Champhai in retrospect

tim11Originally posted to my personal Facebook page on May 5, 2015

Dear Ezra and Lian,

During World World II, an Allied pilot flying over the Chin Hills during the Burma campaign ran into trouble. He had to make an emergency landing. The only flat land for at least 50 miles in any direction was the rice paddies of Champhai. He safely landed. The man who would be chief of the area greeted him and saw to his welfare. He arranged for his safe transport to the port at Chittagong. For the chief, this was the first Sap (white man) he had ever seen.

Over 55 years later, a tall, skinny Sap with red hair came to visit him and his wife. He had travelled over oceans by planes. He crossed India by train. He rolled over mountains in buses and jeeps. It took over a week. This man came to pay his respects and hopefully win the favour of his family. He impressed the family enough, that within a few weeks, the chief’s son gave his approval for me to marry his daughter (Mommy). According to your great-grandfather, B. P. Khuma, I was the second Sap he had ever seen.

A few years after the war was over, India became an independent country. They began the process of writing a constitution. You grandfather as chief was invited to some of those meetings. The chiefs of the tribes of the Northeast considered whether they should join the rest of India. The British before they left India had contemplated creating a Kingdom of the tribes between India, China, East Pakistan and Burma. However, there was chaos as the British began to lose control and the partition of India began to happen. There were worries about what China would do. The chiefs were assured that 10 years after Independence they could hold a vote to separate or stay inside India. So with that promise they voted to remain inside India. Ten years came and went, but no vote was ever held. This led to much of the unrest in the area until now.

In 1959, the mautam famine due to bamboo flowering hit. (Here’s a video I helped make about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9xj-JcE8ng) The government of India and the state government of Assam failed to send adequate supplies. Over 10,000 people starved to death. This lead to the creation of the Mizo Famine Front, an aid agency. Due to the inaction for years and extreme poverty they became the Mizo National Front. On March 1, 1966, they declared Mizo independence from India. They had about 1 month of success. They captured almost all Indian army and border security forces. Then the airstrikes began.

The Indian air force began bombing and strafing missions on the capital city of Aizawl. All civilians fled into the villages. It is the only instance in Indian history that its air force bombed their own civilian population. The MNF retreated but fought a successful series of surprise attacks launched from small hamlets and villages. To combat the insurgency, in 1967, the Indian army destroyed 80% of every village house and farm in the state. Mizos were herded into internment camps in the major towns and cities. They were cut off from their farms. There was much starvation. At this time, your great-grandfather and great-grandmother had their home and farm burned to the ground. With their children, the clothes on their backs, they fled into the jungle. All they had for food was the leg of a deer and half a bag of rice.

Despite all of this, to some degree, they forgave India. They were two of the jolliest people I have ever met. Their son, Mommy’s Dad, also managed to forgive the government of India. Within a few years, he was a police officer enforcing that government’s laws. When he retired, he was a Deputy General of Police in the state of Maharashtra. Amongst the Mizos, that is the 2nd highest anyone has risen in the police.

Ezra, you have a great capacity for forgiving. Lian, I hope you can follow your brother’s example. Maybe you inherited it from grandfather. Maybe it is the gift of God. I hope you can forgive India for what they did to the Mizos. Someday, you need to talk to your grandfather about this. There is a tremendous power that is unleashed when we forgive and reconcile. It can destroy walls. It can build bridges. It can do the impossible.

We seem to be entering a time of grievances. Hurt people hurt people. This is leading to destruction, fires, pain and death. As you enter your teenage years, many will try to whip you up into a frenzy of rage and righteous anger against the injustices that exist near us. I want you to measure those issues against what your own Mizo family have experienced. Before you pick up pens, placards or pistols to fight, I want you to take the time to see if you can forgive. If you can’t forgive, I want you to explain to me how your grandparents could move past the great evil done to them, but you cannot. If you can’t forgive, I want you to explain to me why you are not in Mizoram ending great injustices still there.

I hope you choose to free yourself from the need for revenge. You are so young, but there are miracles in your hearts. Forgiving can unleash that power for good. You are small, but with a tiny faith God can throw our mountains into the sea. It is time, my little buddy and my sweetie pie, to see what God will do with it.