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3 decade-old issue back in Mizoram polls

Pradipta Tapadar , PTI  Aizwal, November 18, 2013
First Published: 16:37 IST(18/11/2013) | Last Updated: 18:02 IST(9/12/2013)

Three decades after the issue of Mizo nationalism went into oblivion, the Mizoram opposition alliance has raked it up as one of their main plank for the November 25 state Assembly polls taking opportunity of the unemployment and backwardness prevailing in the state.

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"The issue(Mizo nationalism) was always there as it is the issue of our own identity. No one can ever compromise with his or her identity or the identity of his community which is at stake," said F Aithanga, senior leader of MNF which leads the Mizoram Democratic Alliance (MDA).

"Our main aim is development of the economic conditions of the Mizos and protection of their identity," Aithanga told PTI.

Observers here feel that unemployment and backwardness almost three decades after the creation of Mizoram has provided MNF with the opportunity to revive old issues of nationalism and economic sovereignty within the parameters of the Constitution.

The ruling Congress on the other hand felt that the issue of Mizo nationalism would not bear any fruit.

"MNF is trying to misguide the masses. It is talking of Mizo nationalism, but the fact is that its members themselves had surrendered in 1986 due to infighting in their own ranks. When the surrender took place only a handful of people turned out," campaign head of Mizoram Pradesh Congress Committee David M Thangliana told PTI.

MNF rubbished Congress' claims and said the surrender was in order to keep the movement over ground.

The MNF-led MDA is also trying to revive the sentiments of the people on its other demands for economic sovereignty and Zo reunification.

Another poll issue in this predominantly Christian state is reportedly a tilak sported by chief minister Lal Thanhawla while attending a programme in another state.

Photographs of Lal Thanhawla sporting a tilak and attending pujas appeared in a local newspaper and MDA accused him and Congress of hurting the sentiments of the Christian dominant Mizoram society.

MNF even took out processions here to protest the chief minister's alleged practice of another religion.

Lal Thanhawla's comment that even Christian pastors wore tilaks when they go outside the state triggered a controversy and the powerful Presbyter Chruch condemned it.

"The tilak issue and CM's statement have created some confusion. But we don?t think that MNF will be able to encash on it as much as they are hoping to," said David M Thangliana, campaign head of Mizoram PCC.

"The campaign and counter campaign over the tilak issue is a dangerous trend and needs to be contained," said Lallian Chunga, a professor in Mizoram University.

The issue of Zo reunification featured in the MDA manifesto this time and a special convention on it was held in Aizwal last month organised by Zo-reunification Organization and attended by senior leaders of MNF and MDA alliance.

The issue of New Land Use policy (NLUP) of ruling Congress and the proposed Special Economic Development Program (SEPD) of MDA also figured during campaign.

The main aim of NLUP was to develop and give all farmers in the state suitable, permanent and stable trades.

The programme was designed to do away with jhum cultivation (slash-and-burn method of shifting cultivation) in the state and to create permanent and remunerative livelihood for the farmers, besides preservation of environment, Congress sources said.

However, MDA leaders said that the distribution of money under NLUP has not been monitored properly and its proposed SEPD would achieve the objective that NLUP failed to do.

Congress, however, disagreed and said SEPD will only help rural masses whereas NLUP will benefit 1.2 lakh families across the state.

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