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Human Rights in Mizoram

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Violation of human rights is one of the most worrying problems of our times which have increasingly become a global concern. The enactment of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993(No.10 of 1994) and a consequent establishment of the National Human Rights Commission in 1994 were, in fact, measures taken by the Government of India for the cause of Human Rights. Though the National Human Rights Commission has been working towards the protection of human dignity and fundamental freedom, human rights violation is still rampant throughout India.

Mizoram, a small state having a total area of 21,087 sq. km, is situated in the north-eastern corner of India. It has Eight (8) Administrative Districts and has a population of 8,91,058 as per the 2001 Population Census (Provisional). Aizawl is the state capital. Though the literacy rate in the state is 88 %( 2001), the question of human rights is of recent origin among the people of Mizoram.
It was only in 1966 when the ‘Mizo Independence’ movement broke out in Mizoram under the leadership of the Late Mr.Laldenga, founder of Mizo National Front (MNF), that the people of Mizoram began to recognize the meaning of human rights in a rather practical way as a result of various types of human rights violation and atrocities committed by the Indian army against the Mizo people. Before this, the terminology ‘Human Rights’ was never heard of as the Mizo people had never experienced such a difficult and critical situation in terms of violation of their personal freedom in their history.

Keeping in view of the seriousness of the situation and the increasing level of strained relations between the Indian Army and the public, Brig.Thenphunga Sailo AVSM, a retired Indian Army Officer, along with some friends formed the Human Rights Committee (HRC) in the month of June 1974 in Aizawl. Brig. Thenphunga was elected as the Chairman of the newly formed Committee. The HRC in Mizoram then launched a campaign against the prevailing atrocities and the public became a little more enlightened. People greatly appreciated what the HRC was doing. Within a short period of time, the movement spread throughout Mizoram and gained ground. However, the following year (1975) saw the Committee converted into a political party and thereafter, the People’s Conference (PC) was formed. Though the newly-formed party still claimed to champion the cause of human rights, the same was increasingly getting marginalized on the PC’s agenda. By the time it won the State Assembly Election in 1978, the party had firmly put human rights issue on the backburner. It is indeed ironic, but nevertheless, true that the very P.C. Government was accused of committing serious human rights violation after it launched a bitter and bloody anti-MNF operation using the State’s police force designated as ‘Special Force’. Several MNF personnel and people sympathetic towards the MNF were killed; and in the process, many innocent lives were taken. However, despite this, the formation of the first HRC was a landmark in the history of human rights movement in Mizoram.

By the time the Memorandum of Settlement (Peace Accord) was concluded on June 30, 1986 between the Union Government and the MNF that brought an end to the two-long decade’s insurgency, the degree of concern for human rights declined to a significant extent. In the post-Peace Accord period, nobody seems to have taken any interest or courage to talk about human rights mainly because of the strong contention prevailing among the people of Mizoram that the issue of human rights arises only during times of war, turbulence or insurgency and there can be no violation under normal circumstances.

However, looking at the real situation, it is obvious that human rights violation is an everyday phenomenon in Mizoram. It is an alarming fact that custodial deaths, rape cases , broad daylight robberies, killings, abduction and kidnaps, etc. reports are received from every nook and corner of the state on an every day basis. Even after the implementation of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 in India, the State Government of Mizoram has not taken any initiative for the establishment and formation of a Human Rights Commission nor Human Rights Courts in the state. Mizoram may be one of the few places where human rights have been extremely neglected and violated during the past decades.

It will be worthwhile to mention that the Young Mizo Association (YMA), formed in 1935 under the aegis of the Christian Missionaries, has become the largest NGO in Mizoram with membership of more than two lakhs. Its main aim is to help people in times of need (YMA Motto). The Central YMA is the highest authority and under it, many groups and branches function in almost every locality throughout the whole of Mizoram. Throughout the years, the YMA has been a potent and powerful force in spreading the message of Tlawmngaihna (selflessness/self-sacrifice) in its theoretical and practical aspects. In short, it has been been working effectively as well as efficiently, in tandem with the Government, in wiping out the various illnesses of the Mizo society like drug abuse, prohibition of liquors, and in such aspects as conservation of forests and wildlife, maintenance of customs and traditions, and so on. Apart from the YMA, there also function in most of the localities Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) like the Joint Action Committee (JAC) and the Village Defence Party (VDP) which are formed with the purpose of protecting and safeguarding the community. There is no doubt that these organizations are wielding a very powerful influence in each of the localities. Not only this, it has been an emerging trend that such organizations as these have a lot of say in the working of the State government.
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