"Demanding independence from India is like hitting a thick stone wall, nothing good can come out of it.” These were the words of Mr. A. Thanglura who was the MLA candidate from Mizoram at the Assam Assembly Election during the Mizo insurgency period.
After a long 20 year struggle for independence, marked with bloodshed, violence and internal conflicts- not to mention the bombing of Aizawl by the IAF on March 1966- Mizoram was granted statehood by the Indian Government on 20th February 1987 as the 23rd state of India. The then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi arrived in Aizawl to address the thousands of Mizo gathered at the Assam Rifles ground, and declared Mizoram as one of the states in India. Prior to this, the Memorandum of Settlement was signed between the Mizo National Front and the Indian Government on June 30, 1986 where the Mizo National Front surrendered arms and immediate arrangements were made to solidify Mizoram as a full- fledged state in India. Consequently, the Indian Constitution was amended and ‘The Mizoram State Act, 1986’ (Act No. 34 of 1986) came into existence.
The struggle for independence by the MNF had wreaked havoc, due to the two decades of tussle with the Indian Army. The civilians were the ones who suffered drastically from the political unrest. Taking into consideration all the mishap that ensued, there was a strong urge from the combined church committees and the political parties, respectively the Congress, to end the year long suffering of the people and restore normalcy. Their constant efforts to convince Laldenga, leader of the Mizo National Front finally materialized which led to a truce between the MNF and the Indian Government.
Today, 35 years after the implementation of statehood, Mizoram has thrived and transformed at a tremendous pace.With a unique cultural setup of modern and traditional lifestyle, more than 40 per cent of the population lives in urban areas following the latest modern lifestyle with massive western cultural influence due to mass media. More notably, the Korean wave that hit the Mizo youths since the early 2000’s still has a strong impact on the fashion and music taste of youngsters today.
However, one can still find the traditional customs practiced in the villages and listen to old tales from the village elders at the tapchhak, the traditional fireplace.The customary laws and practices regarding marriage and funerals are still dutifully observed both in the urban and rural areas. With the introduction of the Mizo A Aw B script by the Christian missionaries in 1894, the state now has a literacy rate of 81 per cent while still retaining its rich oral tradition. The strong presence of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) in Mizo society is largely responsible for maintaining the traditional customs and values amidst foreign influences.
The signing of the Peace Accord and the implementation of statehood did end the insurgency, but the question of whether Mizoram was ready for a state government has to be taken into consideration.
For hundreds of years, the administration rested on the village chiefs and their council of elders who held the complete authority over any matter within their respective villages.
As the administration gradually shifted from local chiefs to the state government, political administration inevitably fell into the hands of leaders who lack experience and the know- how of political machineries. Consequently, on becoming the 23rd state in India, Mizoram was burdened with the hefty task of state governance and administration.
This, to a large extent, opened up wider doors for corruption, petty rivalries and other malpractices to seep into the state politics and administration.
Also, there has always been a controversial debate regarding the issue of statehood. While the State Day is observed and celebrated every year, there are still fractions of people who still yearn for independence, who sees the implementation of statehood as something given in replacement of independence.
More than 50 years under British colonialism, Mizoram has undergone tremendous social, political and religious restructuring. And the shift from Union Territory to statehood was one scarred with violent political upheaval and struggles. Through it all, Mizoram has shown remarkable resilience as well as adaptive flexibility in its response to the many external forces.