AIZAWL: ‘Sam, dam, dand, bhed’ – discuss, buy, coerce, divide – the ancient Hindu political formula to browbeat any opposition, is the mantra for the Bharatiya Janata Party parivar in its charge towards Mizoram – the only state in the northeast region still consistently ruled by the Congress, and a Christian state where the hardcore Hindutva gospel has no takers, yet.

As Mizoram goes to the hustings on November 28, its clear the stakes are high for the BJP. Some 21 years after it opened its office in Mizoram, and having drawn a blank in every state election, it’s a now or never moment for the BJP family to open its account in this reluctant mountain state.

For those who have followed the Bru-Mizo conflict haunting Mizoram for two decades now, the hand of the BJP’s ideological polestar the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is unmistakably apparent as the force stirring the potent ethnic cauldron in India’s 23rd state.

Aizawlites believe it was only the united uprising of Mizoram’s people which foiled the well laid plans of the BJP-RSS to foist the issue of ‘illegal’ Bru voters once again on the state.

With the latent threat of public anger prevailing all over Mizoram, the campaign forced the central government to dismiss the state’s chief electoral officer S.B. Shashank, a move quite unprecedented in a poll bound state.

It was a fracas with principal home secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaungo that ensnared the CEO. The dispute was over the designated place for Mizoram’s displaced Bru voters to exercise their franchise, and issues related.

The incident, a case of shadow boxing between the ultimate stakeholders, the Mizo community and the BJP-RSS lobby, salivating for a foothold in the elusive state, exposed the struggle taking place here. This round went to the Mizo groups with the Election Commission having ordered that no polling booths are to be placed in the relief camps in Tripura. The booths will be set up in Kanhmun, a village just across the state border in Mizoram.

Locals are convinced that a junior officer like Shashank could have lorded it up only at the bidding of powerful people, such as the RSS lobby.

Mizos themselves, no strangers to the workings of hidden extra-constitutional clout, are wont to point out that the RSS functions 'much like' the Young Mizo Association, the most powerful organisation in the state, which is omnipresent in the Mizo community over all other differences. It was the YMA that gave the call to boycott Shashank.

The establishment’s alleged plan was to get as many Bru names into the electoral rolls as possible, and to conduct polls in the six camps outside the purview of the state of Mizoram. The plan failed because of the resistance of Chuaungo, the principal home secretary who was hailed as a hero and defender of Mizoram against those who wanted to balkanize it.

It is said, however, that this victory only succeeded in further alienating the Reang-Bru people resident in Mizoram from the Mizo community, creating vote banks thereby for the BJP among the Bru.

YMA members say the plans failed only because the community came out as one to oppose what they considered to be manipulation by the BJP lobby to remove ‘their’ man, Chuaungo, who ‘stood for what is right’. Moreover, as one of the seniormost Mizo IAS officers Chuaungo was headed for the post of chief secretary, a possibility which it is alleged the anti-Mizo lobby could not allow.

In fact, the usually reticent bureaucrats spoken to believe there was a coordinated move to shift out all Mizo officers from the posts of deputy commissioners and superintendents of police, and replace them with IAS cadre, just a few months before polls were announced.

They point out that the appointment of Kummanam Rajashekharan, a top RSS leader and a known Christian baiter, as governor of the state is part of a well laid plan to cover all postpoll eventualities in case of a hung assembly.

Hindutva and the Northeast Region

For decades the Hindutva campaign in the northeastern states has taken the form of ghar wapsi (homecoming) programs fronted by dozens of the organisations and wings of the mothership RSS, whose primary aim as is already known is to bring all communities ‘back’ into the ‘Hindu’ fold.

Ghar wapsi, a potent social engineering theory of all inclusive Hinduism, enables the Sangh to throw its net over every kind of cultural and religious belief, and to build the platform for a political movement for a pan-Hindu nation.

The tribes of the northeast region who in the pre-Christian age were largely nature worshippers or had their own religious systems are all easily accommodated within this theory. At the same time, communities that became Christians over the centuries are invited to return ‘home’.

For Hindutva workers convincing the tribes tied to their own religious beliefs has been an uphill task, what with a large number of these traditions already infused into the Christian belief system.

Nevertheless, taking a leaf from the Christian missionaries’ book, the RSS too has been in missionary mode, and has succeeded somewhat in finding toe holds and creating bases in several places in these states. Its success in Assam and Tripura among the tribes has been stupendous, but it is the inroads into the insular communities of the hill states that is notable.

In Meghalaya, its alliances over the decades with indigenous faith movements such as the Seng Khasi and like organisations has bought it dividends, by accentuating the conflict between the followers of these indigenous faiths and the Christian majority, who invariably have the run of the state.

They have infiltrated the indigenous Heraka movement, a masterstroke that gives the Hindu supremacist group some leeway among sections of the Naga people scattered across Nagaland, Manipur and Assam.

In Arunachal Pradesh over the years, the Donyi Polo system of the indigenous people was supported by the wings of the RSS wings, and is now almost inseparably rooted in the RSS brand of Hinduism.

From the RSS’s hard work in the grassroots the BJP, its party political wing, has reaped dividends and finally finds itself ruling in Assam and Tripura by dint of votes, in Nagaland and Meghalaya as part of the ruling coalition, and in Arunachal Pradesh through a policy of buying out MLAs into its fold.

(In Assam the BJP has 61 seats out of 126, in Tripura 36 of 60, in Nagaland 12 of 60, in Meghalaya 2 of 60, and in Arunachal 48 of 60.)

But in Mizoram it has drawn a blank, so far. The only evidence of any inclination towards the Hindu group could be the translation of the Bhagwad Gita into the Mizo (Duhlian) language some years back by a local group, and the taking of some children out of the state and into the RSS education system.

But if its endeavours in the larger community seem to have flopped, its strategy of siding with the Reang-Brus in their struggle for autonomy in Mizoram has given the Sangh some visibility in an otherwise placid scenario.

You can read the second part of this report here.