Aizawl, Aug 18 (IANS): From one of the most violent States to an oasis of peace, tiny Mizoram, almost unnoticed by the rest of India, has scripted a happy story in a problem-ridden Northeast with the transformation riding on people's zeal for change and development.
"We are fortunate to be a peaceful State and this is primarily because of the comprehensive socio-economic development measures executed sincerely by the government," Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla told IANS.
Separatist insurgency in the Northeast first started after the Mautam famine in 1958-59, with guerrilla leader Laldenga forming the Mizo Famine Front, which finally led to the formation of the Mizo National Front (MNF), one of India's most organised rebel armies. The MNF waged a violent bush war for over 20 years against the Indian state for secession before signing a peace accord with New Delhi in 1986 during the adminstration of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
"Undoubtedly Mizoram is now the most peaceful State in the whole of the Northeast. The government, church, civil society, and youth groups played a major role in the transformation," said T Sailo, a community elder.
The predominantly Christian state of a little under 900,000 people is the second highest literate State after Kerala with a literacy rate of about 89 percent.
"The high literacy rate is another factor contributing to the overall transformation - people by and large realised that insurgency and violence would lead us to nowhere; hence the change in mindset for peace and stability," Zaaithanchungi, a well-known writer, told IANS.
"Whether we accept it or not, the mindset of the people of Mizoram has changed and that is one of the reasons why no insurgency group is able to take root in the State after the MNF came overground," said Lalinpui, a young doctor.
Mizoram may not have big industries - but economically the State is growing, with the per capita net State domestic product at current prices pegged at Rs 29,576.
"Development is the cornerstone for peace and stability and we believe despite not much industrial growth, Mizoram is on the road to progress, with people behind the government, whether it is the Congress or the MNF. We support any government's constructive plans," said Sanzuwala, a youth leader.
While Mizoram does not have any separatist group now, the other northeastern States are considered a hotbed of militancy with more than 30 rebel armies active in the region and demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy.
Former Chief Minister and MNF second-in-command Zoramthanga was among the best sharpshooters during the insurgency. He is today better known for his role as a peacemaker in the region, having opened channels of communication with at least five different rebel groups in the Northeast.
However, he adds: "There is a feeling among people that the only language New Delhi listens to is that of rebellion and so there is this language of revolt in the region. For decades New Delhi treated the northeastern States rather shabbily and this resulted in a sense of frustration among the people. This, in turn, bred insurgency."
But he does not talk of guns and violence any more.
"By and large, almost all the underground groups in the Northeast are beginning to realise the necessity of solving their various grievances through peace talks and not through the barrel of the gun," the former Chief Minister said. Zoramthanga ruled Mizoram for 10 years, but his party, MNF, was routed by the Congress in 2008.