Goodbye friend! Pu Laldenga

Swaraj Kaushal

Once I used harsh words with Pu Lalthanhawla, then Chief Minister of Mizoram. I went to his house and apologised.

April 1990 - PU Laldenga came to see me. He told me that for about a month or so, he was running low grade temperature. I knew he was once a chain smoker. His favourite brand in Pakistan was ‘Four Castles’. I am telling you the brand because this is how the castle was lost./2

I hastened his flight to Delhi. Aiims doctors diagnosed lung cancer. Laldenga was upset on hearing this. So was I. George Fernandes was always very helpful in such matters. Laldenga was rushed to a Sloan Kettering in New York. GF knew the Surgeon there, Dr.Manjit Singh Bains./3

PU Lalthanhawla promised the state will bear the expenses.  I was in touch with the doctors and the CG New York. One day our CG told me that there was no hope and Laldenga should fly back to Mizoram./4

I spoke to the doctors. There was really no hope. That evening I spoke to Laldenga. 
SK : Kapu, how are you ?
Laldenga : I am alright except that I am feeling very weak and I am in great pain.
SK : Father, you come back to Mizoram. You will feel better.
Laldenga : Yesssssss !/5

Then he told me something confidential.
SK : Father, you don’t worry. You come back to Mizoram. I will take care.
Laldenga : OK.......
Laldenga was on his way to India. His condition deteriorated. The flight landed in London. Laldenga was admitted in London hospital. /6

7th July 1990 - Laldenga breathed his last. Laldenga had desired that in such an event he should not be resuscitated. 
So Laldenga was no more. As per his wish, Kanu (Mrs.Laldenga) got him a very beautiful coffin. Laldenga’s mortal remains are flown to India with the family. /7

12th July 1990 - Laldenga’s mortal remains reach Aizawl. Now the question was where to bury Laldenga. Congress party wanted to bury Laldenga in the local cemetery. This was not acceptable to me and the MNF leaders./8

I was trying to persuade Chief Minister PU Lalthanhawla that Laldenga had signed the peace accord with government of India. He was twice Chief Minister of Mizoram. We should bury him in the town and accord a state funeral. PU Hawla was not ready./9

Meanwhile the MNF leaders met me. I knew the temperament of each one of them. Then Tawnluia told me “there is an open space in the town and Pu Laldenga should be buried there. Otherwise, I will not be able to control my boys.” /10

Mizoram Accord was signed on 30th June 1986. MNF gave all the weapons. Laldenga was sworn in as interim Chief Minister. Then elections were held in February,1987 and MNF got a convincing majority. /11

Laldenga became first Chief Minister of the state. One thing wrong with governors is that they are always keen on toppling a popular government and imposing President’s rule. Mr.Hiteshwar Saikia, first governor of Mizoram was no different. /12

Congress leadership at the centre and governor Saikia organised defections and toppled the popular MNF government in September 1988. President’s rule was imposed. This was sheer betrayal of the Mizo Peace Accord. /13

In January 1989, elections were held in Mizoram. Congress party came out with the election manifesto that promised to make Mizoram a ‘Christian state.’ MNF lost that election. MNF filed election petitions in Guwahati High Court but to no avail./14

In February 1990, VP Singh government sent me as Governor of Mizoram. It was just four years since Mizoram Peace Accord was signed. PU Tawnluia was the army chief of the MNF underground. I knew Mizoram Peace Accord was at stake./15

I was trying every reason with Chief Minister Pu Lalthanhawla to allow Laldenga’s burial in the town. Pu Hawla wanted the burial in a cemetery. At last I told Pu Hawla, “Then it is alright. You do what you like. Laldenga will be buried at this very place.”/16

I went inside to take a call from Delhi. When I came out Pu Lalthanhawla had gone. Mrs.Laldenga’s demeanour also showed that this was not appropriate. I also realised that this was not right. I drove up to Pu Lalthhawla and apologised to him./17

I came back to Raj Bhawan. I got a call from Pu Lalthanhawla. He said, ‘Brother, I have never told you No. I see reason in what you say. I have given instructions. There will be a state funeral and Pu Laldenga will be buried at the desired place.’/18

13th July 1990 - Pu Ladenga was laid at rest at the designated place. George Fernandes attended the funeral. Mizoram has raised a peace memorial there. It is always my endeavour to offer floral tributes at the peace memorial./19.

13 July 1990 - Laldenga funeral. You see us all there. Please mark the Mizo shawl worn on such occasions.

Pu Laldenga had one last wish. He wanted to be buried in a beautiful coffin. So Kanu (Mrs.Laldenga) fulfilled that wish in London. My last memory of Laldenga is - he is lying elegantly dressed in a three piece suit sporting a neck-tieand we lower him in the grave./21

Goodbye friend ! Pu Laldenga. We spent 11 years together - when you were in the death cell and I was your lawyer. Then I received you at your home after securing your release from jail in 1979. I was not only to win the case but also arrange sureties for you. /22

When Mrs. Indira Gandhi became the prime minister in 1980, we resumed the negotiations. I settled the Charter of demands. We met every day, sometimes many times a day for advice and update. Despite our best efforts, the talks failed./23

1982 - You had to leave. I remember you asked me.
Laldenga : Swaraj, do you believe the lady wants me to go ?
SK : Yes ! 
Laldenga : What makes you think so ? 
SK : Because she is a lady. And ladies in power can take very hard decisions. /24

Laldenga : Then where should I go ?
SK : London.
Laldenga : Why London ?
SK : Because International dialling is available only between Delhi and London. I want the dialogue to resume. The ISD will help there.
Laldenga : But I don’t know a soul there./25

The police ring around my house confirmed that talks had failed. The security officials would collect my mail from the post office in the morning itself. I would receive all my letters open in the evening and sometimes after a few days. That seriously affected my practice./26

(Governor Swaraj: Swaraj Kaushal (born 12 July 1952) is an Indian criminal lawyer practicing in New Delhi. He was designated as a senior advocate by the Supreme Court of India at age 34, and he became the Governor of Mizoram at the age of 37, serving between 1990 and 1993. More about him- HERE)

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