sailo becoming the state’s second chief minister.

However, his government did not last long due to defections and Mizoram was placed under the President’s Rule for a brief period. But he bounced back to power in 1979. His party lost the 1984 elections with the Congress led by Lal Thanhawla.

Sailo’s son Lalhmangaiha Sailo took over the baton of his party and renamed it as Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC).

Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla’s brother Lal Thanzara resigned as MLA on August 18 after allegations of ‘conflict of interests’ and giving undue favour to a company by awarding crores of rupees worth contract as he was holding shares in that construction company.

Opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) lodged an FIR with the Anti-Corruption Bureau against Lal Thanzara alleging the latter was indulging in corruption and misuse of office.

Following his resignation, the Aizawl North-III Assembly seat fell vacant and a bypoll was held on November 21 in which he defeated his nearest rival K Vanlalvena of the MNF.

He was sworn-in as a minister and was allocated Health, Information and Communication Technology and Information and Public Relations portfolios.

Three Mizoram Police personnel were gunned down by suspected Manipur-based Hmar People’s Convention (Democrats) near Mizoram-Manipur-Assam border Zokhawthiang on March 28.

The slain policemen were part of a team of the state Assembly committee on government assurances visiting the area.

The militants, after the ambush, decamped with two AK-47 rifles and five pistols without harming the three MLAs, including the lone woman legislator Vanlalawmpuii Chawngthu,who were members of the Assembly team.

Several HPC(D) militants including its self-styled army chief Lalropuia Famhoite, ‘finance secretary’ Norbar Sanate and self-styled sergeant major Biakliana, commander of the group which ambushed the Assembly committee team, were arrested.

Elections to the village councils and local councils within the jurisdiction of the Aizawl Municipal Council (AMC), now upgraded to a corporation, were held on April 30 in which the ruling Congress won.

However, the elections could not be held in 31 villages in Aizawl and Kolasib districts due to threats from the
HPC(D).

Another violent incident erupted in southern Mizoram’s Chawngte town on August 4, leaving a 20-year-old student dead in police firing to disperse agitators, which resulted in the ransacking of 19 houses belonging to ruling Congress leaders, including the Chief Executive Member of the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) Buddha Lila Chakma and 21 government vehicles were damaged by the agitators.

The Mizoram Chakma Students Union (MSCU) spearheaded a protest against alleged fraudulent recruitment of 101 employees by the CADC.

The incident had a political fallout resulting in the exit of Chakma, who was replaced by Kali Kumar Tongchongya.

The opposition MNF won the elections to the 19-seat Aizawl Municipal Corporation (AMC) held on November 26 by bagging 11 seats, defeating the Congress and MPC.

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