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Mizoram assembly results 2018: Bamboo deaths and the MNF's rise to power

Rats have played a big role in bringing the MNF to power in the state in the past

T E Narasimhan  |  Chennai 


The story of Mizo (MNF), which has won the majority in the State Assembly elections now is intertwined with the flowering of a native bamboo species, an ecological phenomenon known as or the Bamboo death.

With a population of 1.09 million as per the 2011 census, it is the second least populous state in the country and almost 91 per cent of the state is forested. It has around 88.93 per cent forest and bamboo is grown in a large area in the state.

A species of bamboo, named melocanna baccifera, is widely seen here and it flowers all at one time, once in every 50 years. What follows is the emergence of a plague of rats that soon come down to the agricultural lands and storages wreaking havoc.

The rats, said to be attracted by the seeds from the bamboo flower, would multiply in a short period and raid the storages and fields once they cannot survive on the bamboo seeds alone.

This has created famine in the state, and many had to resort to eating leaves and roots to survive. With little help from the governments, a movement against the central government was formed in Mizo, which was then part of the State of Assam, during the famine in 1959, under the name Mizo National Famine Front. It was lead by Pu Laldenga, who lead the erstwhile form of MNF, the

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MNF became active seeking relief measures from the government and worked tirelessly on reaching out to distribute rice and essential commodities in the interior of the State. This made the Front more popular and in 1961, it was transformed into the political party Mizo (MNF). The party raised its voice against the central government and its alleged inactivity to address the issues in the state and tried to capture the administration of Mizo district and some others. The revolt lasted for more than two decades.

By 1986, the party entered signed a peace accord with the centre, following which Mizoram was declared a state and Laldenga became the Chief Minister. While the government did not last long, the party came into power again in 1998 under the leadership of who led the state for 10 years.

However, the state once again faced a fresh spell of bamboo deaths starting from 2006 and food shortage was imminent with hordes of rats raiding the storages and fields. The government took measures including arranging for alternative crops such as potatoes, to address crop failures, and started a massive rat poisoning drive, announcing payments to those who would bring rat tails to prove the number of rats they killed. According to a video, released in 2009, over 1.5 million tails of rodents were collected during the period.

However, MNF lost power during the next election in 2008, with the Indian National Congress winning 32 out of the 40 seats. MNF was able to win only three seats. In 2013, the state again elected Indian National Congress with 34 seats, while MNF was able to improve its seats to five. It had also joined the but decided to contest the elections in 2018 on its own.

First Published: Wed, December 12 2018. 13:23 IST