Mizoram is perhaps the only place on earth that has seen the worst of insurgency and the best that peace has to offer. For twenty long years, the Mizo land and people were dragged through unrest and violence when the Mizo National Front rose in rebellion against the Union of India. Mizoram at that time was badly hit by a famine caused by the flowering of bamboos which in turn led to an outbreak of rats who decimated all paddy crops. The people who then depended largely on domestic produce were hard hit as there was suddenly no food to fill their stomachs. Incessant cries for relief and help to the Central government were not received by sympathetic ears. The Mizo National Famine Front headed by Laldenga was formed, which later took on a more militant face and became the Mizo National Front. So the fight that started for food turned into a fight for independence. Atrocities were commited on both sides - the MNF and the Indian army- but the ones who bore the brunt of it all were, needless to say, the people. However, in 1986 with the public and churches demand for peace to return once again, the Mizoram Peace Accord was signed between the Government of India and the Mizo National Front.
Since then, Mizoram and the Indian Army have shared a sort of love-hate relationship. The presence of armed forces in the state is contradictorily welcomed and at the same time abhorred by the Mizos. But memories of the nightmare that was insurgency have already started to fade and Mizos, especially the youth, are now quite happy to include themselves to a great extent as part of the Indian nation. Young Mizo men have and still are giving laudable service to their country by joining the army. The booming Indian economy which opened up the floodgates of opportunities and wealth is undoubtedly also a feel-good factor in deciding the Mizo mind to accept the 'Indian' identity.
As elsewhere, the presence of the men in uniform in the midst of civilians has often resulted in mutual misundertanding and skirmishes, the absolutely regimented life of the army being obviously in complete contrast to the liberal life led by civilians. This is true not only for Mizoram but everywhere one finds the two at close proximity. And whenever such conflict of interests arises, both sides react vehemently. However, today the army has seemingly learnt its lesson from its many operations within the country while combating insurgency and similar uprisings. It has learnt to be transparent and media-friendly. It has learnt to respect human rights and has even included relevant courses in its various trainings. It has understood for the better that most regional problems are people-centric and the usual army tactics and strategies can almost never be successfully applied.
The best testimony to the dawn of peace in Mizoram is perhaps the presence of the The Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare (CIJW) School at Vairengte, the 'Gateway to Mizoram'. It is today considered as one of world's most prestigious anti-terrorist institution with trainees from several countries receiving counter insurgency and counter terrorist training. The School is perched on the hills of Mizoram approximately five kilometers all along the National Highway 54 hugging a tribal hamlet, wedged on the border between Mizoram and the state of
The motto of this institute is to 'Fight The Guerilla Like A Guerilla'. The idea to set up the
But one year down the line, Indian soldiers undergoing training in the school were pushed to the battlefront. They took part in "Operation Jackpot," to help the then East Pakistan gain independence and become
Since its inception, the School has constantly evolved in stature and strength, in keeping with the changing dynamics of insurgency and terrorism in the country. Its relevance has grown manifolds with the mushrooming of small and big insurgent/terrorist groups in the country and worldwide. Terrorism is often dubbed as 'Today's War' and with its vast expertise in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism training, it has truly come into its own as a centre of excellence in such operations. The School has continuously incorporated all the lessons learnt during such operations and has painstakingly kept its training curriculum contemporary. It presently trains over 7000 officers and soldiers every year. Its scope and mandate has increased with Para Military Forces, Police, Services and foreign component adding to the numbers and compositions.
Today, the ultra is educated, uses the Internet for gathering information, disseminating propaganda, negotiating arms deal and is familiar with hi-tech explosives. At the same time he is replete with native skills and can devise deadly traps that can kill an elephant with nothing more than bamboos and vines. The inherent characteristic of insurgency in the NE is its small scale, low profile activities, with the main insurgent bases located across the IB, in camps in
Last year, contingents from the
Closer home, it has become a source of employment and income to many residents of Vairengte, the village it is situated at. The high school it runs also imparts good education to the village children, who are readily admitted as day scholars. The village cultural club is invited to display the rich tradition of the Mizos through their folk songs and dances whenever important dignitaries visit the School. There is now a growing acceptance and affinity between the people and the School, which can hopefully go a long way in creating a truly peaceful atmosphere for their co-existence.