A law to declare Mizoram’s northern regions bordering Manipur a “disturbed area” will be introduced in the next assembly session but the government will not invoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act there, Mizoram Home Minister R Lalzirliana said on Friday.
Lalzirliana indicated the government will move even quicker to declare the Manipur-based militant group Hmar People’s Convention Democratic (HPCD) as an “unlawful” organisation since political parties of all hues have supported the move.
The HPCD demands a tribal autonomous district under the sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution for the Hmar tribe spread over Mizoram’s northern regions bordering Manipur.
The Mizoram government accuses the group’s cadres, particularly of the Zosangbera faction, of extorting money from the local population particularly government employees and, most recently, for ambushing a convoy of MLAs and killing three policemen and injuring six other people, two of them civilians.
L Bieka, a self-styled “Western Commander” for the HPCD has also recently issued a press statement claiming responsibility for the attacks.
The state’s Home Department has pushed for declaring the outfit an “unlawful” organisation (a proposal backed by all political parties in the state) and also for declaring the region they mostly operate in as a “disturbed area” (a proposal opposed by most except the ruling party).
But what Lalzirliana said on Friday indicates the Congress, which occupies 34 out of 40 seats in the state legislature, is keen to push forward with the latter as well.
Opposition parties as well as some NGOs have voiced their hostility against the proposal for a “disturbed area” saying Mizoram’s residents suffered atrocities committed by the Armed Forces for two decades during the MNF insurgency and that the government should increase police presence and activity there instead.
R Lalzirliana has countered by saying a “disturbed area” tag does not necessarily mean the Army or central paramilitary would have to be deployed in the region and the state can frame it’s own rules as regards to force deployment.
“There will be no free hand given to police such as under the AFSPA, and soldiers will not be deployed,” R Lalzirliana said.
If the proposal becomes law, it will be the first time any region of Mizoram has been declared “disturbed” after the end of the MNF insurgency and the birth of the state in 1986.