State (pop., 2001 prelim.: 891,058), northeastern India.

Occupying an area of 8,139 sq mi (21,081 sq km), it is bounded by Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh and the states of Tripura, Assam, and Manipur. It is largely mountainous; its capital is Aizawl. The various ethnic groups of Mizoram are known collectively as the Mizo (Lushai), and they speak a variety of Tibeto-Burman dialects. They were in revolt against India for decades, and the establishment of Mizoram as a union territory in 1972 failed to appease them. The conflict was settled in 1987 with the promotion of Mizoram to statehood and the election of a Mizo-led state government. The economy is based on agriculture.

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      state of India. It is located in the northeastern part of the country and has an area of 8,140 square miles (21,081 square kilometres). It is bounded by Myanmar (Burma) to the east and south and Bangladesh to the west and by the states of Tripura to the northwest, Assam to the north, and Manipur to the northeast. The capital is Āīzawl.

      Mizoram (“Land of the Mizos”) became a state in 1987. Formerly the Lushai Hills District of Assam, it was renamed the Mizo Hills District in 1954. Between 1972 and 1987 it was a centrally administered union territory under the name of Mizoram.

Physical and human geography
      Geologically the Mizo Hills form a part of the Arakan (Rakhine Mountains) arc, a series of compact parallel ridges with a north-south axis formed of Tertiary sandstone, limestone, and shales (i.e., rocks between 1.6 and 66.4 million years old). The ridges, separated by narrow river valleys, rise to 7,077 feet (2,157 metres). In the south, the Kaladan River and its tributaries flow southward into Myanmar, while the Dhaleswari (Tlawng) and Sonai (Tuirail) rivers flow north into Assam.

      The climate in Mizoram is moderate. The annual average temperature at Āīzawl is 68° F (20° C). Rainfall occurs mainly during the southwest monsoon (May to September), and the total annual rainfall in some areas is as high as 100 inches (2,500 millimetres).

      The hills are covered with thick evergreen forest containing valuable timber trees, such as champak, ironwood, and gurjun. The forest provides habitat for many animals, including elephants, tigers, bears, deer, and wild buffalo.

      Mizoram's (Mizo) population is composed of numerous groups, loosely called Mizo, a local term meaning “highlanders.” Tribes in the area, many of whom formerly practiced headhunting, include the Kuki, Pawi, Lakher, and Chakma. They are classified among the Tibeto-Burman peoples and speak a number of Tibeto-Burman dialects; some tribes are so isolated that their dialects are unintelligible to groups living in neighbouring valleys. Mizo and English are the principal and official languages; having no script of its own, Mizo uses the Roman script. Literacy is among the highest in India. As a result of conversions beginning as early as the 1890s (though most occurring in the 1920s and '30s), more than 80 percent of the population is now Christian; the great majority are Protestants. Small minorities of Hindus and Buddhists also are found in the state.

      Agriculture is the dominant economic activity. Both terraced cultivation and jhūm (shifting) tillage (in which tracts are cleared by burning and sown with mixed crops) are practiced. Rice, corn (maize), cotton, and vegetables are the main crops. The greater number of people farming has reduced the traditional eight-year jhūm cycle, and there has been an accompanying decline in yields.

      There are no major industries in the state. Small-scale industries include sericulture, handloom and handicrafts industries, sawmills and furniture workshops, oil refining, grain milling, and ginger processing.

      The state's poor transport and communications are a major obstacle to economic growth. Although a road system is being developed, a single road links the towns of Āīzawl (Aizawl) and Lunglei in Mizoram to Silchar in Assam. There are no railways. Vayudoot, India's low-capacity and short-haul domestic airline, provides service from Āīzawl to Silchar and to Calcutta in West Bengal.

      The governor, appointed by the president of India, is the head of state and is assisted by a chief minister, a Council of Ministers, and a 40-seat Legislative Assembly (Vidhān Sabhā). The state is divided into three administrative districts—Āīzawl, Chhimtuipui, and Lunglei.

      Music and dance are important elements in Mizo cultural life. Celebrations include the Christian holidays, as well as local agricultural festivals, such as Pawlkut and Mimkut. Āīzawl has a campus of the North-Eastern Hill University.

      Little is known of Mizoram's early history. Between 1750 and 1850 the Mizo (formerly called Lushai) tribes migrated from the nearby Chin Hills and subjugated the indigenous population; these similar tribes were assimilated into their own society. The Mizo developed an autocratic political system based on some 300 hereditary chieftanships.

      The tribes of Mizoram remained unaffected by foreign political influence until the British annexed Assam in 1826 under the Treaty of Yandabo. During the next decades, Mizo raids into British territory led to occasional punitive expeditions by the British. Although not formally annexed until the early 1890s, the region had come under British control two decades earlier.

      Initially administered as the North Lushai Hills (in the province of Assam) and South Lushai Hills (within the Bengal Presidency), the region was united as the Lushai Hills District of Assam in 1898. The district had come under the government's Inner Line Regulations in 1873, which prohibited the movement of people from the plains into the hills. In 1935 the Lushai Hills was declared an “excluded area”—i.e., the provincial legislature was stripped of its jurisdiction over the area, and responsibility for the district's administration was placed directly in the hands of the governor of Assam.

      Following India's independence in 1947, the district continued as part of Assam. Increasing discontent among the Mizo, however, led to a declaration of independence by the Mizo National Front in 1966. The ensuing armed rebellion compelled India's union (central) government to assume Mizoram's administration and to make it a union territory in 1972. The insurgency continued until the signing of the Mizoram Peace Accord in 1986. As a result of this accord, Mizoram was granted statehood in 1987, but other terms of the agreement were not implemented, resulting in renewed unrest among the Mizo.

Deryck O. Lodrick

Additional Reading
Suhas Chaterjee, Mizoram Encyclopaedia, 3 vol. (1990), provides information on important people, places, and historical events. K.K. Upadhyaya, Development Problems and Prospects of Mizoram (1986); and V.S. Mahajan, Economic Development of Border States of India (1988), focus on the economy, the latter covering Punjab as well as Mizorām. Historical works include Suhas Chatterjee, Mizoram Under the British Rule (1985); and Animesh Ray, Mizoram: Dynamics of Change (1982). Political history from the advent of the British to the present is discussed in R.N. Prasad, Government and Politics in Mizoram (1987).

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Universalium. 2010.

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