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Mizoram - Background

The name is derived from Mi (people), Zo (Belonging to the people of Mizoram/Lushai Hills) and Ram (land), and thus Mizoram implies "land of the hill people". Mizoram became the 23rd State of the Indian Union in 1987. It is bounded by Assam, Manipur and Tripura to the north. Strategically located internationally, it is sandwiched between Myanmar to the east and Bangladesh to the west. Mizoram occupies an area of 21,087 sq.kms, with a population density of 52 persons/sq.km according to the 2011 Census. Its current population (2017) is estimated to be around 13 lakhs.

The State is inhabited predominantly by the Mizo tribe, while the minorities include the Chakmas and the Brus in the Western Belt. Divided into 8 administrative Districts, Mizoram also has 3 Autonomous District Councils based on ethnicity, viz., those of the Lai, Mara and Chakma. The language spoken is mainly Mizo, with English also in use as well. Except for the Chakmas, who practise Buddhism, the religion of Mizoram is overwhelmingly Christian. The State has a forest cover of around 91%, while its literacy of about 92% is amongst the highest in the country.

Mizoram belongs to the Seven Sisters Region of Southeast Asia, which consists of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. With an area of 21,081 square kilometres Mizoram, once a district of Assam, was made into a Union Territory in 1972 and attained full statehood in February, 1987. Although its size is bigger than those of Manipur and Tripura, its population is smaller - 686,217 - according to the 1991 census. The Mizos are a sturdy people. Their traditional society and culture have been characterised by certain distinctive features.

The term Mizo, which means highlander, refers to a composite group of allied tribes. These tribes started moving back into their present abode in India from the Chin hill tracts of Burma towards the beginning of the 18th century. The Lushais, the most dominant group among them, were the first to arrive. Other groups that followed the Lushai migration comprised the Hmars, the Pawis, the Raltes, the Paites, and the Thadous, etc. The Lakhers came somewhat later, and the Chakmas were the last to enter from the Chittagong tract. Initially each tribe or clan was eager to maintain its distinctive identity in respect of dialect, religious beliefs and social customs. But subsequently a process of integration and assimilation came into play, and there has now developed among them a common identity as Mizos. Although some of the major sub-tribes have retained their separate dialects within themselves, the minor one have given up theirs in favour of the Lushai dialect called Dulien. The Lushai hegemony has been accepted in other socio-cultural fronts as well.

An inherent spirit of self-help was nurtured. Widespread acceptance of Christianity and a high percentage of literacy have caused the Mizo society to move pretty fast along the path of modernity. But there are many indications to show that they are also not in favour of fully giving up traditional ways.

Mizoram, "the Land of the Highlanders", the change is instantaneous - from green paddy fields and tea estates to forests and bamboo-covered hills. Despite the difficult terrain, Mizoram is a gentle pastoral land, and the Mizos a friendly and welcoming people. Whitewashed Christian churches dot the landscape, making the region feel more like Central America than a state squeezed between Burma (Myanmar)and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.

There is a strong sense of community among the Mizos, which is manifested by their virtual universal membership to the Young Mizo Association (YMA), a voluntary civil society-based NGO. The Church is another important institution, which possesses a sizable influence amongst the populace. Different Christian denominations have come together under the Mizoram People Forum (MPF), which has played a major role in ensuring the conduct of clean elections in the State.

In Mizoram, despite the roads being narrow and in spite of huge traffic jams, the people do not unnecessarily honk the horns of their vehicles, displaying a remarkable sense of civility. On the roadsides too, there are shops with no vendors, where people just drop money and take the items that they desire. Such is the level of honesty and trust. Also, when the Aizawl FC won the I-League at Shillong, the Mizo fans cleaned the stadium after the match.

Mizoram has an excellent climate, in addition to its scenic beauty. The State has the potential for the creation of herbal farms, health resorts of international repute, organic farming, medical tourism, etc.

Mizoram also has a number of lesser features. There is minimal knowledge of Hindi, seclusion under the Inner Line Permit (ILP), and unemployment despite high literacy rates. The State is also dogged by a number of health issues such as cancer, HIV, abuse of tobacco, alcohol and drugs. The underdeveloped economy is primarily agrarian with the continued prevalence of shifting cultivation. The high level of urbanization, especially in Aizawl, takes a toll on the limited infrastructure and resources. This is exacerbated by the absence of planning despite Mizoram being a disaster-prone area.

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Page last modified: 20-02-2018 18:42:51 ZULU