In the northeast, dwindling numbers of locals are linked to threats from others. In 'Us-they' syndrome, Nagaland and Manipur have witnessed clashes between Kukis and a group of Nagas. In Mizoram, local Lushai tribes have issues against Brus or Reangs.
New Delhi: It's a socio-religious and number game, but with a difference.
An influential Mizoram church body wants extended maternity leave to ensure that local women can deliver more babies. The Lunglei Baptist Veng Church in 2017 had announced cash awards for mothers giving birth to over two children. It said couples with four children will be given Rs 4000 and Rs 5000 for the fifth.
Earlier this year, one minister in the state honoured women who had given birth to multiple children with cash rewards at a public function in media presence. The Mizoram public leaders and influential church bodies from time to time have expressed concern over "fewer children' among local mothers. But this issue has been flagged off along with quite an 'out of box' demand.
The apex, Presbyterian Church executive body, Synod, has passed a formal resolution urging the state authorities to give prolonged and extended maternity leave to Mizo mothers working under the state government. The mandatory 180 days' leave is being given to Mizo working women, as in the rest of the country. This move will help 'mothers' beget more babies, they say. Unlike elsewhere, the Mizos face dwindling population numbers, says one Ru Lalrinsanga.
In Mizoram and two other Christian stronghold northeastern states Meghalaya and Nagaland, the fear around dwindling numbers among locals is that they may be swamped by the outsiders (non-tribal) from the rest of India and also other tribal groups. There have been clashes with Kukis by a group of Nagas in Nagaland and Manipur and local Lushai tribes have issues against Brus or Reangs in the latter state.
One argument is the latest report that says the fertility rate in India on average has dropped below the 'replacement level'. The total fertility rate of India in 2017 stood at 2.2. According to the National Family Health Survey, India's total fertility rate dropped below the replacement level of 2.1. It is now at 2.0. Every Indian mother now should have 2.1 children if the country has to 'replace' the fast declining existing population.
Even Nagas, another vibrant tribal and Christian community in northeast India, uses the refrain-a mother's womb is not the graveyard. They have opposed the small 'family norm' as propagated in the eighties and nineties.
Young Mizo Association leader Van Ruata says, "The population decline is a serious issue. It will be unfortunate to link it to local people opposing the influx. We are not against plain people who come and reside either for business or professional reasons."
The December 2018 assembly elections almost were boycotted by Mizos over the 'voting rights' of the Brus or Renags tribes. Only last-minute corrective intervention from the Election Commission of India saved the day.
There are certain complexities here too. Mizoram has for months now accommodated and helping 'refugees from the Chin province of Myanmar who are taking shelter after facing persecution following the army coup and harsh military actions since the February coup. The 'sharing' ethnic bond is a crucial factor, as they say.