Mizoram, rebel outfit sign Christmas truce

Aizawl, Dec 17 (IANS) Days before Christmas, the Mizoram government signed a ceasefire agreement with a militant outfit to facilitate people of the Christian-dominated state to celebrate the carnival and New Year under undisturbed ambience, an official said here on Saturday.

The Mizoram government has been holding peace talks with Manipur-based terror outfit Hmar People’s Convention-Democratic (HPC-D) to find a solution of the outfit’s demand for an autonomous council.

The third round of talks between the Mizoram government and the HPC-D held in Aizawl on Friday in which the outfit members deposited three AK-47 rifles, one INSAS rifle, four point 9 mm pistols, 17 magazines of different arms and 74 rounds of ammunition. These arms and ammunition were earlier snatched by the terror outfit from the Mizoram police.

The six-member HPC-D team was led by the group’s working chairman L. T. Hmar and the outfit’s leaders from Manipur and Mizoram while the government delegation was headed by additional secretary (home department) Lalbiakzama.

“We have signed a temporary ceasefire agreement with the militant outfit to make easy people of the state to celebrate Christmas and New Year under a peaceful environment. The third rounds of talks were held under friendly atmosphere,” Lalbiakzama said, adding that both sides agreed to resume the fourth round of talks by mid-February next year.

The first round of peace talks between the Mizoram government and the HPC-D was held on August 10 and the second round on October 5-6.

Lalbiakzama said that issues discussed in the talks included more autonomy and power to Sinlung Hill Development Council, which was functioning since 1994 in the northeastern part of the state neighbouring Manipur where a large number of tribals belonging to Hmar tribes are living.

HPC-D Aleader L. T. Hmar after the meeting, said : “The demand for Hmar autonomous district council was no longer included in the talks.”

The Manipur based militant outfit of the Hmar tribals has been triggering intermittent violent activities in Mizoram since 1994 demanding a separate autonomous district council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution by carving out areas adjoining southern Manipur, northern Mizoram and southern Assam.

The negotiations between the state government and the HPC-D reached an impasse in 2013 on the issue of extension of the period of suspension of operations.

A six-month ceasefire between the Mizoram government and the militant outfit expired on July 31, 2013.

The state government held inconclusive talks with the outfit on August 14, 2013, to extend the period of ceasefire.

After the talks broke down over suspension of operations against the terror group, a host of leaders of the outfit were arrested.

On March 28, 2015, the HPC-D guerillas ambushed a legislator’s convoy near Zokhawthlang village in north Mizoram, leaving three policemen dead and six others seriously wounded.

Mizoram is the first and only state in India which received Rs 182.45 crore from the central government in 2000-01 as “Peace Bonus” for keeping peace after decades of insurgency.

As Mizo National Front’s founder leader Laldenga, a former Indian Army official, became Chief Minister in 1986 after his group took to mainstream politics, peace and law and order returned to the Christian-majority Mizoram.

–IANS

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