Mizoram: A brief chronology, 1997- onwards
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
2017: Chiefs seek damages
Supreme Court To Hear Petition In January
The Mizo Chiefs Council, a body of 309 chiefs, has moved the Supreme Court demanding the restoration of hereditary absolute administrative control over ancestrally demarcated territories in Lushai Hills, or a compensation of Rs 500 crore from the Centre for occupying their land since 1954.
Historically, chiefs of Lushai Hills in Mizoram ruled over ancestrally demarcated territories, imposed various kinds of taxes on people living on their respective territories, and even granted pardon to accused in criminal cases. The British annexed Lushai Hills in 1895 and whittled down their powers but allowed them to function like rulers of princely states in other parts of the country.
After Independence, Lushai Hills was made a part of Assam. In 1951, the Assam Autonomous (Constitution of District Council) Act was enacted, creating six autonomous districts, including Lushai Hills. Three years later, the Assam Lushai Hills (Acquisition of Chiefs’ Rights) Act was passed and the state took over the chiefs’ traditional rights over the territories and gave compensation equivalent to 10 harvest years’ revenue to each.
Over the years, the hereditary chiefs have lost their traditional sources of revenue through control over territories and have almost been reduced to a state of poverty. In 1999, the Mizo Chiefs Council wrote to the PM demanding Rs 509 crore as just compensation for the loss of administrative and financial control over their ancestrally demarcated areas.
The Mizoram government has filed an affidavit in the SC stating that it supported the claim of the council, but expressed its financial inability to meet the compensation demanded by the chiefs. It has told the SC that the compensation should be paid by the Centre, said the council’s counsel Kedar Nath Tripathy and Lalremsanga Nghaka.
The ministry of defence, the third respondent in the petition, has said the matter rests solely within the executive domain of the state government, which alone should be liable to pay compensation, if any, to the Mizo chiefs.
On November 17, the matter was listed before a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, which sought to know the Centre’s stand on the issue as it had not yet filed a response to the petition. Additional solicitor general ANS Nadkarni assured the court that he would look into the matter and discuss the issue with the Union home secretary. The matter is again listed for hearing on January 4 before the bench headed by Justice Lokur.
It would be interesting to watch the Centre’s stand on the payment of compensation. The council also knows that it would be impossible legally to wrest back administrative and financial control over the territories after more than 60 years. However, they are pinning their hopes on the SC for a just compensation to tide over their state of penury.
2018: Thangnang cinnamon beetle, harbinger of famine, returns
The dreaded Thangnang is back. The innocuous cinnamon beetle, a harbinger of famine in Mizoram, has started invading the western belt of the state adjoining Bangladesh and Tripura. Going by history that should spell doom for the political powers that be.
There is nothing sinister initially about the outbreak of Thangnang. In fact the Mizos collect oil from the beetles to use as edible oil. People in Serhmun and surrounding villages in Mamit district have begun collecting Thangnang, resting on trees in swarms so vast that, sometimes, the branches break under their weight.
However, the sighting of the Thangnang, among other insects and rodents, is ominously thought to indicate the imminent flowering of bamboo plants. And blooming of the bamboo plants is always the precursor to a famine.
Mizoram suffers two kinds of famine every 48 years — Mautam and Thingtam. While Mautam is triggered by the flowering of the ‘Mautak’ (Melocanna baccifera) bamboo species, Thingtam follows the flowering of the ‘Rawthing’
(Bambusa tulda) species of bamboo. The last time the state was in the grip of Thingtam was in 1977, which puts the date for the next Thingtam at 2025.
The cinnamon beetles thrive on the nectar of the bamboo flower, while rodents consume the bamboo fruits. “Male rats have a cannibalistic streak. But when they find sufficient food in the form of bamboo fruits, they do not eat the young ones. And there’s an explosion in the number of rats,” Australian rodent specialist Ken Aplin, who visited Mizoram during the last Mautam in 2007-08, said.
The multiplying rats and insects, in turn, ravage agricultural lands and destroy stocks of produce, causing a famine.
In Mizoram, famines have dictated political fortunes. The Mizo National Front, the main opposition party in the state, came into existence as the Mizo National Famine Front in 1959, when the Mizo Hills braced for a Mautam. The alleged apathy on the part of the Centre and the then Assam government (when Mizoram was identified as the Mizo district under Assam) triggered an armed uprising by the outfit, led by the legendary Laldenga.
The outfit continued its resistance for 20 years, at the end of which the state of Mizoram came into existence and the MNF became a political party and formed the state’s first government.
Mizoram: From ancient times to 1946 <>Mizoram 1870-1926: Christianity and literacy <>Mizoram: A brief chronology (1946-1997) <>Mizoram: A brief chronology, 1997- onwards <>Mizoram: Political history <> Mizoram: Parliamentary elections