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Why lasting peace along the borders of Assam and Nagaland is an elusive dream

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credits: mountainkingdoms.com

By Partha Prawal

The history of border dispute between Assam and Nagaland dates back to centuries ago and in the recent times these disputes have only grown in stature, where both sides keep pointing fingers at each other. Hundreds of lives have been lost so far and the numbers continue to pile up.

Sibsagar, Golaghat and Jorhat districts of Assam share its borders with Nagaland and reports of violence in the fringe areas alongside the border areas keep making headlines.

On November 13, 2014, one person was killed and three others injured when Naga miscreants fired indiscriminately on a group of Assamese villagers at Uriamghat, Sector B, along Assam-Nagaland border in Golaghat district. There are reports that nine persons went missing. This November 13 incident was a recurrence of August 13, 2014, incident that took place in the same area of the district. Around 5000 people were rendered homeless back then.

If an outsider is made to read such incidents, then he is bound to believe that peace and harmony along the border areas of Assam-Nagaland is just an elusive dream. But amid such disparity, a hamlet in Saibsagar district tells a different tale where peace harmony and brotherhood always find space in the front row.

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“These killings are senseless and they bring no benefit to anybody,” remarked Samson Konyak, a resident of Sibsagar district’s ‘Naga Village’, in a telephonic conversation.

“Even though we are Nagas by birth and still have our clan back in Dimapur, Mon and Kohima, feel proud of ourselves and we take pride in introducing ourselves as Assamese. The people in the border areas are actually catalyzed by some politicos and officials with vested interests,” the 23-year-old management student from the village further added.

The Naga Village is 15 kilometres from Sivasagar town. Even though the name gives an impression that it will be a small community of Naga people trying to blend their culture with that of the Assamese, but a half an hour bike ride on the Sivasagar-Nazira road to this now declared ‘model village’ is certain to change the preconceived impression for sure.

indialine.comThe village roughly has some 70-80 Konyak Naga families, who not only follow the traditional Naga customs, but are also comfortable with the Assamese way of life.

Established as early as 16-17th century, the village has survived many storms to stand united today. The village population is primarily Vaishnavite, following the religious cult of Srimanta Sankardeva.

 

“We are the disciples of the Guru of Moira Moira Sattra, as our forefathers got converted to  Vaishnavism when they first came to the place. Since then, we have followed the same custom and have remained Vaishnavites,” said Montu Konyak, a resident of the village.

While a few families came with the guru, a few are the descendants of those businessmen who came from Naga Hills and left their clan behind. The majority though, had come with the Naga Princess Watlong (popularly known as the Ahom Queen Dalimi), wife of Ahom king Gadadha.

“We have relatives in Kohima, Dimapur and various other places in Nagaland. When we go there, we receive a warm reception. All these border issues and political unrest between the two states, doesn’t bother us. After all, a Naga princess was an Assamese queen and this means that the Nagas and the Assamese are relatives. This is not Mahabharata and neither is someone a Pandava nor a Kaurava. We are not enemies,” remarks another resident.

The Naga village celebrates six to seven traditional festivals every year, but the biggest of all is Aoleng, which is celebrated mostly during the spring season.

“Aoleng is celebrated according to the new moon and is celebrated to mark the end of a year and to welcome the New Year. Apart from Aoleng, we also celebrate Magh Bihu, Bohag Bihu, Janmastami, Durga Puja and Kali Puja with equal respect,” further informed Montu, a resident of the village.

Like the villages in Nagaland, the traditional and religious Naga customs are followed here as well. The village is under one Morung Ghar and anything auspicious or any news of the interest of the village is shared in its premises, after gathering a crowd by beating the log drum.

“It is a Naga custom that every Naga boy in a village has to offer his services to the Morung Ghar for a year and we also follow this custom,” shared Montu.

But despite all this loyalty to their Assamese identity, there are times when these Nagas feel a little alienated. Sometimes they feel that the Assam government is yet to give them due recognition as Assamese. A government job still eludes many.

“A girl from the village was denied the post of an Assamese teacher in a local school, even though she topped the university in the Assamese subject; a less qualified candidate was given the job. Expect for her surname, there was nothing non-Assamese in her for the job to be denied to her,” bemoaned Samson.

Border issues, political struggles and ethnic dominion maybe eating away the fabric of camaraderie between states, but the real picture when it comes to the common man seems to be rather different. That one needs acknowledgement and respect for such intercultural mingling and coexistence of course goes unsaid, but it is also true that the state government needs to offer something more tangible than promises in the air.

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  • Pollob Protim Goswamee

    It was a good read, a different story altogether. What we mostly hear is abut the negative and grey stories about Assam-Nagaland border violence but this story throws a completely different perspective even though the headline suggested something else. Good job Partha Prawal, keep the good job up.

  • Pollob Protim Goswamee

    It was a good read, a different story altogether. What we mostly hear is abut the negative and grey stories about Assam-Nagaland border violence but this story throws a completely different perspective even though the headline suggested something else. Good job Partha Prawal, keep the good job up.

Next Story

North-East Assembly Elections: Everything You Need To Know About The Elections In Tripura, Meghalaya, And Nagaland

North-East Assembly elections 2018 will directly affect the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent government formation

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north-east assembly elections
50.4% registered voters were women (outnumbering men) in the final electoral rolls of the state of Meghalaya. Wikimedia Commons

Many states are gearing up for the North-East Assembly elections 2018 that are being said to be the defining factor for the future political dynamics of India. Elections dates in the on-going states of Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura were February 18 for Tripura, while the other two states will hold their round of elections on February 27. The elections will be held in two phases, and the results will be announced on March 3.

Many parties are looking forward to extending their political reach in the north-eastern region. North-East Assembly elections 2018 will directly affect the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and subsequent government formation.

ALSO READ: 64% Voters cast their vote in the First phase of UP Elections

north-east assembly elections
EVMs will be installed for the first time. Wikimedia Commons

Here is everything you need to know about the north-east assembly elections 2018:

1. The incumbent assembly tenure in Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura will end on March 6, 13 and 14 respectively. Each of these states has a 60-member assembly.

2. In all the three states, Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) have been implemented.

3. VVPAT machines are being implemented in Meghalaya for the first time since its formation in 1970. Voters had been using the ballot-paper until now.

4. The Election Commission of India had asked Assam Rifles (India’s oldest paramilitary force) to reinforce the Indo-Myanmar border in Nagaland in order to prevent any form of disturbance before the polls. The state has been suffering insurgent movements and cross-border militant infiltration.

north-east assembly elections
Before EVMs, the Ballot-system was used for the voting process. Wikimedia Commons

5. To increase the participation of women, the Election Commission has installed 60 Pink booths that will be managed by women staff. The booths will be placed in every constituency.

6. 86,890 votes in Meghalaya aged between 18 and 19 years will be exercising their vote for the first time. To encourage these first-time voters, the EC felicitated them on National Voters Day on January 25.

7. The Election Commission will monitor the elections live through webcast and CCTV cameras to ensure a fair and free election.

8.  Around 193 polling booths in Meghalaya will be directly webcasted to the Chief Electoral Officer or District Electoral Officer and Election Commission of India.

ALSO READ: Russia’s Last appeal to US Voters: Russia has no intention of interfering in America’s Presidential Elections

Tripura

  • Ramendra Chandra is the current speaker of the Eleventh Legislative Assembly.
  • Since 1993, the CPI(M) has been in power in the state.
  • While BJP has 7 MLAs in the state assembly and is also the main opposition party.
  • Manik Sarkar, the Chief Minister of Tripura, is a Politburo Member of Communist Party of India (Marxist).
  • He became the Chief Minister for the fourth time after 2013 Assembly Elections.
  • Manik Sarkar is known for his honesty and low monetary resources.

Meghalaya

  • The Meghalaya Legislative Assembly was constituted as a directly elected body in 1972 comprising 60 members.
  • 50.4% registered voters were women (outnumbering men) in the final electoral rolls of the state.
  • With a total population of 3.2 million, Meghalaya has a literacy rate of 74.4%.
  • Unlike Tripura, no one in Meghalaya registered for the third gender option in the final rolls.
  • 597 polling stations have been increased from 2,485 in 2013 to 3,082 in 2018. It’s an increase of about 24%.
north-east assembly elections
The Election Commission of India has set 60 Pink Booths. Wikimedia Commons

Nagaland

  • On 1 December 1963, Nagaland became a state of India. Also, the first Nagaland Legislative Assembly was formed on 11 February 1964.
  • The strength of the state assembly was increased to 60 members in 1974.
  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the assembly election in the state will be held on schedule amidst a demand by the state’s civil society groups for deferring the polls to facilitate a solution to the vexed Naga insurgency issue.
  • The expectations for a lasting peace have soared in Nagaland, which had been hit by insurgency for decades after the Centre and the NSCN-IM signed a framework agreement in 2015.