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Data

Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Mizos in India

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India Facts
Area:    3,287,590 sq. km.
Capital:    New Delhi
Total Population:    984,004,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References



Risk Assessment

The Mizos in India have three of the factors that increase the chances of future rebellion: territorial concentration; a high level of group support for organizations representing their interests; and a history of lost autonomy. Factors that could inhibit future rebellion include: India's history as a stable democracy; persistent federal government efforts to negotiate settlements with groups seeking autonomy; and the lack of transnational support for the Mizos despite ongoing armed conflicts in neighboring countries like Burma.

It appears that Mizo desires for self-determination were largely satisfied with the creation of a separate state of Mizoram in 1986. Mizoram remains one of the few states in India's northeast that has remained relatively free of violence in the past 15 years. The major issue confronting its residents is the relationship between the Mizos and the Reangs (also called Bru) and whether Reang desires for greater autonomy can be incorporated within Mizoram without the occurrence of further violence.

The Bru National Liberation Front has been at odds with the offical government of Mizoram since 1996 and has a primary objective as the protection of rights and dignity of Bru (Reangs). It has also demanded a separate Reang homeland in Mizoram. Subsequently, it transformed its stand and aimed to achieve a separate Autonomous District Council (ADC), and reservation in the Mizoram Legislative Assembly for the community. Only recently, it has agreed to tone down its demand for an ADC and settle for a regional council.

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Analytic Summary

The Mizos, also referred to as Lushais, after their primary areas of residence, the Lushai hills, are concentrated in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram. The tribals are of Tibeto-Burmese origins and migrated into India prior to the 1800s (RACE = 2). The Mizos maintain close links with tribal groups that reside in the neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Burma.

There are significant cultural, language, religious and racial differences between the Mizos and the majority Hindu population of India (CUSTOM = 1; LANG = 1; BELIEF = 2). Their common language is Mizo and the religion of the majority is Christianity. Mizoram is one of the only two Christian majority states in India (the other is the northeastern state of Nagaland).

The imposition of British colonial rule brought major changes to the Mizo social system. Along with the introduction of Christianity, the traditional system of rule by chiefs was replaced by the British granting hereditary ruling rights to certain influential families. Any autonomous rule in Mizoram was eliminated when the region was incorporated into the Indian Union in 1947. The region's geographic isolation coupled with the Indian government's limited public expenditures in the northeast led the Mizos to be economically disadvantaged in relation to the majority of the country's population.

Mizo demands for a separate status in the Indian Union were first articulated by the Mizo Union, formed in 1946. The main Mizo organization, the Mizo National Front (MNF), was formed more than a decade later by group members who were discontented with the federal and state governments' response to a massive famine in Mizo-dominated areas. In 1966, the MNF launched its rebellion with a major military strike that allowed the rebels to temporarily wrest control of key cities and towns in Mizo-majority areas in Assam. A major government counterinsurgency campaign followed but the rebellion continued until political negotiations were opened in late 1984. An accord between the state and federal governments and the Mizo National Front was reached in 1986, resulting in the creation of the state of Mizoram out of the territory of Assam. The MNF won the state's first elections and its leader, Laldenga, became Chief Minister.

The Mizos are not currently subject to any political or economic discrimination (POLDIS04-06 = 0; ECDIS04-06 = 0) but their primary concerns are the limited economic opportunities within the state. Although Mizoram has a 95 percent literacy rate, which is the highest among all of India's states, there are few job opportunities as there are no large industries and the state government cannot absorb the growing educated population. The protection of their religious and cultural identity also remains an important issue.

Group interests are promoted by conventional political parties that have periodically governed the state since it was created in 1986 (GOJPA04-06 = 2). Widespread support for the Mizo National Front (MNF) resulted in its large-scale victory in state elections in November 1998. Some Mizos are also represented by the state Congress Party.

Disagreements between the Mizos and the Reang (also referred to as Bru), another tribal group that resides in Mizoram, erupted in violence in 1998 and resulted in the exodus of thousands of Reang into neighboring Tripura state. The Reang remain in refugee camps in Tripura and a rebel organization, the Bru National Liberation Front, is demanding the creation of a separate Reang state within Mizoram. Most recently progress had been made toward the return of the Reang refugees.

Mizos have displayed no rebellion in recent years (REB00-06 = 0). The only instance of protest, by students in 2004, was held in conjunction with other tribal groups of the northeast (PROT04 = 2). Mizos have not been subject to governmental repression in recent years (REPGENCIV04-06 = 0; REPNVIOL04-06 = 0; REPVIOL04-06 = 0).

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References

Ali, S. Mahmud. 1993. The Fearful State: Power, People and Internal War in South Asia. London: Zed Books.

Bhaumik, Subir. 1996. Insurgent Crossfire: Northeast India. New Delhi: Lancer Publishers.

LexisNexis. Various news reports. 1990-2006.

South Asian Terrorism Portal. 2006. Bru National Liberation Front. http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/mizoram/terrorist_outfits/bnlf.htm

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Information current as of December 31, 2006