Elusive Hmar autonomy: Mizoram govt rejects Hmar ADC before talks

The demand for Hmar Autonomous District Council (ADC) has remained elusive as the Government of Mizoram has cancelled the proposed talks with the Sanate faction of the Hmar People’s Convention (Democratic) led by Lalhmingthanga Sanate after the latter wanted to put demand of Hmar ADC on the discussion table. The Mizoram government reiterated that talks could only be held if no string was attached.

Earlier on 1 September, Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla stated that any move to divide the state on ethnic lines would be opposed.

On the other hand, the talks between the Mizoram government and HPC (D) faction led by H Zosangbersa are expected to resume within this month but Zosangbersa faction has reportedly already abandoned its demand for Hmar ADC.

The Hmar People’s Convention (HPC) was formed in 1986, soon after the signing of the Mizoram Peace Accord and demanded autonomy in the lines of ADCs for Mara, Chakma and Lai which were created under Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India in 1972. After waging an insurgency for nearly a decade, the HPC laid down arms and came to the mainstream accepting the offer of the Singlung Hills Development Council in 1994. But the Council fell far too short of the constitutional autonomy and the HPC(D) was formed to carry forward the armed struggle for constitutional autonomy.

The negotiations between the state government and the HPC(D) reached a deadlock over the extension of the Suspension of Operations which expired on 31 July 2013. Talks broke down in August 2013 leading to arrest of a number of leaders of the militant outfit.

On 28 March 2015, HPC(D) cadres attacked a convoy of Mizoram MLAs near Zokhawthlang village on the Mizoram-Manipur border in which three Mizo policemen were killed and six others were injured. The ambush led to hardening of position by the Mizoram government which launched crackdown on the Hmar militants. A number of top leaders of HPC(D) including “Army Chief” Lalropui Famhoite, “Finance Secretary” Norbar Sanate, “Sergeant” Lalchuailo alias L Hmar and “Commander” Biakliana were arrested by the Mizoram Police. The Mizoram Police killed “Sergeant” H C Malsawmkima alias Danny who is believed to have led the ambush.

In June 2015, the HPC(D) approached the state government with offers for conditional tripartite talks involving itself, the state government and the Central government. But the Mizoram government rejected any pre-condition. On 21 June 2015, the HPC(D)’s interlocutor Lalmuanpuia Punte reportedly met Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju to seek Centre’s interventions. But on 19 October 2015, Mizoram’s Home Minister R Lalzirliana ruled out any talk with the HPC(D) unless several arms and ammunitions stolen from the Mizoram Police personnel in the ambushes over the past a few years are first returned.

However, due to pressure from the Mizo civil society the ice was broken and the first round of official level talks was held between the Mizoram government and the representatives of the HPC(D) on 10 August 2016, followed by second round on 5-6 October 2016. The third round was held on 17 December 2016 where the HPC(D) surrendered three AK-47 rifles, one INSAS rifle, four 9 mm pistols, 17 magazines and 74 rounds of ammunition which included the arms taken away by the militants following the 28 March 2015 ambush. A temporary ceasefire agreement was also signed to maintain peace during the Christmas and New Year. The talks revolved around giving more autonomy and power to the Sinlung Hill Development Council (SHDC). HPC(D)’s working chairman LT Hmar confirmed after the talks that “The demand for Hmar autonomous district council was no longer included in the talks.”

The fourth round of peace talks was held in Aizawl on 28 April 2017 wherein proposal was made to change the Sinlung Hills Development Council (SHDC) to Sinlung Hills Council, by omitting the word ‘Development’. Both sides agreed to continue till the talks are elevated to the political level.

According to The Indian Express, on 26 June 2017, a senior official of the Home Department of Mizoram expressed willingness to upgrade the peace talks from official level to political level to find solution to the vexed Hmar political demand. Financial allocation for rehabilitation and resettlement of HPC (D) cadres after their surrender has reportedly been approved by the state Finance department.

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