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Zakapa Award goes to woman theologian-activist Dr Lalrinawmi Ralte

Aizawl: The first Zakapa Award, established by the Mizoram government’s Department of Social Welfare and Tribal Affairs, has been presented to a renowned Mizo theologian and dedicated activist Dr. Lalrinawmi Ralte.

The special award function held in Aizawl on Friday was graced by Chief Minister Zoramthanga, who commended the department’s visionary efforts in creating an award that champions women’s empowerment. The award pays homage to the memory of the revered Mizo chief Zakapa.

In his address, Zoramthanga urged everyone to reflect upon and admire Chief Zakapa’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding the women of his community. He encouraged all to draw inspiration from Chief Zakapa’s legacy and emulate his noble example in promoting gender equality and empowerment.

Zakapa, a prominent chief of the Fanai (Mizo clan), ruled the village of Khawhri in southern Mizoram during the late 19th century.

During the tumultuous period of the second Lushai Expedition, Zakapa’s refusal to allow the women of his village to be subjected to the desires of a British officer, led to a tense armed confrontation.

The superintendent of the South Lushai Hills at that time, C.S. Murray, known as Marliana by the Mizos, had gained a notorious reputation for his inappropriate behavior. It was widely rumored that he would seek fleeting liaisons with women in every village he visited.

Upon his arrival in Zakapa’s village, Murray, as was his custom, made inappropriate requests for women. However, the chief responded resolutely, firmly stating, “That is not in accordance with our customs.”

Murray persisted, even going so far as to demand the chief’s wife when other women were not made available. At this point, Zakapa, driven to his limits, took up his firearm and aimed it directly at the officer’s chest. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of an armed confrontation that ultimately forced Murray to flee the scene, as recorded in historical accounts.

Er Lalrinawma, the Minister for the Department of Social Welfare & Tribal Affairs and Chairman of the Zakapa Award Organising Committee, highlighted the significance of establishing the Zakapa Award 130 years after the chief’s death. He said, “Though it may be considered belated, it is never too late to pay tribute to our courageous chief.”

Zoramthangi, the Director of Women & Child Development and Member Secretary of the award organising committee, outlined the rigorous criteria set for the award. From a pool of several deserving candidates, Dr. Lalrinawmi Ralte emerged as the distinguished recipient.

The award includes a citation and a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh.

Dr. Lalrinawmi Ralte is not just an activist theologian but a fervent advocate for women’s rights. She is deeply involved in addressing social, political, and religious issues, with a particular focus on the underprivileged and women. Her unwavering commitment is best encapsulated in her own words, “My dedication to my work knows no bounds; I am always ready to support initiatives related to the welfare of children and women.” A former professor, she boasts an impressive academic background:

Doctor of Theology (D.Th) from the Senate of Serampore College (University), with a dissertation titled “Contributions to the Ecofeminist Debate in Theology From A Tribal Woman’s Perspective.”

Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) from the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Boston, USA, focusing on “Crab Theology: A Feminist Critique of Cultural Degradation and Empowerment of Mizo Women.”

Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) from the Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, with a thesis titled “A Manual for Discovering the History, Spirituality, and Theology of Women as a Liberating Force For Christian Churches in Mizoram.”

Her literary contributions extend to four published books in English and eight in Mizo, along with 14 published articles covering theology and women’s empowerment, as well as biographies.

Dr. Lalrinawmi Ralte has retired as a professor and chairperson of the Women’s Studies Department at the United Theological College in Bangalore, and currently lives in Aizawl.

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