Monday, August 8, 2022

Acting like a hostile neighbour

Just when north east states having border disputes with Assam are trying to resolve them through dialogue before the 75th Indian independence day on August 15, 2022 as advised by union home minister Amit Shah, Assam a BJP-ruled state, has again re-activated its belligerence along the border with Nagaland after a lull of almost a year. On June 27, intruders from Assam side destroyed plantations belonging to villagers of Yajang C under Mokokchung district. The incident occurred on Sunday when the villagers were attending Sunday church service. On learning about the reports of Assam police and some Assam villagers “deliberately destroying” standing crops of cultivated land and plantations belonging to Yajang ‘C’ Village, a delegation of Central Nagaland Students Association (CNSA) and Ao Kaketshir Mundang (AKM) went to the spot on June 29, 2022. The student delegation verified the matter and confirmed that the land in question belonged to Yajang C Village (Ao Naga) and was well within the territory of Yajang C village. The traditional and historical boundary between the Aos and Ahoms, is in Sivasagar (erstwhile Sibsagar) but which has been redrawn by the British through the 1925 notification. The British took special interest in Assam mainly for growing tea gardens and extraction of natural resources. The dispute did not arise merely when both states claimed the same area as that would make it a matter of claims and counter-claim. The dispute arose when the British colonial government arbitrarily transferred huge chunks of land belong to Naga tribes to Assam and placed it under Sibsagar for expanding tea gardens and extraction of natural resources. During their visit to the site of Sunday’s incident, both –CNSA and AKM- asserted that besides the particular plantation area destroyed by intruders from Assam side, the tea estates under cultivation beyond the land belong to Yajang ‘C’village as these estates have been paying land tax to the village. Coincidentally, another major incident occurred around the same time- on July 1, 2021- in the same area, when Assam dispatched a contingent of around one hundred uniformed personnel led by the Armed Police Battalion inside Tzurongkong area within the vicinity of Vikuto village to set up an outpost. These two instances of using force to intrude inside the territory of another state, do not augur well for peace and harmony among those living along the border areas and the people of both states in general. Besides police or other state agencies of Assam, it has also been the practice of some organisations in Assam, to enforce economic blockade at the entry points to Mokokchung over border issues. As per the border agreement between Assam and Nagaland, reaffirmed at almost every inter-state border meeting, they are to maintain a status quo and no activity undertaken by any of them in the disputed areas. States in the region such as Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have a long history of boundary dispute with Assam with frequent violent incidents. This should make Assam realise that its border disputes with other north eastern states reinforces the belief that it is justifying its claims on to the wrong policies of the colonial rulers, at the expense of the rightful owners. Rejecting the traditional ownership is like rejecting history and in doing so, the distortion of the past is sought to be justified.

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