Mizo, Alcohol and the Church

- Ruata Lungchuang
In 2019 the MNF government in Mizoram decided to put Mizoram back into the map of the artificially dry state of India which sparked a lot of debate as well as court battles in the state.
Alcohol or Zu has always been one of the most politically discussed topics in MIzoram. Mizoram was a dry state for about 2 decades up until 2014 after the MLTP act was enforced in 1995. Critics argue that the increase in the number of drug users among the MIzos during the early 2000s was the direct result of the MLTP act. Some goes further suggesting that Zu is an integral part of mainstream Mizo society and was demonized by the church with the influence of European Missions. There are truths in these claims and accusations, the Church has never been Pro-Zu. But is the Church the only institution responsible for the abuse of Zu in the State? Would Mizos have been socially Zu drinking community had the Church been absent? To answer these questions we need to look at our neighbouring states, inhabited by people like us, breathing the same air. The answer might surprise many people. While we are at it why don’t we examine the concept of Thamawhbawk in the process?
Thanmawhbawk is a term in the Mizo language which literally means 'a tumour of progress'. Every society has a thanmawh bawk. Societies tend to do very well in one area while failing miserably in other areas. First, let us take an example of Thanmawh bawk in societies in the form of its dealing with the adult film industry, this article is not about porn or the liberalization of Porn industry.
East Asian countries particularly South Korea is one of the most progressive societies in Asia. They have progressed very well economically and socially, however, Korean society has a Thanmawh bawk relationship with the porn industry. South Korea is one of the few progressive country that actively bans porn. The result to this is the rise of Spy camera porn that has become a menace in the country. Many young girls have become a victim to this phenomenon. Spy cameras are being fitted across many of the public bathrooms across Korea and the films that these camera captured are then distributed in black markets. One of the most obvious solution to this problem might be the legalization of porn in Korea. However, the Korean government and most of its think tank are not open to this idea, despite the fact that many Koreans have grown tired of this law. Now, Porn is not totally banned in India not because of a lack of attempt, but Spy camera porn fad is not a thing in this country. Does that make India more progressive than Korea? Likely not, it’s just that, as mentioned most society does things better in one area while sucking at other areas for no apparent reasons other than mentality. Porn is the Thanmawhbawk of South Korea.
Okay now that I have captured your attention with porn, let’s take Marijuana as an example here again. The legalization of Marijuana or weed as the hip youngsters like to call them has been the symbol of progressive policy, liberalization and freedom across the world. The assumption that exist is that most government that legalize Marijuana leans towards the more liberal side of the political spectrum. But again in the extreme east of Asia in a country called the People’s Republic of Korea Marijuana is effectively legal or at least tolerated. Some people may say what’s so surprising about that? After all East Asia like you have mentioned is relatively progressive, but one must also realise that weed is illegal in the other 3 east Asian country and the "Liberal" country that we are talking about here is NORTH KOREA!! The same country that revolves around the cult of personality of the Kims and the same country that bans denim jeans. Surely political concentration camps of North Korea don’t scream of liberalization or freedom into the ears of most people. Some do well in one area while failing miserably in other areas.
Now coming back to our little Shire called the northeast of India. What is the approach of our look-alike neighbours towards this supposed menace called Zu or Yu or lao pani depending on where you come from? Believe it or not, Alcohol is not mainstream in any part of the northeast, be it in the Hindu majority Imphal valley and Assam or the animistic belt of Arunachal Pradesh. Despite being a Hindu majority community, our neighbors in Manipur’s Imphal valley have been up in arms against Yu. The state in fact passed its prohibition acts much earlier than Mizoram. It’s very unlikely that you’ll ever see a formal Manipuri gathering where everybody is seen passing and cheering over Sekmai Yu, unless its in one of those Northeast ghettoes of Munirka or Kalina just like every other young NE diaspora community are doing. Assam has also been battling with it’s Lao pani crisis. In 2019, 145 people reportedly died from drinking toxic bootleg liquor, which is a tragedy. Driking Lao pani or Yu is not mainstream in Assam and Manipur.
Alcohol has never been mainstream in the northeast unlike in Europe or East Asia. While it’s true that Churches are partly responsible for the demonization of Zu in Mizoram, it is very likely that even in an absence of a Church alcohol would have never made its way into the daily lives of the Mizo society. Looking at our neighbouring predominately Hindu societies and how alcohol hasn't been able to take off and establish a drinking culture there, its very likely that even if the Churches were pro-Zu, another institution would come up to be anti Zu just for the sake of it. It seems Zu is one of the Thanmawhbawks of the Mizo society and Northeast India to an extent. There is a need for a change in mentality for Zu to be widely accepted, it has more to do with psychology than sociology and may have less to do with religion, it will take some time. In the meantime, best take this artificial ban on Zu as an opportunity to rid oneself of the addiction, considering the adverse effects of Local Zu on one's health.
The Mizos

The Mizos is a one-man team news blog, that brings you news and stories from Mizoram, Northeast India and the rest of the World.

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