MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Friday, 01 March 2024

Manipur crisis, attack on minorities: ‘Modi for Mizoram’ slogan finds few takers in state

Modi did not show up during campaigning but he was omnipresent in speeches made by party leaders such as J.P. Nadda and Rajnath Singh who flagged his numerous visits to the Northeast, his unprecedented infrastructure push in the region and his commitment to put Mizoram on the track to prosperity

Umanand Jaiswal Aizwal Published 08.11.23, 06:48 AM
A BJP hoarding proclaiming ‘Modi for Mizoram’ put up near the Lengpui airport in Mizoram

A BJP hoarding proclaiming ‘Modi for Mizoram’ put up near the Lengpui airport in Mizoram Sourced by the Telegraph

It is hard to miss the huge BJP election hoarding that proclaims Narendra Modi for Mizoram while you are on your way to the Lengpui airport or leaving it for your onward journey in the state, which went to the polls on Tuesday.

However, most people The Telegraph interacted with in Aizawl district or elsewhere in the Christian-majority state do not share the same enthusiasm when talking about Modi or the BJP because of the way the Centre has "handled" the ongoing Manipur unrest, the BJP’s “extreme” religious ideology and the "targetting" of the minorities under his watch.

ADVERTISEMENT

Conversations with teachers, activists and people on the streets suggest Brand Modi or the BJP has few takers in Mizoram. Modi has been the face of the party in the single-phase elections.

Modi did not show up during campaigning but he was omnipresent in speeches made by party leaders such as J.P. Nadda and defence minister Rajnath Singh who flagged his numerous visits to the Northeast, his unprecedented infrastructure push in the region and his commitment to put Mizoram on the track to prosperity. The Mizo heartland is apparently not impressed.

Professor Jangkhongam Doungel, who teaches political science at Mizoram University and is also a Fulbright scholar, said: "Prime Minister Modi has no impact in Mizoram. People are unhappy with him because of the way Manipur has been handled. Why did he cancel his proposed visit to the state (for campaigning in Mamit)? This reflects the unhappiness against Modi and the BJP on the ground. Modi and the BJP have no impact on Mizoram politics."

Modi’s proposed October 30 visit to Mamit was cancelled. There is a lot of pain and anguish in Mizoram over the conflict in Manipur that erupted on May 3, leaving at least 178 dead and over 67,000 displaced. Modi is yet to visit Manipur. A visit to Mizoram for electioneering would have not gone down well with most Mizos, many believe.

Chief minister Zoramthanga had recently said he would not be sharing the stage with Modi if he visited Mizoram to campaign.

According to Doungel, those who are in the BJP in Mizoram are there because of “differences with the parties they were part of or to find a political space for themselves. It has nothing to do with the BJP's ideology".

There was “no Modi magic” before the Manipur unrest and “even now” there is no Modi magic, Doungel said, adding that this was due to the Modi government’s “handling” of the Manipur ethnic unrest where the Zo ethnic tribes “are discriminated and humiliated” by the BJP-led government in Manipur”.

Doungel said: “People of Mizoram are also apprehensive of the policy of Hindu Rashtra and the Centre's attempt to push back the refugees from the Zo ethnic tribes from Burma (Myanmar)."

The Centre had asked the Mizoram government to push back the Kuki-Chin refugees entering Mizoram and Manipur from coup-hit Myanmar in 2021 but the Zoramthanga-led government did not play ball because the refugees share the same Zo ancestry as the Mizos. They also share the same ancestry as the internally displaced Kuki-Zo people from Manipur.

Currently, Mizoram is hosting over 32,000 refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh and over 11,000 from Manipur. The MNF had made it an election issue and chief minister Zoramthanga believes it will benefit them at the hustings.

Jerry H. Pulamte, council member of the North East Students' Organisation (NESO), reacting to the "Modi for Mizoram" catchline, told The Telegraph that they “don’t feel safe” under the Modi government.

“We don't endorse the BJP. We are not safe under it. Conflict is going on in neighbouring Manipur. The affected Kuki-Zo people are our blood brothers/sisters and they are suffering. The Modi government has escalated the unrest in Manipur. They have scrapped Article 37O (from Jammu and Kashmir) and now we don't feel that Article 371G of the Constitution is safe under the Modi government. Overall, in the Mizo heartland, it will be difficult for the BJP to prosper, with or without Modi.”

According to Article 371G, a special provision in the Constitution, “no act of Parliament” in respect to religious or social practices of the Mizos, Mizo customary law, administration of civil and criminal justice, ownership and transfer of land, shall apply to Mizoram unless the state Assembly “by a resolution so decides".

The BJP has tried to allay the apprehension.

Rochamliana, general secretary of Zoram Research Foundation, said the BJP could not grow in Mizoram since its inception in the state because of their “extreme” religious ideology.

The BJP won its first Assembly seat only in 2018 despite contesting polls since 1993. It is hoping to increase its tally and be part of the government this time in case there is a hung House.

“Since this ultra-Right-wing party rules India and their presence is somehow slightly felt in Mizoram, the majority of the Mizo Christian population has reservations about them. They are not warmly welcome at this point in time,” Rochamliana said.

He added: “Next is their doing in Manipur. It greatly offended not only the Mizos but the entire tribal population of the Northeast. The other day, I received a message that goes like this — After making Manipur so marvellous, Modi now wants to make Mizoram the same. Wake up Mizoram! So, Modi for Mizoram slogan is a burned-out or dead-beat thing from the beginning.”

Though Modi did not show up in Mizoram, he released a video message for the people of the state on Sunday, the concluding day of the campaign, seeking their support as the BJP was committed to creating a “marvellous Mizoram”.

A teacher from Aizawl, who grew up in north India, said she has a “lot of respect” for Modi for his “hard work for development” but “not for his anti-Christian steps”.

A 45-year-old cab driver said India is a country with diverse cultures and religions, which "only a secular party" like the Congress can handle.

The people of Mizoram have answered through their ballot on Tuesday and their decision will be known only on December 3, the day of counting which may be rescheduled because it is a Sunday, a sacred day for Christians.

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT