Monday, December 5, 2022

Mizoram Church on clean election: Lessons for Nagaland

The Church is the biggest force in bringing peace and a clean election system in Mizoram. The Church mitigated the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the Security Forces. The Church condemned violence and killing and took many steps to bring back peace in Mizoram. The Peace Committee met the Central Government and the Mizo National Front leaders several times. Sometimes they faced problems from both the Central Government and the MNF. But they never gave up the hope for peace. Finally, the “Peace Accord” was signed on June 30, 1986, and normalcy was returned to the people.
The introduction of a democratic institution replaced the institution of Chieftainship in Mizoram. The election system was introduced, and people elected their representatives. However, time after time, elections have become costly, a large amount of money was spent by the candidates to buy votes, to please party men/women, etc. Those with money or access to money alone could contest the election, and the money power decided who should win. Money became the deciding factor. Visionary leaders and people with integrity could not context and be elected because of money. Moreover, the detrimental things were kidnapping the candidates; killing, vote rigging, and clan-based politics were heard and seen during the election. There were several reports of untoward incidents everywhere during the election.
In that situation, the Mizoram People Forum (MPF) was formed by different church denominations and NGOs like the Young Mizo Association, Mizoram Upa Pawl, Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl, etc. It was established in 2006 to promote good governance, peace and harmony, just and sustainable socio-economic development, and freedom of the people. The MPF took strong measures for free and fair elections with the help of the district and local forum.
The MPF and all political parties in Mizoram have signed an agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which strictly prohibits the use of force, support of underground armed groups, and any other undue influence on the voters to secure their votes. The use of banners, flags, and posters is restricted, and the voters’ influence through money or other incentives and inducements is restricted. Use of alcohol is strictly restricted. The agreement also prohibits house-to-house campaigns by the candidates and their supporters 10 days before the election. In addition, the parties must ensure that their candidates are honest and hard-working people with great integrity and free from the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Parties must include only realistic and do-able policies and programs in their manifestos, and no party or candidate shall indulge in huge and wasteful election expenditure. The MPF keeps a watchful eye on political parties and candidates to ensure the guidelines are strictly observed during the elections. It may be assumed that because of the active participation of the MPF, free and fair elections was achieved in every instance. It would say that the MPF, under the patronage of the Church, has played a vital role in electoral reforms in Mizoram. Nagaland is a unique state where Christian are majority. Churches in Nagaland, Village Council, Youth Forums, Naga Mother Association, and many civil societies should come together and form Naga People’s Front to clean the election system and create a permanent peace settlement. Nagas people need to liberate themselves from the present menace of political corruption and dream of a better future. Let us chose clean leaders and a political part that respect diversity and stands for political rights of all citizens.
Dr. Sentiwate Aier
Asso. Professor
Union Biblical Seminary
Bibewade, Pune
sentinaier@yahoo.com

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