Conclusion 3: 1945-1986.


In August 1945 peace came to the East as well as to the West. In the aftermath of War a great many vehicles were left in Assam for which the Army had no further use. Many were sold off and enterprising shopkeepers in Aizawl soon secured some of the trucks to carry goods of every description to Aizawl. Many hundreds of Mizos were enabled to to go out of their country for the first time. Due to the War there was more money in the country and parents could now keep their children at school longer. In 1949 Mendus ‘Pu Mena’ and his wife came on a visit to Mizoram and saw a great change in the road. They complained that it was bumpy, rough and dusty, which was unquestionably true, but it was much worse in the monsoon!

The Government and the Army were offering new posts at a salary of 100 rupees a month when the salary of a schoolteacher was 15 rupees a month. The new posts were a great attraction but only 15 teachers out of 200 succumbed to the temptation.

In 1945 another class was added to the High School. The time in Assam was known as Tea-garden Time and was one hour ahead of Delhi. School started at 8.30am and finished in the early afternoon. There were 70 children, though the term ‘children’ was inexact as a number of them were in their 20’s, having waited so long for a High School. The Army was still  recruiting and a number of boys disappeared having joined the Army. All the children were Christians, with just one or two exceptions. To ensure a class system wasn’t being created between learned and unlearned a school ‘jhum’ was set up to remind the educated youth of their roots. It proved a moderate success and only lasted two years. The most suitable place for a permanent site for the school was the so-called Tea Garden site. Some tea bushes had been planted but it had never been a real tea-garden estate. The tea bushes had grown into sizeable trees and the site was now the property of the local Assam Rifles. With the help of the then Government Superintendent, Ranald Macdonald, the whole hill was secured for the school. To Mizos the site was doubly precious as the site where the first three missionaries lived and where Savidge had opened his first school-cum-chapel in the Mizo Hills. The site was dubbed ‘Macdonald Hill’ by the Mizos. To level the land and to build classrooms an appeal was sent out to villagers for help. The response was generous and immediate. The whole school was fully established in 1949.

In 1946 the Political Commission visited Mizoram and interviewed political leaders and every one else of importance. Tensions had arisen between North and South Mizoram. This was not surprising as the future of their country was at stake. The possibility of breaking with India and joining with Burma [later called Myanmar] was freely broached and keenly advocated by a number of politicians. Strikes and hartals [general one day strikes] were endemic throughout India though Assam probably suffered more than most. Rev. Zairema wrote in 1978 (11): ‘Before Indian Independence the country was politically known as an excluded area. This means, in short, that the reforms and legislations in the rest of India did not apply. The British administrators were law makers, executives and administrators of justice at the same time. The services of the chiefs were retained for village administration and their duties defined. Attempts were made to preserve the old ways of life as well. During the Indian Independence movement, the British were often accused of trying to keep Mizoram as a tribal museum. No visitors from outside were allowed except by special permission. At one time exit to other parts of India was also controlled. Development works and and general education were imparted in measured doses. No political organisations were allowed. But a thirst for higher education had been created and a number of the more enterprising boys and girls had gone to get their secular education outside. However, when Indian Independence came the people had no education nor any experience in politics and administration. A modern democratic form of Government had been suddenly thrust upon us. The transition from tribal to a democratic atomic age had been so abrupt that we have, and are, committing a number of blunders, and in fact one political party staged an armed rebellion against the Government of India. Had it not been for the Christian influence the situation would have been much worse’.

In 1947 Mr. Meirion Davies, a staunch friend of the Mission who owned a press in Bootle, Liverpool, presented the Loch Press with a small type-casting machine, which unfortunately prove unsuitable. Previously the Scriptures had come up from Calcutta and their arrival was unpredictable. There were never enough hymn books however hard the Press worked. The hill on which the Press stood was alive with white ants and in 1946 hundreds of printed and bound hymnbooks were devastated by white ants. The destructive power of these ants [termites] is incredible. The printing machines were all foot-treadle and the shortage of type meant that no more than four pages could be printed at a time before the type had to be dismantled. For a time paper was unobtainable and had to be brought from Myanmar on the back of oxen. Sam Davies who was in charge of both the Press and the Bookroom wrote: ‘It is heartrending to have to turn away people from distant places without giving them books for which they had come and which they stand in so much need. It is sad to see ten children sharing one text book. It is a mystery to me how the school teachers achieve such good results’ (translated from Welsh). Sam Davies appealed for funds and type eventually reached Aizawl. Improvements were continual from then on and a great debt is owed to Pu Chawngzika, the Press Manager, and Pu Thawma, the Bookroom Manager.

In 1948 the first Matriculation candidates at the High School took their examinations under the new University of Guwahati. 68% of the candidates passed. In the following year it improved to 94%.

In February 1949 Rev. Chhuakhama died after a painful illness. He was in his mid-sixties and his death caused great distress in the Mizo church. Many hundreds attending his funeral that afternoon for, as was customary, he was buried the same day. Rev. J. Meirion Lloyd ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ presided over the crowded service at the Mission Veng Chapel. Rev. Chhuakhama’s old friend Pasena could hardly contain his emotion as he spoke.

In 1949 it became obvious that the Silchar to Aizawl road needed to be extended another 108 miles to Lunglei. A bridleway had existed since the end of the previous century but it was unfit for vehicles of any kind. Appeals were made to nearby villages to help to widen the road and the response was very good. The arrival in the winter of 1949 of such a well known missionary as Mendus ‘Pu Mena’ on a visit was an ideal opportunity to give the project some publicity. A day was set aside and after Sam Davies led the assembled throng in an act of worship Mendus ‘Pu Mena’ cut the first sod on the new road. The new bridleway still proved narrow. It was barely possible to go past the steep cliff overshadowed by Hmuifang mountain, even in a slim jeep, without scraping its side. The District Commissioner complained that the sides of his jeep had to be repainted frequently, and that the walls of the tyres wore out before the tread.

In 1950 Pu Sangliana B.A. was appointed headmaster of the High School.

In 1951, when the Government took over the new High School, the Synod felt that the way was clear to establish theological training in Aizawl itself. The only available room was the vestry of the Mission Veng Church. Those who offered themselves for the ministry did so through their Presbytery and were examined in Scriptural knowledge and the ability to write essays on theological and moral subjects. Many were eager to do the theological course and we never lacked for candidates. The curriculum of the Theological School was based on the Licentiate of Theology (L.Th.) Course as recommended by Serampore, the senior theological college of India, founded by William Carey [in 1818]. For some years the Theological School was combined with the Teachers’ Training School and the arrangement worked well for both Colleges.

In 1952 virtually the whole education system in Mizoram was taken over by the Government and far more money flowed into it.

Early in 1953 Pandit Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandi came on a State visit to Mizoram, together with the Chief Minister of Assam. By this time a completely newly aligned road from Aizawl to Lunglei had been surveyed and built. The Prime Minister performed an opening ceremony for the new road at Bawngkawn, Chaltlang.

On 26th August 1955 the translation of the whole Bible into Mizo was completed. This was celebrated with great enthusiasm in Aizawl and Serkawn. It was disappointing that this was not a combined celebration. With the monsoon rains the roads were too bad. It took another four years for the whole Bible to be printed and published [not at Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta (12)]. An edition of 30,000 was asked for but when the first copies arrived in 1959 there were only 5,000 copies. These were sold within twenty minutes. An edition of 10,000 was delivered in 1960.

The World Council of Churches helped us to apply for post graduate scholarships abroad. In 1959 Rev. Lalngurauva Ralte went to Boston, U.S.A. and in 1962 Rev. Pazawna went to Mansfield College, Oxford, and then to the Presbyterian United Theological College, Aberystwyth, Wales. Rev. Lalasawma went to India and Hong Kong.

In the late 1950’s an Arts College was established in Aizawl.

In October 1955 ownership of the Press and Bookroom were transferred from the Welsh Presbyterian Mission to the Synod.

There was no town electricity and in 1957 a diesel engine was bought for the Press so it had electricity for the first time. A large second-hand American printing press and a new Japanese press were bought which helped to increase production.

In February 1962, after a long and fruitful 38 years service, Katie Hughes ‘Pi Zaii’ flew back to the UK. She died at the end of 1963 at the age of 74. Numerous services were spontaneously held in her memory. The senior church elder in Durtlang remarked that he felt her death most keenly when he observed , on the way to the service, the number of small children who had been sobbing when they heard that ‘Pi Zaii’ had passed away.

The Theological School was without a home and this could not continue. A site was chosen on the edge of Mission Veng. Staff and students went to work with mattock, pick and shovel to level the site but eventually a mechanical digger had to finish the work. Candidates from the North Cachar Hills, South Mizoram, the Tuikuk (now called Riang) people and some from Burma were welcomed. The better qualified students went on to Cherrapunji, Serampore, Bangalore and Jabalpur.

In 1962 the Synod High School was established within Mission Veng and the first Headmaster was Lalngurauva Ralte who had gained his degree at Boston, U.S.A.

On 23rd January 1963 a large number of Christians, mainly young people from the village of Kolasib (fifty miles north of Aizawl), converged on the old tea garden on the Plains at Alexandrapur. They walked along the old path used by the original Mizo raiders. Tea was still grown there but the manager’s bungalow had been rebuilt about a mile away. The old site, though overgrown, revealed traces of the past. It was the place where Mary Winchester’s father had been killed on 23rd January 1871. On Wednesday morning there were nearly 800 present on the little hill where the bungalow once was. Tears flowed as Pu Zairema read from Psalms: ‘We have sinned with our fathers, We have committed iniquity, We have done wickedly.’ (Psalm 106). Two senior pastors, Pu Liangkhaia and Pu Thanga offered prayer and the choir sang the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ as though it had been written for the occasion.

In 1964 a new Scripture Atlas had been prepared for the Theological Education Conference in Bangalore which could be overprinted in different languages. Very soon there were copies in Mizo.

In 1964 Rev. C. Pazawna replaced Rev. J. Meirion Lloyd ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ as Principal of the Theological School. In 1965 the School became a College and six years later it was recognized up to B.Th. standard.

In early 1964 Mizoram was only beginning to recover from the Thingtam famine of 1959/61 when it was faced with an influx of refugees from Bangladesh. These were Chakmas and of the Buddhist faith. It was said nearly 300,000 were displaced from their homeland, the former East Bengal (13). They could not speak Mizo and Mizos could not understand Chakma. Mizo Christians, though still poor, gave of their labour to set up camps and distribute milk and food. The Christian Youth Society organized groups to meet the Chakma people as they came up the paths from the south, feeble and bedraggled. No attempt was made to proselytize them. The Chakmas traversed the whole length of Mizoram and were eventually helped by the Government of India to be resettled in an area beyond the Brahmaputra River in Northern Assam.

In 1964 J. Meirion Lloyd ‘Zohmangaihi Pa’ (14) and his wife Joan retired to England and rejoined their three children.

In 1966 the unthinkable took place. Armed conflict broke out between the Mizoram National Front and the Government of India, which continued for 20 years. Many good and innocent people were killed. During this time the Mizo Church policy was consistent. It encouraged its members to be non-violent and law-abiding. It maintained regular church services even during strict curfew, though some had to be held soon after sunrise.

In 1968 a Mobile Theological School, with a motor vehicle, was established. It was also recommended that the Theological College should accept women candidates.

On 15th January 1968 four missionaries, Miss Joyce, Miss Roberts, Miss. Rees Roberts and Miss. Bounds, left Mizoram. When the Mizo Church said goodbye to them the Welsh Mission was no longer a presence in Mizoram. At their farewell meeting in Aizawl an Elder read from Leviticus Chapter 6, verse 13. ‘You have started the fire on the altar; be sure we will keep it burning and not allow it to go out’. With that assurance they left Mizoram.

In 1969, for political reasons, the Government of India decided that all missionaries should be withdrawn from the North East. This involved all Presbyterian and Baptist missionaries, together with their medical personnel. All the property of the Mission, including the houses of the missionaries, was transferred to the Church with no payment made.

In 1977 Mrs. Zomuani Gaikwad became the first Mizo woman to gain her Bachelor of Divinity.

Peace came in August 1986 and Mizoram became India’s 23rd State.


NOTE:

Notes continued from previous page...

(11). ‘God’s Miracle in Mizoram’, Rev. Zairema, Synod Press and Bookroom, 1978.

(12). Baptist Mission Press, Calcutta, did print the newly completed translation of the ‘Old Testament’, which was published in 1956. Print-run 5,000.

(13). The new country of Bangladesh became a Muslim State. Chakmas were moving east and Hindu Bangalis were moving west to swell the population of Calcutta even more.

(14). Their two sons were at Eltham College, South-East London, then the School for the Sons of Missionaries. Their daughter was at Walthamstow Hall, Sevenoaks, Kent, then the School for the Daughters of Missionaries. Neither school has missionary children anymore, nor do they accept boarders. Both are still good schools but only serve the locality.

TEXT ONLY