Hundreds of students led by Mizoram’s influential student body Mizo Students’ Union (MSU) on Tuesday gheraoed state higher and technical education department directorate office to prevent the department director, a non-local, from attending her office.
The protest was held at a time when the budget session is going on.
The students demanded that director Nazuk Kumar, a 2016 batch IAS officer, be replaced by a Mizo IAS officer as it is not categorically safe to put a non-Mizo officer to head the department based on past incidents, which result in crisis over allotment of seats for technical education.
The 29-year-old AGMUT cadre IAS officer was transferred from Chandigarh to Mizoram in January this year and was initially given the post of additional secretary in the state Information and Communication Technology Department.
Recently, she was given the post of director in the state’s Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs department and then transferred to the higher and technical education department within three days to head the department as director.
MSU president J. Lalmuanzuala said the students’ body is vehemently opposed to the government’s decision of appointing a non-Mizo officer to head higher and technical education department because there were protests over the allotment of seats for technical education when the department was headed by non-Mizo IAS officers in the past.
He said the MSU leaders had met deputy chief minister Tawnluia on March 2 and submitted a representation demanding the replacement of Kumar with a Mizo IAS officer but to no avail.
He said that they have no personal hatred towards the director just for being a non-Mizo.
However, they opposed her post in such an important department as it concerns the careers of indigenous students.
He alleged that issues concerning technical education have crept up whenever a non-Mizo officer was posted as director of the higher and technical education department.
Lalmuanzuala said the state government, if willing, can replace or transfer the director immediately as she was transferred to two departments in just three days.
“We want a Mizo officer who understands the local ethos and interests of the students,” he said.
The protest intensified after Nazuk Kumar attended office with the help of police on Tuesday morning.
However, the protesters dispersed in the evening after they were given verbal assurance by the government that Kumar will not attend office till her replacement.
There were no reports of any untoward incident during the protest.
Meanwhile, an official said that higher and technical education was among the several departments that legally require an IAS officer to head as director.
She said that Mizoram has been facing a shortage of Mizo IAS officers for a few years now, and that the state government faced many hurdles in appointing Mizo officers to head important departments.
State’s apex students’ body, the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), had staged a massive protest in 2015 after 38 Chakma students were given seats for medical and technical education under category-I of State Medical and Technical Entrance Examination (SMATEE).
This forced the state government to amend The Mizoram (Selection of Candidates for Higher Technical Courses), Rules, 1999 in 2016.
Under the 1999 rule, applicants for State Medical and Technical Entrance Examination are classified into three categories for seat allotment viz. children of permanent residents (indigenous) of Mizoram as Category-I; children of non-local permanent residents of Mizoram as Category-II; and children of central or other state govt employees not permanently serving in Mizoram as Category-III.
The MZP standpoint, therefore, was that Category- I is exclusively reserved for the indigenous Zo- ethnic people of Mizoram (Mizos) and the inclusion of Chakma under this category is an encroachment upon the rights and privileges of the indigenous Mizos as Chakmas are not indigenous people of the state.
The new rules, however, were stayed by the Gauhati High Court in June 2016 following the PIL filed by the Mizoram Chakma Students’ Union (MCSU).
Later, the High Court dismissed the petition after the petitioner failed to appear in the court.
On February 22, 2019, the High Court quashed the Mizoram (Selection of Candidates for Higher Technical Courses) Rules, 2016 which put the “Zo-ethnic people” (Mizos) who are known as indigenous under Category-I and “non-Zo ethnic people” under Category-II.
The High Court held that “the impugned rule placing children of non-Zo-ethnic people of Mizoram in Category-II cannot be sustained and said that they should be placed along with the Zo-ethnic people of the state in the same category.
However, the state cabinet headed by chief minister Zoramthanga had on July 8, 2019, removed non-Mizo communities, including the Chakmas, who are labelled as “non-indigenous” from category-I.
They reserved the category for Zo-ethnic people stating that there are no indigenous people of the state other than the native Mizos.
A few days later, The Supreme Court dismissed the Special Leave Petition (SPL) filed by the Mizoram government against the Gauhati High Court judgment.