It is absolutely acceptable to contest elections while advocating secession from India because it is in keeping with a United Nations declaration that the country has signed.
Our proposed Right To Secession Bill will ensure execution of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the backdrop of the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill and the protests against it by the indigenous people.
The declaration was adopted by the UN general assembly on September 13, 2007, to recognise political, economic and social structures of indigenous peoples, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources. It gives indigenous peoples all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognised in the UN charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law in its Article 1 and the right to self-determination in its Article 3. It is clearly written in the introduction that “nothing in this declaration may be used to deny any peoples their right to self-determination, exercised in conformity with international law”.
We, the Mizo peoples, also known as Lushai, Chin, Kuki, Chin–Lushai–Kuki and many other names by historians, are predominantly tribal people living in certain parts of Bangladesh, India and Myanmar. We are of the Mongoloid race and mostly follow Christianity.
The British colonial power annexed our land in 1890. They divided our land and administered it from British India and British Burma. But shortly after, they decided to put major parts of our land under a single administration. In January 29, 1892, the Chin–Lushai conference was held at Fort William. It was of the opinion that our lands, including Chin Hills and some portion of Arakan, now in Myanmar, South Lushai Hills and North Lushai Hills, the present Mizoram state and its adjoining regions of India, would be put under single administration. But, it was not possible to unite the entire swath, so it was decided to unite North Lushai Hills, South Lushai Hills and some portion of Arakan immediately. The two Hills were united and rechristened as Lushai Hills in 1895.
The same year, the governor general-in-council proclaimed that Lushai Hills and Chin Hills were not to be administered by Indian or Burmese government, but by the foreign department. The Government of India Act, 1935, gave Lushai Hills the status of excluded area and the Government of India (Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas) Order, 1936, again declared Lushai Hills as an excluded area.
And because of these, we separately declared war against Japan in April 3, 1942 in the World War 2, which clearly showed we were neither part of India nor Myanmar.
Lushai Hills was put under India and Chin Hills under Myanmar when the two countries got Independence. Both countries recognised our common ethnicity by introducing Free Movement Regime, allowing us to move freely across the international border. We pursue our economic, social and cultural development freely with this facility.
Lushai Hills attained autonomous district council status under Assam in 1952, without the northern part known as Inner line Reserved Forest. That autonomous district council attained union territory status in 1972 and was rechristened as Mizoram, which was granted statehood in 1987 after a 20-year war of independence from India.
India, as a member and signatory, has to fulfil the UN declaration, whose article 8 prevents member states from taking any action that deprives indigenous peoples of their integrity as distinct peoples or of their cultural values or ethnic identities and any form of forced assimilation or integration. But, the Indian government has started to stop our free movement by replacing the free movement regime with a new border pass scheme. In writing, but not yet enforced on ground, our movement is restricted, which would deprive us of our integrity. This is clearly a breach of international law.
In a move aimed at depriving us further, the government of India tried to enact the citizenship bill that would have led to assimilation, but the attempted enactment was in vain.
Bangladesh’s population exploded decades ago and it assimilated into Tripura and some parts of Assam, our neighbouring states. There has been a rapid increase in illegal immigrants moving from Bangladesh into Mizoram, which is clearly revealed by extraordinary population growth in the border areas.
Mizoram shares a 212-km boundary with Bangladesh, which is monitored by the Border Security Force. Legalisation of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants would only promote immigration, putting Mizos in grave danger. The ruling BJP is advocating the citizenship bill again this election season.
In light of these and similar threats, the Peoples Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram (Prism) Party advocates the Right to Secession Bill to ensure the UN indigenous peoples declaration is followed in letter and spirit, bearing in mind threats to other indigenous communities.
The Prism Party, which was formed in 2017 and registered a year later, is not secessionist; we are only fighting for our survival. We feel the government of India takes many steps to deprive minorities and some regions. Let’s unite to stop deprivation of indigenous peoples and the minorities.
Vanlalruata is the president of Prism Party
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Updated Date: May 17, 2019 13:40:44 IST