AIZAWL, Oct 20 - The Mizo National Front (MNF) is relying on Mizo nationalism � the sentiment that fuelled the secessionist movement against India in 1966 � to garner votes in the upcoming Assembly elections in Mizoram.
�Mizo nationalism is the motive of my entry into politics. The MNF is unique in the sense that it is the only party built on the foundation of Mizo nationalism,� said Robert Romawia Royte, businessman and owner of the Aizawl Football Club, who recently joined the MNF.
Royte, the MNF�s most probable candidate for Aizawl East-I, hailed the MNF as the party that �paddled the deepest waters and suffered the most� among Mizoram�s political parties for the sake of Mizos. He also paid homage to the heroes who laid down their lives during the MNF�s independence movement from 1966 to 1986.
He also said that he was proud to be �one of the torchbearers of Mizo nationalism which has been burning for 52 years now�. The MNF was founded in 1961.
Repeating MNF president Zoramthanga�s favourite quote, he said, �The MNF did not surrender Mizo nationalism when it laid down arms following the 1986 Mizo Accord.� MNF supremo Zoramthanga also claimed that the MNF is the champion of Mizo nationalism among Mizoram�s political parties.
About the peace negotiations with the Central Government, Zoramthanga said, �Laldenga had made it very clear to the Indian Government that the MNF would not give up its political ideology, which was Mizo nationalism. The Indian Government also agreed that the war between Indian and Mizo nationalism should continue, not with bullets but with ballots.�
Comparing the struggle of Mizos against India to India�s freedom struggle against the British, Zoramthanga claimed that Mizoram was �never a part of India� before the British occupied it by force in 1890.
�The MNF was founded to protect the identity of Mizos as a nation. Its basic aim was to fight for sovereignty for Mizos without violence. However, the non-violence policy failed as the Indian Government tried to suppress the budding Mizo nationalism with all its military might, leaving the MNF with no option other than taking up arms. We exchanged gunfire with the Indian Army for long 20 years. Honouring appeals from churches, NGOs and the people of Mizoram, the MNF sought to normalise ties with the Indian Government, and finally signed the Mizo Peace Accord on June 30, 1986,� he explained.
�Though we have not achieved our goal (of independence), we compromised in view of the appeals of major NGOs, churches and the people to sit for peace talks and end insurgency,� he said in reaction to criticism that the 1986 Mizo Accord amounted to surrender.
Zoramthanga claimed that the wave of Mizo nationalism is spreading across Mizoram the same way as it did in the early 1960s, but not in a violent way. �Under the rule of the Indian National Congress for 10 years, the people of Mizoram are longing for a Mizo nationalist party. There is a resurgence of the spirit of Mizo nationalism among the young and the old. The MNF is riding on this strong wave,� he said.
Some political observers feel that Mizoram�s largest regional party is �playing regionalist politics� to regain its past glory.