Unrest among ex-Mizo militia over non-fulfilment of promises
It has been over 25 years since the Mizoram Accord was signed between the Centre and the Mizo National Front (MNF) to bring peace to Mizoram. But growing disenchantment among the people of the north-eastern State with New Delhi is threatening the fragile peace. What is alarming is the growing bitterness among the ex-militia, who used to be associated with the MNF’s armed wing, over the non-fulfilment of promises made by the government that could force them to pick up arms again.
“Even today at least two of the promises made by the Centre in 1986 are yet to be fulfilled. We are still to see criminal cases against three of our former colleagues dropped, while the desire of the people of Mizoram to have their own High Court seems to be a distant dream. Similarly, the demand for compensation to two women who were raped by Army personnel in 1966 is yet to be fulfilled,” K. Lalnuntluanga, ex-Mizo National Army Association General Secretary, told The Hindu.
The Centre’s apathy towards the Mizo people and their problems can be gauged from the very fact that three top functionaries of the Association, despite camping for almost two weeks in Delhi last month, they could not meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. “People of Mizoram, particularly the youth, are getting frustrated with false promises and assurances by the successive governments,” said Mr. Lalnuntluanga. Former members of the Mizo National Army who took part in the underground movement are angry over the non-withdrawal of cases against their former colleagues.
“The Union government had promised that no member of the MNF coming over ground would be prosecuted for offences committed in connection with and during the period of underground activities. But today also they are harassed by police. There are at least three former MNA members who face criminal cases … one of them, Lalzarliana, has become mentally sick due to the constant burden of court cases and fear of police arrest,” claimed C. Zama, treasurer of the Association, which has around 4,000 members.
Long wait for justice
Another issue for the Mizo people is the long wait for justice and compensation for two women who suffered torture and mass rape by Indian Army personnel on November 30, 1966. “From that time onwards, these two rape victims are mentally unstable and are looked after by their family members. Neither has any humanitarian effort been made to rehabilitate them nor has any compensation been provided to help them live a dignified life,” said Mr. Zama. But what is more worrying is the willingness among the ex-MNA cadres to launch a violent movement to press for their demands, and their talks of joining hands with militants fighting in Nagaland and Assam.
“Unrest is simmering not only among disgruntled youths, but also among former cadres who again want to go underground … anyone from across the border can cash in on this negative sentiment. The fate of the over two-decade old Mizo Accord is in limbo … we will have to convey our sentiments and the treatment meted to us by the government to the armed groups in Nagaland and Assam. The future ahead seems to be dark for us,” Mr. Lalnuntluanga added.
Two garment factories closed after workers’ unrest
Sacked workers of two garment factories clashed with police at Savar and Ashulia on the outskirts of the city on Saturday, forcing the closure of both units indefinitely. Authorities at the two factories terminated a total of 249 workers for alleged vandalism and indiscipline during week-long protests to demand hikes in salaries and other facilities, said Zahirul Islam, deputy director of industrial police. According to witnesses, Saturday’s agitation began when workers of JK Group found a notice with the names of 84 sacked workers posted on the main gate when they came to work in the morning.
About 2,200 workers started demonstrating in front of the factory at South Dariapur of Savar Municipality. Factory staff and some local hired goons then swooped on the workers, leading to clash. Police charged batons to disperse the agitators, leaving at least 10 injured. Witnesses claimed that the hired goons, belonging to Jubo League and Chhatra League, attacked the agitating workers of JK Group, which is owned by a top leader of Jubo League’s Dhaka City unit. The police, however, denied that ruling party cadres attacked the workers. JK Group authorities, meanwhile, announced the factory closed for an indefinite period.
The 84 workers were terminated for vandalism and creating anarchy at the factory earlier, they said. In another incident at Khejurbagan in Ashulia, about 6,500 workers of CIPL took to the streets after they, too, found a termination notice for 165 workers on similar charges. Police drove away the protesters with batons, while CIPL authorities announced indefinite closure of the factory. Meanwhile, Zahirul, who is also an additional superintendent of police, told Dhaka Tribune that the workers had been carrying out demonstrations without any consideration for the owners. “The owners of the factories have assured the workers of meeting their demands, and requested them to wait until the new wage board is announce by the government,” the police officer said.
Convictions against striking workers overturned
An Alexandria-based appeals court on Sunday overturned the convictions of five workers charged with illegally inciting a strike. The five workers belong to the Alexandria Container Holding company. Suzan Nada, lawyer at the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) and the coordinator of the Permanent Conference of Alexandria’s Workers, said the workers had earlier been sentenced to three years imprisonment in absentia. The convictions were for inciting a strike and causing financial losses to a company. The five workers are, according to the ECESR, Ahmed Sadeq, Yousry Ma’rouf, Ashraf Mahmoud, Essam Mabrouk and Mohamed Abdel-Moneim. Dozens protested outside the court in a show of solidarity with the workers, state-owned Al-Ahram reported. Nada said the right to strike is preserved in the constitution.
However she claimed the law criminalises strikes indirectly. “It includes some very harsh conditions… It is an unjust law,” she said, adding that several political parties and unions oppose it. Nada added that the law allows the oppression of workers who can face arbitrary transfers or salary deductions and, in some cases, arrests for striking. According to Nada, other companies in which workers faced trouble for striking included Hi Tech whose workers were illegally dismissed only to be reinstated days after In addition to being sentenced to imprisonment, the workers were also suspended from work and fined.Their last hearing on 7 April was postponed to 16 June.
Bangladesh Barapukuria coalmine strike continues
Dhaka Tribune reported that production at the country’s lone coalfield at Barapukuria, Dinajpur remained suspended on Friday as the contractual miners continued their indefinite strike for the second day to drive home their five-point demands that include safety and security issues. General Secretary of Barapukuria Workers Employees Union, Mr Shafiqul Islam said the Dhaka Tribune that “The miners, mostly from XMC, the mine’s contractor company, abstained from work at around 6pm on Thursday suspending production.”
Chinese company XMC with another consortium, led by China National Import and Export Corporation, has been producing coal from the mine since 2005. Out of 1,041, around 250 miners continued their demonstration in front of the main gates of the mine. Citing mining as being a risky and often life threatening job, Mr Shafiqul said that they sought security for the miners through regularization of their jobs and life insurance. Other demands include disbursement of bonus profits for 2011 and 2012, introduction of a rationing system and the appointment of Bangladeshi doctors to ensure their proper treatment.