Margaret Ch. Zama
Rambuai literature, literally translated, means literature of the ‘troubled land’, and this nomenclature is seen as most suitable for the purpose of this review as the intention is to be as inclusive as possible. This is to say, the fiction, non-fiction, songs and poems that have been generated by the troubled history of the Mizo National Front movement, be they MNF or non-MNF narratives, are included in the composition of this genre that is growing and likely to continue to do so in the years to come. The use of the terms ‘insurgency’ or ‘resistance’ literature/writing is avoided as these are found to be limiting and in several ways politically incorrect, for these terms can be seen as denoting an underlying implication of condemnation of an ideology that others have sacrificed their lives for, or died in the countering of it.
As with other conflicts throughout world history, the Mizo ‘rambuai’ conflict too had its supporters and detractors, the hardliners and those who tried to tread the middle path. There are also crucial questions to which there are several answers – questions such as why, where, who were the real victims, who were those responsible and the like. And as with other conflicts, there is always a suppressed voice which none dare to foreground. The sufferings caused by army atrocities were many, but so were those undergone in the hands of the underground and yet, most narratives remain untold. But with the passing of time, there comes a strong desire to set certain records straight, to retell histories, do justice to those no more, and to provide an unbiased history for the future generation. The Mizoram Upa Pawl (MUP), an association of senior citizens of Mizoram, have begun the process of this recovery of untold stories through 2 volumes entitled Rambuai Lai leh Kei (the troubled years and me) published in 2010 and 2014. More are expected in the future from this generation who underwent the entire experience of the troubled times to survive and tell their stories.
Before moving into a review of the songs/poems and fiction generated by ‘rambuai’, a brief review of the non-fiction is hereby given. There are layers of work and great potential for further research and study, and this review while attempting to be as inclusive as possible, will at the same time focus on key features only.
While focusing on a given period of Mizo history beginning 1st March 1966, it is crucial to recall the political propaganda that came into the public domain through booklets/ pamphlets, and of course songs. A few of such booklets/pamphlets that we can consider forerunners to ‘rambuai literature’ were Zalenna Thuchah No.1. (1962) and Zalenna Thuchah No.2. (1963) (message of freedom), the authorship of which is credited to MNF President Laldenga. To counter their ideology the Mizo Union issued pamphlets like Politics kal Sual lakah Fimkhur a Ngai and Independent Thua Mizo Union Thupuan (1963) which cautioned the public against the deviant politics of secession from the Indian Union, of the MNF.
One of the books considered by many to be a book of MNF ideology is erstwhile MNF Foreign Minister /Secretary Lalhmingthanga’s book Exodus Politics (1965). Others are former Defence Minister R. Zamawia’s book Zofate Zinkawngah Zalenna Mei a Mit Tur ani Lo (2007), former Information Minister Ngurkunga’s work Political Diary of Ngurkunga which was not printed but cyclostyled (date unknown), PB Rosanga’s book Insurgency in Mizoram (1980), Biakchhunga’s book Hnam Kalsiam (1996), Chawngzuala’s Ka Hringnun Zinkawng (1998), Zoramthanga’s book Zoram Zalenna Lungphum (1980) and Mizo Hnam Hlabu (patriotic Mizo songbook) published by the self-styled Ministry of Publicity of the underground Govt. of Mizoram in 1981. Incidentally, Exodus Politics was a book that was seized by the Indian Army during the time, according to the foreword of the revised edition.
In The Dagger Brigade by Nirmal Nibedon, we are told that “On 28th January (1967) the Assam Government announced amnesty and littered the jungles with leaflets” (112), the leaflets being Mizo Entu scattered from a helicopter. By 1967 and 1968, leaders of the Mizo Union party (Mizo Mi Ropui HK Bawichhuaka: 371 and Ch. Chhunga Chanchin: 115) were already talking about the need for forgiveness and reconciliation with the MNF brothers and sisters. There were of course several incidents and words spoken/printed at the time and in the following years, to bear witness to the fact that the voicing of such good intentions did not make an impact on everyone. Even Laldenga himself when asked at a public meeting at Bawngkawn on 20th September 1986 (post Peace Accord 30th June 1986), if he would seek pardon for the killing of over 200 members of the Mizo Union Party by the MNF, responded by saying that he did not find the need to do so! (Sakeibaknei Weekly, October 1-8, 1986).
In 1974, Brig. T. Sailo started the Human Rights movement and wrote several articles to educate and spread awareness among the Mizo regarding their rights and relationships vis-à-vis the military, both in Mizo and English. These also include a Memorandum submitted to PM Indira Gandhi on October 16th, 1974 regarding Village Grouping and so on. All these writings were later compiled and published as a book entitled Human Rights Report of Mizoram 1974 (2013).
Nunthara’s article “MNF hold Key to Political Stability” published in the Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 9.50, Dec 14, 1974 could perhaps be claimed as the first academic attempt at ‘rambuai’ studies. Vol. 16.30, July 25, 1981 of EPW again published an article by him on “Grouping of Villages in Mizoram: Its Social and Economic Impact”. In 1989 Nunthara published a book that continues to serve as an important reference book in academia – Impact of Grouping of Villages in Mizoram.
The year 1986 was important in Mizo history marking the event of the signing of the Peace Accord on June 30th between the MNF leadership and the Government of India. It was also crucial and interesting for related reasons for the events leading up to, and after the signing of the Accord, generated so much public interest, debate and participation that the written outcome may be said to have contributed to the development of ‘rambuai’ writings in important ways. Some titles of journalistic writings in the local dailies and weeklies appeared to vie with each other in the use of sensational and provocative language that reflected the extremity of emotions of the times now let loose post Peace Accord, while there were also daily doses of very informative and interesting articles that fed the public.
The MNF returnees alone have given birth to several writers from whom over 30 books have been printed, not to speak of articles, memoirs and others published in dailies, weeklies, souvenirs and the like. These are the ‘MNF narratives’ referred to earlier in the review of this section. From the higher hierarchy of their structure, the written output usually touches on the origins and history of the movement including hiccups experienced, up to the Accord. The output from the ranks usually dwell on the action component, in particular between the years 1966-1971 considered to be the most violent period of the movement. The approach and writing style as well as the content of these works often reflect the level of, or lack of, formal education on the part of many of the writers. Many of the writings romanticize and valorize the movement while remaining silent on the resultant sufferings of the people, and at times, attempting to gloss over or justify several incidents that have not reflected well on them or the movement.
It was K. Hawla Sailo, former underground, who expressed a strong opinion on the fact that history is biased and incomplete when it is written from one aspect only. In his book Mi An Ve Nan (to be like others) 2007, he admits that admitting the many wrongs committed by him and his compatriots is a difficult and shameful thing to do, but if the wrongs are not admitted by those who actually underwent and experienced it, others will later misinterpret history, and this will not be a good thing (139).
‘MNF narratives’ no doubt offer some very interesting fare, but ‘rambuai’ literature does not end here. There are still many unwritten records of silent voices that refuse to speak out till date from both sides of the fence, for reasons best known to them. It also includes the flip side of many a story, the ‘non-MNF narrative’ emanating from pastors, church elders, pensioners, ex-servicemen, politicians, former bureaucrats, school teachers and all those who have something to tell, to narrate. In a sense this category of ‘non-MNF narrative’ can be viewed as the counter voice of the ‘other’. Though the corpus/output is still limited in number, the narratives come in the form of articles, books, memoirs, biographies and so on. Information provided by these writings depends largely upon how outspoken (or reticent) the writer chooses to be. The first-hand accounts of sufferings undergone by the writers themselves prove deeply evocative and provide an effective counter-balance to the undiluted ‘MNF narratives’. This is to be appreciated as a healthy trend that provides space for debate and growth besides its contribution to the enrichment of a balanced history and its records.
Several submissions found in Rambuai Lai leh Kei (2010) published by the MUP referred to earlier was at first, the outcome of the efforts of F. Malsawma, erstwhile Education Minister under the T. Sailo Ministry who invited school teachers of different villages across Mizoram, to write of their experiences during the troubled years. The submissions were kept in a file which much later got to see the light of day in this book. Thanseia, government official pensioner and noted social worker, wrote in his Foreword what has proven to be revealing about the written output of this particular genre of ‘rambuai’ literature. He reflects on the dilemma that, (my translation) one is afraid to reveal the truth, yet one is also afraid to be untruthful. He expresses the hope that the book will truthfully reveal the sufferings caused by both the army and the underground without bias, that the future generations to come will know the truth for whatever it is worth, that we will be able to trace if acts committed by the underground were acts in consonance with Mizo behaviour; that if acts committed by the army were acts in consonance with the behavior of an army long known for its good reputation, and that if acts committed against its own citizens deserved merit in any way (xii, xiii).
Such writings have critical value particularly for those who wish to learn and know more about the plight of the common man during the troubled times – who is the writer, where was he at that point in time? What was he doing? What was his involvement? Questions that will provoke some more of the ‘silent voices’ to speak up in times to come.
There is not much input to speak of from women writers. There were a number of female volunteers who joined the underground while some remained over ground to perform specific jobs given to them. Many who married members of the underground also became actively involved. Lalzawmliani is one who wrote on the sad lot of wives whose husbands left for the underground in books like Pathian Hruaina Kawng (1992) (the god-led path) and Tuara leh Malsawmna (2013) (travails and blessings) – the titles themselves are definitely reflective of Christian influence and the solace sought from the spiritual. B. Sangkhumi wrote a book I Pa Tak Tak Ka Ni (2011) (I am your real father) wherein she wrote about her father MNF MP Biaksanga. A female MNF volunteer Zaihruaii wrote of her own experiences in Thingsat Souvenir (2005). An article published in the weekly Hriatna, 29th July-4th August 1986 entitled “Ka Bialpa Ruhro a Tel Ve Lo” (my lover’s remains is not included) was written by Sakhawmawii – probably a reference to the remains / bones brought home for burial by the MNF returnees, of their fallen comrades from the jungles after the signing of the Peace Accord in 1986. Incidentally, these remains were provided a resting place at Luangmual now christened Martarte Thlanmual (graveyard of the martyrs) wherein the collected bones of 1563 individuals lie, all individually engraved in granite. Room for another 2500 is also in place. This was a project undertaken by the MNF Party over a period of time post the Peace Accord.
Buangi Sailo’s book Lunglen Zun A Zam (2008) is a work that contains her observations of the aftermath of ‘rambuai’. In Rambuai Lai leh Kei Book II (2014) we find one lone woman contributor Maj. Lalchhingi from the Salvation Army. Mafeli so far, is the only female writer who has contributed to the area of ‘rambuai fiction’ with her novel Nghilh Har kan Tuar (2010). However, in the ‘rambuai song/hla’ section we witness that contribution from women composers are much more. Some of them are Dr. Laltanpuii, Lalruali, Thansiami, RTC Lalduhawmi, Lalsangzuali Sailo, and Lalthanrengi. There is a collection of songs in a compilation made by the Peoples’ Conference (PC) Ram Kalsiam Hla Bu (2013) wherein is found several songs composed by women. Journalist Lalhruaitluanga Chawngte in Zozam Weekly, June 29, 2009, published an informative article “Zalenna sualin Mizo nulate”, the title itself being self explanatory – ‘young women who fought for freedom’.
‘Rambuai’ Songs / Poems
In order to emphasize the power and influence of politically motivated songs, particularly in the role played by them in ‘rambuai literature’, the review of this section will make a start from two important song writers / composers Laltanpuia (of Sialsuk) and Rolkunga who, in post-independent India, succeeded through their songs in arousing the Mizo patriotic sensibility with an intense longing for Mizo nationhood. RL Thanmawia in History of Mizo Literature, (2013), acknowledges the contribution of Rokunga’s songs in facilitating the MNF movement by emphasizing that such was the widespread popularity of Rokunga’s songs post 1960 that it was difficult to gauge whether it was his songs that gave birth to the MNF or the other way round. In any case, that the patriotic songs composed by him stirred the public imagination and accelerated the growth of the MNF ideology is an accepted fact, for in no time his songs immersed the whole of Mizoram.
Ch. Saprawnga too in his book Ka Zin Kawng (1990) gives particular reference to one of Rokunga’s song “Harh La! Harh La!” (1962) saying that it was this song with a marching beat that roused the Mizo youth with its clarion call (to rise, to wake up) (p 196). In Rambuai Lai leh Kei (2010) it is mentioned that the songs of Rokunga and Laltanpuia used to be sung by young boys and girls with tears in their eyes and that it seemed as if the whole of the land was convinced of the importance of independence (p 60-61). Laltanpuia had already composed in 1964, two years pior to the outbreak of the 1966 MNF-armed uprising, a song called “Independent kan Zoram tan” (independence for Zoram), “wherein he blatantly bore witness to the MNF nationalistic mindset and its policy of secession from India” (Emerging Literatures of Northeast India , p 67).
While writing of the influence and contribution of patriotic songs to the enrichment of ‘rambuai literature’, there were other equally important contributions to this genre. Even as some songs were composed to rouse the sentiments of people towards hope for a new nation, a new future, there were song composers and even prophetic voices like Thanghleia who foretold of the untold sufferings and death that would be the outcome of such an uprising. There were obviously very few takers to share such a view, if not none, for there was no room in those times of high pitched emotions, to reflect on the possibility of harsh reality. J.Malsawma too ironically comments in one of his essays in Zo-Zia 2001 (2nd ed), that songs such as those composed by Rokunga and others fell silent once the might of the Indian Army took over the land.
As the dark period of ‘rambuai’ unfolded, composer Laltanpuia was compelled to compose his touching song on the burning of his beloved village Sialsuk by the Assam Rifles on 15th June 1966. The song “Sialsuk Khaw Kang Hla” was composed in the month of August of the same year. Because the incident caused such deep sorrow in the hearts of the people who witnessed the pride of their lives reduced to ashes – a village of over 300 homes with a hospital, a post office, a Primary, Middle and High School and a PWD Inspection Bungalow, and the churches – that the composer came up with a second song of the same title in the month of December of the same year!
The burning of villages along with village groupings became the order of the day and in no time the prophetic words of Thanghleia came to pass. It was the turn of Suakliana of Lianpui village who was grouped in Vanzau grouping centre to compose his famous song “Khaw Sawihawm Hla” in 1968, sung by Siampuii Sailo in the AIR, that made listeners openly weep and came to be known as ‘hla lungchhia’ (the grieving song) (VLC Vanlalriatrenga. Pathian Thlaraua Mi Ril Suakliana leh A Hlate. Gilzom Offset, 2010). Below is the first verse and its summary for a sampling of the content of the song :
Kan huntawng zingah khawkhawm a pawi ber mai,
Zoram hmun tin khawtlang puan ang a chul zo ta;
Tlang tina mi khalhkhawm nunau mipuite,
Chhunrawl a vang, riakmaw iangin kan vai e.
(The most tragic of times ever encountered in our history is the village grouping, wherein the entire community is lifeless like a faded cloth, and people, mothers and children, herded from across the hills, are hungry and homeless like the ‘riakmaw’ bird in search of shelter).
Two-lined couplets and three-lined song compositions are not a new thing, particularly in the Mizo traditional songs. What is interesting is that there is a reversion to this type of composition though not widespread, during the troubled years. They, like the rest of the songs of the period, again provide an excellent landscape of the social and political history and mood of the times. For a sampling, in the month of September 1967, the Indian Army had rounded up over 600 men from the villages of Samthang, Zawlsei, Khuangthing and Khawbung, and imprisoned them in a confined space in Khawbung Middle School for 9 days and 10 nights. It took a mentally challenged man Lenchhuma to compose the lines below that reflects their miserable condition under heat and rain:
Khawbung e, Samthang e, Zawlsei e,
Khuangthing e, Khawbungah pho ve;
A sat leh seng loh, a sur leh seng loh (Zoramin Zalenna A Sual. Vols 6 & 7 : 49, 50)
(the men of Khawbung, Samthang, Zawlsei, Khuangthing, were put out in the open without shelter from the hot sun, nor the pouring rain).
Again, the villagers of Ngopa worked out a strategy to avoid the harsh physical blows that the Indian Army freely meted out, by saying “ram ram sap” each time they passed them by. So out of this was born the following couplet which villagers on their way to work in the jhums in groups, would loudly chant :
Vai sipai kutthlak a na lua,
Ram ram sap ka ti e zang dam nan (Zoram A Tap : 169-170)
which means, “I say ram ram sap in order to spare my back from the heavy blows of the heavy handed Indian army.” Beyond the obvious pathos of the context, there is an underling note of subversive humour and the Mizo ingenuity to adapt which perhaps can be seen as an element of the coping strategies they developed for the dark period. There were of course, numerous songs generated by the period and composed by the MNF cadres themselves which have been compiled in Mizo Hnam Hlabu.
R. Thangvunga in commenting on ‘raltiang ram’ (ideal land beyond) romanticized by Rokunga in his songs, poses the question “is the breaking of dawn foreseen by songwriters not happening?…O songwriter, could it be that you misread the bravery of our ancestors in your people?” (my translation) (Zoram I Tan Chauh : pp 53, 54). Rochamliana Ralte in Mizo Nih Tinuamtu Rokunga (pp 290-298) enumerates the reasons for Rokunga’s deep regret and the burden of responsibility that he carried in his last days, for the tragic aftermath of the troubled times and the sufferings of the Mizo people. He composed a song that reflected this depressive mood of his in 1969, the year of his demise, “Ka Pianna Zawlkhawpui” (Aizawl, the place of my birth) wherein he expressed his sadness over the changes he witnessed in Mizo society and Aizawl town – the crime and corruption that used to be alien to the old Mizo way of life.
In contrast to Rokunga, the regret and heartburn that Laltanpuia (Sialsuk) underwent was quite different according to his daughter Chuhthangi who in speaking about his song “Kan Ram Hi Kan Ram Ani” (1964) (Zoram is our land), said, that in the midst of all the revelry and rejoicing as a result of the Peace Accord in 1986, he was enraged and said that no one now had the moral right to sing his song as it was composed for the cause of independence and not mere statehood (Laltanpuia Thu leh Hla Zirhona : pp 28,29).
Amidst these conflicting emotions undergone by song composers who through their songs had laid themselves bare for the cause, we have V. Thangzama who in 1971 composed a song that continues to be popular and touch hearts till today “Tho La, Ding Ta Che”, translated as “Arise and Awake” by the composer. It is a call to the people of the land to get on with the business of rebuilding their lives and society, and not to indulge in thoughts of revenge and anger. In other words, a song to regenerate and not look back, but to look ahead as there is a bright future before us all. (Deh Loh Sakei Huai : 118-119).
The songs and poems generated by the ‘rambuai’ period have their own individual stories to tell, each worthy and deserving of individual study. Just as the times and context undergone by the songwriters / poets are not the same, so also the choice of themes and personal leanings. It is this very variety that makes this genre a rich source of information and research for not only the socio-economic and political mapping of the times, but of the workings of the Mizo psyche as well. However, while it is the prerogative of researchers and academia to unravel subtexts and put forth interpretations, it needs to be a responsible and accountable study gleaned from careful research on the history and politics of the times and also the context of the individual narratives themselves.
- A brief overview is provided here of more of the songs other than the ones already given, to showcase other aspects of this dark history :“Chawngtlai Khaw Hal Hla” composed in 1966 by TBC Zoramthara of Chawngtlai village. (Col. Lalrawnliana. Zoramin Zalenna A Sual. Vol. II. Zorin Compugraphics, 1996). This song is a lamentation for the burning of Chawngtlai village in which 180 houses were destroyed and an old woman Nawlchini burnt to death. This incident was followed by famine wherein the young and old were the most severely affected. This incident was army retaliation of the ambush carried out by MNF volunteers between Khawzawl and Champhai village.
- “Chul Hnu Vangkhua” composed in 1966 by Roliana Ralte (L) of Lunglei (Leng-Hnem, Lunglei : Mizo Zaimi Inzawmkhawm, 2003). This is a song which relates the trauma and sense of loss experienced by him and his family as they fled their home to live for a period of time at Hauruang village in an old dilapidated barn belonging to a relative. He desires most by the grace of God, to return to his hometown which though destroyed, remains in the same place, the same hills. This nostalgic song narrates an experience that many families share, who had to flee their homes to seek shelter elsewhere with families and friends in other villages. For those who could, some fled to far off Shillong, Halflong, Nagaland, Manipur, and other places.
- “Chang Khawpui A Chul Zo Ta” composed in 1968 by PL Lalnuaia (L) of Hnahchang village. (Lalbiakliana. “Hla Phuahthiam PL Lalnuaia leh A Hlate.” Thu leh Hla, Oct 1999).
This song reflects the twin trauma of having their village burnt just prior to their forced grouping at Pangzawl in 1968. (This was the method enforced for village groupings at the time). The song laments the very prospect of having the name of his village Hnahchang fade with time. The additional 5th stanza was promptly composed when, in 1972, permission was granted to grouping centres to return to their old village sites and rebuild. The stanza declares that they will now rebuild their old village never more to fade or be destroyed – “Chul lo tur Chang khawpui I din thar leh ang u”.
Songs composed on the theme of village burning and village grouping were plentiful and they more or less convey similar sentiments that reveal the trauma of having their strong link with the place of their roots so brutally cut off. Their repatriation elsewhere even though it be with their own kind, cannot replace the nostalgia and longing that is reserved for their original homes.
Other selected songs with themes that depict various other parameters of the impact of the ‘rambuai’ period are:
- “Curfew Kara Suihlunglen” composed in 1967 by K. Rammawia (L), Lunglei. (Thuamtea Khawlhring. Zothlifim. Aizawl : Mizoram Publication Board, 2001). This song is interesting for the various dimensions it projects. It is a well known fact that curfew was imposed with rigidity during the ‘rambuai’ period and any trepassers were dealt with harshly by the armed forces. However, it is said that K. Rammawia used to strum his guitar and sing his way through the hated curfew hours with full knowledge of the authorities. Surely a subversive way to defy authority! The chorus of the song goes :
- “Aw lunglen Curfew karah hian / Tuar I har hrilh ka thiam zo love; / Hmanah Zoram nun leh Chim loh thadangi zun, / Ngaih hian chin lem a nei thei dawn lo” which can be summarized as follows – one cannot explain the experience of the lonely curfew hours which only serve to enhance the endless nostalgia felt for the bygone life of Mizoram, and the ceaseless longing for one’s beloved.
- “Jail Run Thim” composed in 1967 by C. Durthanga of Durtlang/Zawlnuam. (C. Zama. Mizo Hnam Hla. Aizawl : Mizoram Govt Press, 2005). This song was composed by C. Durthanga when he was captured and imprisoned in 1967. The song voices his loneliness and despair and questions if this is to be his lot decreed by destiny. He declares that he is not ready to accept such a life and wonders if happy days will ever return for him – “Engtikah her chhuak ang maw hlim ni tur, / Hei hi chantawk khuanu ruat em lo ni? / Ka zuam lo kumtluanga Jail run thim nghah reng chu”
- “Prisoner Boy” composed in English probably in 1969, by Vanlalngaia of Aizawl. (C. Zama. Jail Run Thim. Aizawl : JP Offset Printer, 2013). Vanlalngaia was one of the top leaders of the MIS (Mizo Intelligence Service) when he got arrested and imprisoned in Silchar Jail. The thoughts that preoccupied him during his experience in the prison cell can be gauged from the lines “Someday I’m gonna write, / The story of a prisoner wall / For the sake of freedom call, / ‘Cause I’m a prisoner boy”.
- “Aw I Hming A Dai Lovang” composed in 1967 by Chhawntluanga, Biahte. (Lalthangmawia. Thangrawiha Lungdawh. Aizawl : Bethesda Offset Press, 2012). This song is not only tragic, but contains an ironic twist to it, for the composer Chhawntluanga who composed this song in memory of his beloved comrade-in-arms who died at the hands of the army, two years later became a victim himself to a most gruesome death. Arrested by the army, his health deteriorated compounded by physical torture. While transferring him to the army camp at Seling from Khawruhlian, his escorts clubbed him to death on the way by the banks of the Tuirini river because he was too weak to move on. His song for his dead friend ironically came to be a song that told of his own sad fate. “Aw I hming a dai lovang, / Thang leh thar chhuan tam ral mahse; / Zoram chhana I tuarna hian a man tawk e, / Chham ang I zalna piallei hmun leh / Zan mu chhing lo doral karah; / Kan tuanna mual tuai ang tharin / Nghilni I awm dawn lo” can be summarized thus – though many generations may pass your name shall not die, earned most deservedly by your sacrifice for Zoram. The memories of the many sleepless nights we spent while at war, and our sojourns among the hills is renewed even as I recall the thought of you lying beneath the earth as one dead – indeed, you will never be forgotten.
- “Rock Edict Number Thirteen” composed in English in 1972, by Jeremy Zobiakvela (L). (Ngurthankhumi. JB-a Damlai Sulhnu. Aizawl: Milan Press, 2000). One of the verses of this song expresses quite succinctly the dilemma experienced by the composer as well as many others who, as followers of Christ’s teachings about universal love, cannot reconcile with the continued bloodshed and hatred of the prolonged ‘rambuai’ years :“Why don’t we follow his footsteps of Peace if not his religion
And live in Peace and Harmony into the future
And then we’d smile again and say that this is what I longed for
We’d never ever have to live our lives in fear of the next war
I do declare I’m not gonna make no more war”In another song titled “Bad Dream” that is undated, he writes :
“Make peace, make love, put down your gun…
What do they do when people die?
Who or what makes them lose their minds?”
- “Biplobi Mizo Bhoni (Mizo Farnu Hel) composed in Assamese in 1980 by Ramesh Deka of Melpara, Assam, and translated into Mizo by KL Pachuau. (Hriatna, August 12-18, 1986). Ramesh Deka was a member of the All Assam Student’ Union (ASSU) at the time of composing this song in praise of a ‘rebel sister’ B. Vanlalzari who was arrested on 18th January 1975 for her involvement as a collaborator in the assassination of 3 top police officers at Aizawl on 13th January 1975. Her incarceration at Tezpur Jail ended in December 1980 and brought to Gauhati Jail from where she was released on 16th December 1980. The sufferings and sacrifice undergone by Zari inspired many inmates imprisoned at the time in Tezpur due to the AASU movement. The song is a salutation to Zari for her bravery and loyalty, and hails her as their role model.
Lalsangzuali composed / or gave tunes to a number of songs of lamentation over the political killings of persons by the underground above and beyond her other songs on the atrocities of the army during the ‘rambuai’ years.
- “A Na Ka Ti – A Pawi Em Mai” composed in 1982 by Lalsangzuali Sailo (L), Aizawl. (Laldinliana, Lalsangzuali Sailo Hla Te. Aizawl : Hnamte Press, 2007). This song of lamentation was composed for Lalthlamuani, the widow of ex-MNA (Mizo National Army) R. Zadinga who was brutally murdered by the underground on 15th June 1982, and who at the time was an MLA of the People’s Conference Party touring his constituency Phuldungsei. The lamentation of a wife for her slained husband, with her only confrontation with his killers being the words “you have misunderstood, my husband is not a bad person” drew tears from many.
- “Pu Lalthawmvunga Sunna Hla” composed in 1984 by F. Vanlalthuama and given the tune by Lalsangzuali Sailo (L), Aizawl. (Laldinliana, Lalsangzuali Sailo Hla Te. Aizawl : Hnamte Press, 2007). Lalthawmvunga was an MLA candidate of the People’s Conference Party for N.Vanlaiphai constituency. He was brutally murdered during his campaign, on 11th April 1984 by “unknown persons” though the lyrics of the song clearly insinuate who the killers were.
History writing as we already indicated, is often biased as it is influenced by the context and hegemony wielded at the time. In creative writing however, the scope is more flexible and the hidden subtexts often come to light under this genre which we will call ‘rambuai’ fiction.
‘Rambuai fiction’ is no doubt creative writing, but behind the creativity lie several sub-texts that the writer embeds, and attempts to voice. The trauma and terror experienced during the troubled history, the trials and tribulations brought on by events often left untold by many, make their appearance in such writings under different guises. Though such writings can also serve as support to historical documents to a great extent, the extra-textual layering found in them which is often the product of the writer’s deep involvement with the text, affects the work of interpreting the ‘truth’ or ‘reality’ and can be biased or unreliable at times.
A few selected fiction works are given below, to once again depict the rich variety of themes generated by the ‘rambuai’ years.
- Pramod Bhatnagar. Zoramthangi : Daughter of the Hills. Delhi : Vikrant Press, 1982. (written in English). Set against the backdrop of the ‘rambuai’ years, this is the story of Zoramthangi and Ajay Kapoor, a police officer from Punjab who dies at the end of the book. Although Zoramthangi’s maternal uncle is an underground hero with a head bounty of Rs.10,000/-, their house in Lungdai village is burnt by the MNF, and her father Sangzuala is killed by them.
- James Dokhuma. Silaimu Ngaihawm. Aizawl : Zosys (1992) 1999. (translated into English as The Beloved Bullet, published by Katha in 2005 in Fresh Fictions). This is a novella that tells the tragic story of Lalramliani and her lover Lt. Sanglura of the Mizo Army. Sanglura dies in an ambush with the army while his death brings on a slow demise to Lalramliani who dies pining in secret for her dead lover. Embedded in the story are details of the trauma, particularly one of loneliness and despair, suffered as a result of the Village Grouping by the army.
- Hawlla Sailo. Mizo Ngaihdan Dek Che Tham. Kolkata : Display Printers. 2001. This autobiographical fiction comes from one who served for over five years in the underground government as a senior administrator high in the hierarchy. The book makes no bones about the cruelty of both the underground army and the Indian army. It has historical value particularly about the events of 1968 when the underground army moved through Sajek range into East Pakistan, and their involvement in the Liberation War and the shameful behavior of some of his compatriots best left unsaid. The book depicts in turn the narrator/writer, and the male and female protagonists Zoramhmangaiha and Chhiari.
- Mafeli. 1966 Mizoram : Nghilh Har Kan Tuar. Aizawl. : Samaritan Printers, 2010. This novel is located at East Lungdar village during the darkest period of the ‘rambuai’ years and voices the lot of the women who are the worst victims of atrocities commited. In her defence of the people of Lungdar, she shows no qualms about lashing out at both the Indian and underground army who perpetrate sufferings of the people. Embedded in the book, which is a product of one of the younger generation of writers, are several uneasy questions that seek clarifications on several issues in connection with the troubled times.
- Chhuanvawra. Rinpuii leh Seizika. Aizawl : JP Offset, 2011. Written by an ex-underground member, this story takes place in and around an imaginary place called Chhinlung during the years 1965 to 1971. The actual times and events of the period are interwoven with several fictional elements that involve a famous traitor or ‘kawktu’, the burning of a school named Champhai Gandhi Memorial High School, and the relationships of fictional characters like Capt. Sapana, AO Richard Lalnema, and Rinpuii.
Margaret Ch. Zama is Professor in the Department of English, Mizoram University. Her areas of research are cultural studies, translation and northeast studies. As a member of North East Writers’ Forum, she had collaborated extensively as a language coordinator in translating works from the region. Her own translated works have appeared in The Heart of the Matter: Handpicked Fictions from Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam and Nagaland (2004) and Fresh Fictions: Folk Tales, Plays, Novellas from the North East (2005).