Regrouping of Villages in Mizoram and how it changed Mizo society forever

Art of renowned Mizo artist Tlangrokhuma 

"What I learnt from Mizoram is that The grouping of villages like it happened there should never be repeated again in any part of the country.". - Ali Ahmed By Ruata Lunchuang

Mizoram has one of the highest urban to rural ratios in India with the Urban population constituting roughly 52.11% of its total population as per the 2011 Indian Census. This is strange, especially when considering that its neighbouring states are quite rural demographically. This urban shift in Mizoram can be mainly attributed to large scale urban immigration from rural areas, But unlike other parts of India where People move to urban areas in search of a better life, many of this migration into urban centers in Mizoram happened forcefully with fear, under Indira's government during the height of the MNF movement. Mizoram's high urban ratio can be very much be attributed to what the Mizos now call "Khawkhawm" or the forceful regrouping of villages.
Khawkhawm was a counter-insurgency measure adopted by the Indian Government from 1967 till 1970 and was carried out by the Indian Army. Its main aim was to isolate the people from the MNF army. People were given only a day notice at most to move their belongings from their ancestral villages into these so-called Progressive Villages along the main road. Their villages along with the rest of their possessions were often burnt down including their crops. Out of a total of 764 villages in Mizoram at that time, about 516 villages were evacuated and regrouped into 110 Grouping Centres.
According to many sources they were living in a deplorable situation, as soon as the little ration that they saved dries up they had to live at the mercy of the army for food. According to Rev Lalngurauva Ralte, in the beginning, everyone tried to help each other's and performed their duty as Mizos, out of Tlawmngaihna they would direct their rations to their neighbours, saying that their neighbours were in need of it more than they do. But as time passes the tone of "let them have it" soon changes to "me and me". They were practically living in an open prison, where they were cut off from the rest of the world. Dr Laldinpuii Fente says that Khawkhawm had a deep impact on the people who went through the ordeal. It gave them depression, Post-traumatic stress disorders.
It was a dark period for the people. Literature from this period is full of grim images and the subject of longing for Heaven.
The burning of traditional villages and the loss of heritage and lands were not the biggest tragedy that Khawkhawm brought to Mizoram. The Biggest tragedy as well as the lasting impact it had on Mizo society is the loss of Mizo values and destruction of Mizo social life. It uprooted the closely knitted Rural centred Mizo community into an urban-centred community. It changed the mindset of the Mizo people and introduced self centrism. As people from all parts of the state were crammed into a small area all forms of 'Ism' erupted, the Mizos who would accept anyone as guest grew weary of each other. After the war ended many people moved back to their villages but More stayed back and up to 16 villages were abandoned, never to be rehabilitated. Although village life resumed in Mizoram, it has never been the same. Mizo rural culture and Tradition died with Khawkhawm.
The MNF and the GOI have come into terms and Mizoram has now indeed reaped and benefitted a lot from being a part of India now, which will continue. But one must not be shielded from this dark history of our government and our country. This was not an isolated incident, an incident like this where the citizens are treated like livestock and as enemies of the state dotted Northeastern History.
It is important to learn about them especially if one is dealing with Northeast Indian politics in general and the people's relationship with GOI. Not everything we hear and see is the ground reality, and Governments can and have made mistakes and will continue to do so. It is important that we as the people who elect the government have the conscience to understand what's right and wrong in what the Government, Netas, Political party are doing. It is in the interest of ourselves and the country that we have the capacity to prevent them from committing another mistake that leaves permanent scars.
A research fellow from Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi Ali Ahmed says, "What I learnt from Mizoram is that the grouping of villages like it happened there should never be repeated again in any part of the country.".
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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