One step forward, two steps back?
CHIEF minister N Biren’s assurance to the delegation of Mao-based civil societies and students’ organisations for bringing an early settlement to the latest incident of Angami people from neighbouring Nagaland disturbing movement of vehicles and transportation of goods along the Imphal-Dimapur section of the national highway as well as alleged encroachment on the land of the Mao people, is unlikely to fructify through the conventional method of negotiation or exerting pressure upon the governments of India and Nagaland. On account of the sense of insecurity and inconvenience caused to the people of Mao understandably arising due to rowdiness of a handful of elements among the Angami tribe in the adjoining Nagaland villages all efforts for restoring the neighbourly camaraderie will prove elusive until the hostile neighbours give up the concept that they are bestowed with the right to decide on movement of goods and people on their ‘part’ of the national highway. In addition to the evolving situation having the potential to trigger yet another bout of enmity between the immediate neighbours as was evident when many small time Mao traders were driven out of Kohima and compelled to travel longer distance for plying their trades at the capital city of their home state, the allegations about rights of the Mao people violated and their lands encroached upon also undermines efforts being made by the chief ministers of the two states for building healthy relationships, at the governmental level as well as on the ground.
Interestingly, the latest rage; especially the case of Angami villagers stopping vehicles and offloading passengers/goods heading from Manipur and using them to transport loads of southern Angami people; reminds one of those days when the Nagaland villagers settling along the national highway make it a point to wait for passenger or goods carriers at the numerous police check posts, board any of the vehicle and ask the driver to halt upon reaching their destination – without paying the travel fare. Another common sight, when trucks were used to bring LPG refills to Manipur in cylinders and black-marketing was rampant, was that the settlers on the Nagaland section of the highway would simply place the empty cylinders by the roadside for replacement with the filled ones. In case the LPG carrier does not blow the horn to make the highway-customer aware about their arrival, then the ‘marked’ driver’s next trip was always fraught with danger. Thus, deprivation of such virtually free ride/service ever since vehicles of Manipur started to move along with security convoys and LPGs transported in bullet tankers could be some of the factors for the southern Angamis feeling offended and ultimately targeting the Mao people, for whom Kohima is the nearest and most favourable place to sell the seasonal crops. Regardless of the issues threatening peaceful coexistence amongst the people of the two states, those at the helm of affairs in Manipur and Nagaland need to collectively work for promoting harmonious existence on both sides. Moreover, allowing a handful of rogue elements to lay siege along the lifeline is likely to evoke posers on whether chief minister N Biren’s assertion on the day Nagaland chief minister Dr Shurhozelie Liezietsu made a historic visit to Imphal that relation between the neighbouring states will improve was merely a political gimmick.