Fifty-three years after a movement was launched in present-day Mizoram to seek independence from India, Mizo 'soldiers' of a former militant outfit were honoured at a government programme here.
A total of 138 'soldiers' of the erstwhile Mizo National Army were awarded for their valour at the event on Thursday. Sixty-one of them were awarded posthumously.
Titled as 'Meet the Heroes: Peace Pays', the event was organised to "commemorate Mizo Hnam Sipai, Mizo soldiers, who during the fight for independence, journeyed to China to undergo training and procure weapons".
The programme was organised by the Tourism Department of Mizoram Government, led by the Mizo National Front (MNF).
The development assumes significance as the celebration by the Mizoram Government was held in partnership with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and North Eastern Council (NEC) of the Ministry of DoNER.
Speaking as the chief guest, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga said, "The Mizo National Army, who were once considered as lawless elements by the country, are now being honoured.
"It is significant that even this programme is being sponsored by the Indian government. Their names are no longer spoken in hushed tones."
The word 'Peace Pays' was first highlighted during the celebration of Republic Day in Delhi in 2000 on top of Mizoram state tableau despite opposition from the Central government of that period, the chief minister said.
"The contingents, who went to China to procure arms and get training, are lucky to have been given an opportunity to fight for their land.
"The delegates and contingents from China have a wonderful song that no one else can sing. It is a song about their journey, struggles and achievements," said Zoramthanga, who himself was a cadre of the Mizo National Army and went to China.
Describing the importance of peace and serenity for social and economic development of the state, he urged the people of Mizoram to treasure and protect the hard earned peace, it currently enjoys.
Mizoram Tourism Minister Robert Romawia Royte, under whose initiative the programme was organised, voiced his hope that this "Peace Pays Project" not only honours heroes, but will also showcase the investment potential of Mizoram.
"Mizoram has been enviously peaceful since signing of the Mizo Peace Accord. That is very important for our state's development. We have enormous tourism potential and people are coming to us now. At the same time, we also need investment," Royte emphasised.
Song and drama performances as well as speeches from representatives of the delegates from China also marked the day-long programme.
Two books -- The Valorous Walk to China (Meet the Heroes: Peace Pays) and Expedition to China -- were released by the chief minister at the event.
MNF's secessionist movement started in 1966 and came to an end in 1986, when it signed the Mizo Peace Accord with the Government of India and created a separate state of Mizoram.
When the Mizo National Front (MNF) formed the government in 1987 under the leadership of Laldenga, Zoramthanga looked after Finance and Education departments. In 1990, when Laldenga died, he became the president of the MNF.
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