For a while, it had seemed as if the Congress would rethink its decision to nominate Meriam Hrangchal as one of its candidates. But the party pushed ahead, ignoring a diktat by the state’s apex students’ body, and nominated her, a move that has now drawn its ire.
Last week, the Mizo Ziralai Pawl (MZP) – the most influential students’ body in the state – had declared that it would oppose the candidacy of women who had married outside the community. MZP president H Lalthianghlima had specifically said that the body was disappointed to hear that a party was going to field a woman who had married a non-Mizo as one of its candidates.
Though they had not named who the candidate was, it was a clear reference to 49-year-old Meriam Hrangchal, an entrepreneur, whose husband Deepen Zoliana is Gorkha, though the surname he bears is Mizo.
The Congress has given Hrangchal a ticket from Lunglei South, an ST reserved seat. While she is making her political debut, her father Lalmingthanga was a senior politician with the Mizoram People’s Conference and a multiple-time MLA, including from Lunglei South in 2003, as well as a former deputy chief minister.
Hrangchal filed her nomination on Wednesday. The MZP has now announced a rally against this in Aizawl on Friday. “We cannot demand that she withdraw her nomination. That is her right. But what we can do is appeal to the Mizo people not to cast their votes for her,” MZP general secretary Chinkhanmanga Thomte told The Indian Express.
“We have appealed to political parties twice since last December not to field people married to non-tribals, but I don’t know how they gave her the ticket… We are a small minority, so we need to preserve Mizo society, and this is one step for that… According to our customary law, she lost her tribal status by marrying a non-tribal. She is a very successful businesswoman, which shows that there is no discrimination in our society. But it’s not something that we can accept for the Assembly,” he said.
Hrangchal did not respond to calls and messages seeking her comments.
This is not a new objection raised by the MZP or other civil society organisations in the state. In the past, the MZP has conducted a campaign to “protect” the tribal community from getting “assimilated” with outsiders. This had included administering pledges in high schools and higher secondary schools in the state not to marry outside the Mizo tribe. There has also been a push for a law to ensure that a Mizo woman who marries a non-tribal loses her ST status.
Following the MZP “warning” last week, the Congress, when it issued its list of candidates on Monday, had announced names for 39 out of the 40 seats in the Assembly. Missing was the candidate for the Lunglei South seat. However, after what appeared to be initial hesitation, the party announced that its Central Election Committee had approved Hrangchal’s candidacy from the seat.
Mizoram Congress president Lalsawta said he did not want to comment beyond saying that “she is very qualified and we want her to be a Congress legislator”. “Because of this, we have selected her and included her as a candidate, and she will win.”
The party’s senior vice-president in the state, Lal Thanzara, said he did not anticipate a major backlash against the decision. “The student body will also realise that her husband’s family has been living here for generations, participating in church activities like the Mizos, and that they self-identify as Mizos. Even in the USA, the vice-president is of Indian origin. Even in England, they have an Indian-origin Prime Minister. So we should accept, and not be restricted by narrow-minded thinking,” he told The Indian Express.
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