A meeting of Mizoram’s top home department and police officials on Monday decided to declare certain areas bordering Manipur “disturbed” and also to declare the Manipur-based Hmar People’s Convention Democrats, a militant group, an “unlawful” organisation.
This will be the first time either of these actions is taken within Mizoram since the end of the Mizo insurgency almost three decades ago.
The moves have been triggered by the March 28 ambush on a convoy of three MLAs that killed three people and injured six others near Zokhawthiang village, which lies at the tri-junction of Assam-Mizoram-Manipur.
The Mizoram government has blamed the Zosangbera faction of the HPCD for the ambush which, according to those present, lasted more than one-and-a-half-hours before MLA R L Pianmawia raised his hands and surrendered.
The militants took away eight guns (six pistols and two AK-47 rifles) before disappearing into the jungle after Pianmawia and other police officers present at the scene pleaded they be allowed to take the wounded men to hospital and take care of the three bodies.
The HPCD demands an autonomous district council for the Hmar tribe spread over northern Mizoram. The demand was rejected by both the state government and powerful Mizo groups that see it as a ploy to divide the tiny state on ethnic lines and who argue that Hmar are anyway part of the Zo community spread over the southern part of the NE, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
HPCD sympathisers, meanwhile, argue an ADC would mean no more than constitutional protection for tribal rights.
Mizoram Home Minister R Lalzirliana, who led Monday’s meeting, said the state will also set up new police posts headed by DSP-rank officers in four places in the HPCD’s demand area and facilitate advanced counter-insurgency training for the state’s police officers.
The latter would be at the Indian Army’s Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School, or CIJWS (located at Vairengte village and considered one of the best in the world) and also under the Assam Rifles, he said.
Parliamentary Secretary for Home Lt.Col (retd) Z S Zuala meanwhile said an “advanced tactical headquarters” would be set up at Sakawrdai, the largest urban space in the HPCD demand area, and an Addl. SP-rank officer would be tasked with coordinating operations against the militants.