Mizoram: Legacy Issues

Mizoram did not record any insurgency-linked fatality in 2023, while there were three such fatalities in 2022

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Champhai, Mizoram, India [ Photo: Vipin Joseph/ Unsplash]

On March 7, 2024, acting on intelligence inputs, Assam Rifles intercepted a vehicle in the Sanagu market area in the Lawngtlai District of Mizoram and recovered 3,000 rounds of sniper rifle ammunition and 10 Passive Night Sight (PNS) devices.

On February 15, 2024, Assam Rifles recovered 110 gelatine sticks, 100 detonators, and some ammunition for small arms at Tuisih Village in the Siaha District of Mizoram.

On February 10, 2024, Assam Rifles intercepted a vehicle on the Mualkawi route (Champhai- Zokhawthar Road) in the Champhai District of Mizoram and recovered five guns, 10 daggers, 10 walkie-talkies, 100 pistol rounds, 100 lightweight bulletproof plates, four heavyweight bulletproof plates, 20 sets of combat dresses, 50 combat scarves and 110 pairs of jungle boots. One person, identified as Lalnuntluanga (24), was arrested.

On February 5, 2024, Assam Rifles seized a huge cache of explosives and detonators along the Sangau Pankhua road in Lawngtlai District of Mizoram at a Mobile Vehicle Check Post (MVCP) and arrested two persons, Siama Thanga (50) and Amengi (40). The confiscated items included 150 kilograms of explosives, 1,800 detonators, and more than three kilometers of Cordex. Reports stated that the seized explosives were intended for resistance forces in Myanmar.

Incidents of recoveries of arms and ammunition in Mizoram have increased considerably in recent times. The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) has already recorded four such incidents in the state in 2024 (data till March 10), while 2023 recorded 11 such incidents and 2022, 13 incidents. The number of such incidents in 2022 was the highest recorded in a year, since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data on insurgencies in the Northeast. The upsurge in recoveries was due to increased vigilance by Security Forces (SFs) after the February 1, 2021, coup d’état by Tatmadaw (the Myanmar military) in Myanmar.

Significantly, on February 1, 2024, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) uncovered an international smuggling network of arms, ammunition and explosives, operating in the northeastern states and arrested a key accused, Lalngaihawma, from the Aizwal District of Mizoram. NIA disclosed,

Lalngaihawma was working in collusion with various operatives, including insurgent groups situated across the international border. As part of their conspiracy, they had already distributed such terror hardware to various individuals in India and abroad. These illicit weapons & explosives are suspected to have been used in violent terrorist acts and criminal activities across different regions.

Mizoram did not record any insurgency-linked fatality in 2023, while there were three such fatalities in 2022, in one incident in which three civilians were killed and one was injured, in an explosion in the Durtlang locality of Aizawl District. Several detonators, along with some Myanmarese currency, were recovered from the blast site. Investigations later revealed the remnants of the explosive PENT (pentaerythritol tetranitrate) used in the blast had come from Myanmar. No fatality has been recorded in 2024, thus far (till March 10).

Significantly, between 2016 and 2021, Mizoram did not record any insurgency-linked fatality. The last fatality before this period was recorded on March 28, 2015, when three Policemen were killed and another two were injured, as suspected militants of the Hmar People’s Convention-Democrats (HPC-D) opened fire on a convoy accompanying a group of Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) near Zokhawthiang in Aizawl District.Although Mizoram has remained free of insurgency-related violence since 2015, the state continues to be disturbed by rising incidents of weapons and explosives smuggling.

Meanwhile, 10 terrorists – seven Kuki Chin National Army (KCNA) cadres and three cadres of Myanmar-based resistance groups – were arrested in 2023. In 2022, three terrorists – two cadres of the Maraland Defence Force (MDF) and one of the National Liberation Front of Tripura-Biswa Mohan Debbarman faction (NLFT-BM) – were arrested.

In the recently held State Assembly elections on November 7, 2023, the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) won 27 seats out of 40. ZPM’s victory signifies a possible paradigm shift in the political landscape, earlier dominated by traditional parties. Founded in 2017 by Lalduhoma, a former Indian Police Services (IPS) officer, the party is poised to become a powerful alternative political force, forming the first non-Mizo National Front (MNF) and non-Congress government in 35 years.

Meanwhile, according to a January 25, 2024, report, the Peace Accord Mizo National Front Returnee Association (PAMRA), an association of former MNF cadres, stated that militants belonging to Chakma outfits from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh, were reportedly undergoing training at camps set up in Mizoram. The report claimed that the Chakma rebels were undergoing training at remote locations in the Lunglei and Mamit Districts of Mizoram, which share an international border with Bangladesh. In Lunglei District, the training was going on at Psalms, Tara Banya, Chumochumi, Malchari, Bhalukkyachari and Andar Manek Villages, whereas in the Mamit District, one of two training camps was located at Silsury village. It should be noted here that the MNF, which was an insurgent outfit active in Mizoram, transformed itself into a regional political party subsequent to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of India (GoI), on June 30, 1986.

Following the February 2021 military takeover in Myanmar, more than fifty thousand civilians have fled from the Chin State and Sagaing Region of Myanmar and entered Indian states in the northeast, mostly in Mizoram and Manipur. As per data available with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on May 1, 2023, over 40,150 refugees from Myanmar were living in Mizoram, and 8,250 were living in Manipur. In this context, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) has asked Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to keep a check on border areas and “allow people into the country when it is absolutely essential on humanitarian grounds.” The porous borders also bring about other security challenges, such as drug trafficking and weapons smuggling. There have been seizures of drugs and illegal substances in Mizoram and Manipur by the Assam Rifles, along the Indo-Myanmar border. Assam Rifles in Mizoram confiscated drugs valued at INR 9.56 billion in 2023 (till December 25). It had recovered drugs worth INR 3.3 billion in 2022.

The resettlement of Bru refugees remained a concern in Mizoram. The resettlement of the Bru refugees in 12 identified locations in Tripura is still ongoing and may take another few months to complete. Even after large-scale rehabilitation in Tripura, hundreds of Bru tribe people continue to live in Mizoram, especially in the state’s Mamit District, which was the scene of ethnic strife in 1997.

The boundary dispute between Mizoram and Assam remains another source of tension. However, on February 9, 2024, Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma stated that he and his Assam counterpart, Himanta Biswa Sarma, had agreed to make joint efforts to resolve the long pending inter-state border dispute. Both leaders also agreed to maintain peace along the borders as long as border talks were ongoing. Lalduhoma disclosed, “We agreed that no more violence will be allowed along the border. We have been making efforts to resolve the dispute.” The border dispute between Mizoram and Assam had taken an ugly turn in 2021, when Police forces from the two States exchanged fire at the inter-state boundary, leading to the death of six policemen and a civilian from Assam.

Mizoram continues to be unsettled by an increase in the smuggling of arms and ammunition, even though the state has not witnessed any insurgency-related violence recently. In fact, there has been a sharp decline in terrorism related incidents in the State after the signing of the Mizo Accord in 1986. However, the State is burdened by thousands of refugees from Myanmar, fleeing violence from that country since the start of 2021. Security issues such as drug trafficking and weapon smuggling are the result of porous borders. The border issue between Mizoram and Assam is a legacy of the past, and ongoing negotiations between the Chief Ministers of the two States are a positive sign.

Afsara Shaheen

Afsara Shaheen is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, India

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