The Mizo community in poll-bound Mizoram has been “deeply pained and hurt” at the way the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Imphal are handling the Manipur unrest.
This was the substance of what a cross-section of ordinary voters, Church leaders and activists told The Telegraph in Aizawl in the run-up to the November 7 Assembly polls.
The Mizoram state capital has been “even more quiet” than it was during the 2018 Assembly polls in the Christian-majority state.
The quietness is being attributed to the dos and don’ts issued by the Mizoram People’s Forum, a Church-backed election watchdog made up of leading civil society organisations, and the parties contesting the polls to ensure a “clean” election.
The strictures include restrictions on house-to-house campaigns following the announcement of the election date.
Lalnilawma Colney, joint secretary of the influential Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitute Committee, an Aizawl-based body of Church leaders, highlighted the large numbers of people killed and displaced and churches destroyed in the Manipur violence between the largely Hindu Meitei and mostly Christian Kuki-Zo communities.
“We are deeply pained and hurt over the manner in which the situation has been handled by the governments at the Centre and Manipur. The conflict has been tackled very, very unsatisfactorily by the governments. We, Mizos, are grief-stricken over the prolonged unrest,” he said.
MIZORAM MISS: Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the inauguration of World Food India 2023 in New Delhi on Friday. Modi, labelled “Prachar Mantri” by the Opposition and accused of neglecting his duties as Prime Minister by being out canvassing votes for the BJP as its lead campaigner in every election, has made an exception for Mizoram. He has not addressed a single rally in the state, which votes on November 7, possibly the first time that he has given an Assembly election the miss since becoming Prime Minister. PTI picture
Mizoram is hosting over 12,000 displaced people from Manipur.
Asked whether the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) will have an edge for supporting the affected Kuki-Zo people from Manipur or the Kuki-Chin refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh, Colney said there would be “no impact or minimal impact” on the voting pattern for help extended to the affected people because the concern is shared by all the political parties.
The Manipur unrest has revived the feeling of “Zo nationalism” among the people of Mizoram. The MNF has renewed its old demand for “reunification” of all Zo people scattered across Myanmar, Bangladesh and India.
“All the parties have condemned the unrest; they share similar views and sympathies on the crisis and on extending help to the affected,” Colney said.
On the reasons that might hurt the BJP’s prospects, he cited the BJP-led central government’s approach towards the Christian community, whether it was about observing Good Governance Day on December 25 (Christmas) or about holding a nationwide cleanliness drive on a Sunday (October 1), a sacred day for Christians.
“And then there is the Manipur unrest. The Prime Minister is yet to visit Manipur. There will be no impact, or a minimal impact, on the voting pattern except for the BJP, whose prospects may be affected in the Mizo heartland because of its approach towards the Christian community,” the Church leader said.
There have been rumblings in the Mizoram BJP unit, too, over the Manipur unrest. One of the state party vice-presidents, R. Vanramchhuanga, himself a Church leader, resigned from the BJP on July 13 protesting the way the central and Manipur governments were handling the Manipur crisis.
Vlalnunthara, an activist working for a drug-free Mizoram, too spoke of Mizo “pain and anguish” at the authorities’ management of the Manipur situation.
“The unrest is painful. It has also dented the image of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP is seen by most Mizos as anti-Christian and the unrest in Manipur will further hurt the party’s growth in Mizoram,” the activist said.
A member of the influential Central Young Mizo Association expressed another grievance: he told this newspaper that when the Mizoram government tried to evacuate doctors and students from Imphal by flight, the Manipur government had “refused”.
The BJP appears to realise the depth of the Mizo disgruntlement. It has scaled down its aspirations by contesting 23 of the 40 seats, 16 less than in 2018. The party is focusing on the autonomous district council areas where voters from minority tribes such as the Chakma, Bru, Mara and Lai play a decisive role, political observers said.
Two of the BJP’s main campaigners, Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, have stayed away from the Mizoram campaign to avoid putting the glare back on the Manipur unrest, the observers said.
In 2018, the BJP had won one Assembly seat in Mizoram.
Both the leading contenders for power -- the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) --- have expressed confidence about forming the government on their own. The Congress and the BJP appear equally confident of being part of the new government.
Most people in Mizoram see the upcoming polls as a three-cornered contest in most seats between the MNF, ZPM and the Congress.
The Manipur situation has remained fragile despite the heavy deployment of central security forces.
A fresh flare-up has followed Tuesday’s killing of a sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) in Moreh, Tengnoupal district, and the consequent crackdown. There was an attempt by armed attackers to loot arms from the 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles in Imphal on Wednesday.