Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Today is the 22nd day of June, 2011. Its 8 days before the June 30, 2011 when Mizoram will have seen the fruit of an accord for peace signed 25 years ago. And today I read in the papers that the Government-appointed committee on this regard, with representatives from the main NGOs of the state as members met yesterday to deliberate on celebrations to mark the occasion. Yesterday- June 21, 2011, that’s 9 days before the event. NINE DAYS!!!! What value- our peace?
In Aizawl, the Committee of Church leaders (MKHC) has for sometime announced its decision to mark the day with an event at Vanapa Hall. This is a mass movement no doubt because the majority of the population belongs to one or the other Church denomination. But the ‘common man’, among whom I count myself, still does not have an idea of how the Vanapa Hall event is going to be. Are we supposed to come together for prayers- of thanksgiving and guidance? Are we to gather and hear rhetoric of peace, what it has meant for us and its prospects? Will we be celebrating the twenty five years of God- given peace? What?
And for this event, the Government- appointed Committee decided to abstain from organizing a parallel programme that might clash. In other districts however, a budget of one lakh each has been allocated and celebrations will be conducted under the chairmanship of the respective District Commissioners. Now, if I were the DC of a district in Mizoram, what inspiring idea will I have to celebrate twenty five years of peace with a one lakh budget to be coordinated and implemented within a week…hmm…tough, really!
And yes, the Hon’ble Chief Minister, who by the way, had given up his ‘throne’ in 1986 to usher in the peace process, will be delivering an address to the people to be telecast on the eve of Remna Ni (Peace Day). And on the day itself, he will be the Chief Guest at the Closing Session of a one day National Seminar which H.E. the Governor will be inaugurating. The ‘National Seminar on Peace & Development in Mizoram; Challenges and Prospect’ is being organized by the Zoram Research Foundation in collaboration with ICSSR-North East and Mizoram University and is based, obviously, ‘On the Occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Mizoram Peace Accord’. By the way, invitees will be registering for a hundred bucks to be part of the event and to mark the cost of a valuable certificate no doubt.
PAMRA (Peace Accord MNF Returnees Association) has been working for about a year now to mark the event. They are a bunch of people with memories, of lost comrades, of years lost for a cause they believed in. They are a group that has been trying for twenty five years to resettle in a world that they had fought to create. And it’s only fair that an Association with ‘Peace Accord’ in their name should be working on marking the event. Kudos to PAMRA. But what they are actually doing, besides bringing out a Souvenir, I’m not sure. It’s hard for every Mizo to feel as though they are a part of what PAMRA is doing because not everyone is a creation of a twenty-year insurgency movement. Especially for the post-1986 generation, it really is difficult to identify oneself with people with memories one is so unfamiliar with. Now if some other institution or organisation had lent support, it might have been different…
What about celebrations I cry.
The Mission Veng YMA ‘N’ (MYMAN) is doing something to celebrate. Thank you! Really, thank you! A Peace Concert featuring some well-loved artistes from the yesteryears and some new and popular names lining up for the set show. And to top that, a House Band made up of locals, all well known in the state for their skills in handling their particular instruments…umm musical instruments, I mean! This is a free-for-all event, the only one that seems to understand that peace isn’t something we have at will, it is cause for celebration, a cause I deem greater than many our wonderful governments keep shelling out money they don’t really have for. And that’s not the end of it. There’s a most wonderful attachment to the concert- an attempt to make the Mizoram record the biggest Guitar Ensemble. Everyone is invited through a free registration, to play an old favourite together on their beloved Acoustic Guitars. And the last time I counted, there had been about 400 names submitted, with the post Peace Accord generation a majority.
The International Peace Day is commemorated on September 21 every year, having been initiated by the UN in 1982. And then there’s the Universal Peace Day of August 6, based on the ‘Little Boy’ bombing of Hiroshima. These ‘days’ often have week-long celebrations that not only observe the gifts of peace but let the world know how valuable it is. And here, we have been having peace for twenty five years and what have we done with it? In Korea, there are four National Celebration Days when a display of the national flag in every household is encouraged. In Japan, February 11 is marked a national holiday “to reflect on the establishment of nation and nourish love for the country”. We Indians have our Republic and Independence days. Official functions overshadow an almost non-existent private/ community celebration of the events. In the United States, the fourth of July season finds many households donning their ‘red, white and blue’ to mark celebrations.
There has been a recent movement to commemorate the bombing of Aizawl as ‘Zoram Ni’ on March 5. Many people have chosen to ‘politicise’ this and paint it in colours that prevent the population from understanding that it was the one day the Mizo people were more united than any other, by the common suffering and sabotage of their land. But yes, I can see where some hearts tense up choosing to see it as a platform that only opens up old wounds failing to see the scar that will never go as a sign the Mizo should now proudly wear. But hey, Remna Ni? Come on, we’ve had it as a state holiday for almost as long as I can remember. So why the hesitation to mark 25 years? The signatures on that accord, or rather, the signatories, are not what have made it happen. The Accord is the foundation ushering an entire generation of the peace our neighbours are still struggling to achieve. And the Punjab Accord a year older than the Mizo Accord never took off and the Sikh signatory later assassinated. Can we not understand the depth and value of this gift? Have we been trusted with a gift we do not deserve?
Had the biggest stakeholder in the state initiated celebrations for a week or longer, we could probably have had the Seminar, the prayer, the addresses, the concert etc, all in the name of peace. But sadly, we only have the day, we only have scattered attempts to mark this momentous event, a day we are never going to see again. So sue me, but I will offer a prayer of thanksgiving and make it a party at a concert only a land of peace can offer.