Post Mortem

Noklak-The nascent district of Nagaland

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/12/2020 1:32:59 PM IST

 Noklak the 12th District of Nagaland was established on 21 Dec 2017 and eventually became a reality on 06 Aug 20 - a red letter day for the district, when the newly appointed DC and SP took charge of their duties and an elusive dream of the populace of a remote and an underdeveloped area became a reality. The Khiamniungan Tribe are the natives of most of the Villages in Noklak District whereas the Chang Tribe dwells in the villages located in the Chingmei Range to the North.

The District Headquarters located at Noklak Town can be approached from Tuensang via Chendang Saddle on NH 202in approximately 3 hours. The Patkai Mountain Range lies to the East and the watershed forms the demarcated Indo-Myanmar Boundary. The villages that are strung along the Indo-Myanmar Border are Noklak, Pangsha, Wenshoi,Nokyan, Nokhu, Panso, Chuklangan, Wui and Thonoknyu. Pangsha Village (barely 2 Kms from the International Border) is located 13 Kms from Noklak Town and has great historic relevance.  In 1957 before formation of the Nagaland State when the region was part of erstwhile NEFA, the village was attacked by Myanmar based rebels. The fearless Khiamniungans villagers armed with a few weapons were able to repulse the attack and defend the villagers successfully. This incident became the turning point in Village Defence and the birth place of the Village Guards. Also due to its easy accessibility it was the venue of numerous meetings between the representatives of Government of India and the Myanmar based Naga rebels as a prelude to the signing of the Shillong Accord in 1975.

The Shillong Accord was signed in 1975 but a faction had reneged as such the deployment of the Security Forces continued in Nagaland. As a young officer, I was fortunate to be deployed at a Combined Army & Assam Rifles Post at Chuklangan Village. The road from Chendang Saddle to Noklak was not metaled  and non-skid chains were fixed on wheels to prevent vehicles from getting bogged down during monsoons. Noklak was the Road head and only foot tracks emanated to the various villages, except Pangsha which had a connecting fair weather track for light vehicles till just short of the Village.

The approach to Chuklangan was via Nokhu Village and it took over six hours trek through forested hilly track covered with dense bamboo and cane vegetation. Chuklangan was a unique village as it was located in a Valley whereas most Naga Villages are on Hill tops. As such the water source was nearby. The name if we break-up into Chok (Deer) and La (Taken away by the River) The folklore says probably a deer was swept away in the river and village named after the incident. From the village two Tracks led to the International Boundary; one to the North East through Bamboo Forests was a shorter route and took two hours to the Boundary Pillar, whereas the other to the South East was a longer one and took three hours to the Boundary Pillar. Due to provisions of Free Movement Regime (FMR) trans-border movement of villagers was permitted. Khiamniungan  Nagas of Myanmar used to bring Fowl in wicker baskets slung on their backs for barter trade and return after few days after collecting their requirement of Tea, Salt and Iron(for making dahs or implements) in exchange. Comparatively the movement was lesser to Myanmar of Villagers residing in India. The documentation regarding their arrival/departure was done at the Office of EAC Office Noklak.

The Chuklangan Post was air maintained by Dakotas from Jorhat but due to its peculiar location in a bowl surrounded by hill, the Dropping Zone was at Wui Village to the South about 5 Kms away. Casual Porters were authorized to be employed to ferry the Rations from Wui to Chuklangan. Our interaction with the villagers was limited due to use of sign language as we could converse only through the Dobashi, the Pastor or the School Teacher as the Villagers could not converse in Nagamese. The Gaon Burra (Village Headman) was Mr. Palu and who was also the Commander of the Village Guards armed with .303 Rifles. There was another villager Mr Yamda who also acted as an Interpreter. Whenever there was a VIP visit the Village Guards presented a Guard of Honour to the visiting dignitaries at the Helipad along with the school children who would render the National Anthem despite not studying the Hindi Language. The Khiamniungan villagers are gifted artisans and wove magical bamboo products. Naga Cross bows of Chokla, Spears made at Pangsha and Dahs made at Wui were very popular crafts choices as mementoes for visitors.

During the day time we conducted regular Patrolling to keep the area safe while the Villagers worked in their fields. At times we stopped to listen to the mesmerizing and melodious farming group songs and admired the community spirit of the Nagas. On Sundays I would invariably participate in the Morning Church Service and after customary request of Pastor also deliver talk to the Villagers about need for maintenance of hygiene and sanitation, importance of education for children, dangers of forest fires from ‘jhooming’  and conservation of wildlife. At night the Ambush Parties were deployed on approaches towards the International Boundary to deter movement of undergrounds from Myanmar. The silence of the night was disturbed only by the sounds made by wild animals like Hyenas, Wild Boars, Barking Deer and the stray Mithuns that used to jump over the perimeter bamboo fence of the Post. The Area between Chuklanjan and Wui towards the Watershed was covered with dense primary forest and were rich in spices in the wild like Cinnamon, Cardamom, Basal Leaves and Ginger.

Our Battalion with Headquarters at Shamator and posts in Khiamniungan Villages of Pangsha, Wenshoi Nokhu and Wui remained deployed for a year. Due to our alertness and rapport with the villagers we were successful in ensuring peace and tranquillity in our Area of Responsibility, though violent incidents did occur in contiguous areas to the North and South.

I am reminded of an incident at Chuklangan when I had sprained my ankle and could hardly walk and there was an impending VIP Visit. With No doctor available at the Post the School Teacherreferred me to the Village Witch Doctor. After the School Teacher had explained to her the ailment she examined my ankle and pulled and pressed it at various places which was quite painful after that she explained to the School Teacher about the follow up treatment. A paste of the herb was wrapped around the ankle and to my relief I was perfectly alright in two days ready to receive the VIP. Later from the smell of the paste I discovered that the Herb was nothing else but Ginger, which was available in abundance at Chuklangan. Such was the magical powers of the Witch Doctor !

25 years later I again got an opportunity to serve at Tuensang and my visit to Noklak ignited my reminiscences of my days at Chuklangan Village.  As Noklak basks and rejoices in its new status  I wish the denizens Peace and Prosperity to make the Nascent district as First Among Equals.  “…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint”

Colonel Prakash Bhatt (Retd), Ex Addl DIG 

Assam Rifles

 

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