Dikho intervenes, Dzuko trekkers freed on bail

IMPHAL, 30th Nov: Contrary to assurance given by government of Manipur for unconditional release of eight trekkers of Manipur arrested in Nagaland, their release materialised only after signing an agreement with Angami civil societies and payment of ‘slashed’ monetary fine.
The trekkers were arrested on November 17 a day after the fire broke out at Dzuko Valley. They were confined in the custody of Nagaland police after brief detention by volunteers of Angami civil societies, who accused the trekkers of starting the wild fire.
Nevertheless, release of the eight trekkers, initially apprehended by volunteers of Southern Angami Youth Organisation (SAYO) and later handed over to Khuzama police station, was pulled off with the intervention of state’s PHE minister L Dikho.
Entrusted to bring back the detained trekkers by chief minister N Biren, Dikho on Friday successfully negotiated with leaders of SAYO and Southern Angami Public Organisation (SAPO) in the presence advisor to Nagaland chief minister, DGP Nagaland and representatives of Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association (MMTA), which conducted the trekking programme as a part of Manipur Sangai Festival.
Minister Dikho attended a joint meeting with representatives of Nagaland government represented by the CM’s advisor, DGP and some police officials along with SAPO and SAYO volunteers at the Kohima residence of the Nagaland CM. The meeting participants, while strongly acknowledging the need to promote peaceful co-existence and mutual understanding between the two neighbouring states. They also condemned ignition of wild fire which destroyed huge acres of the scenic Dzuko Valley.
According to sources, during the two hours long meeting, members of Southern Angami civil bodies expressed strong resentment over activities of MMTA and alleged that MMTA trekkers triggered the massive wild fire as they left the camp fire unattended. However, minister Dikho’s explanation on behalf of the trekkers and his attempts to secure release of the eight detained persons bore fruits as SAYO and SAPO finally agreed to release them on the condition they would not ‘indulge’ in such activities in the valley in future.
The PHE minister appreciated the goodwill gesture of the Nagaland organisations and officials and assured personal as well as government of Manipur’s cooperation and initiative to jointly protect the flora and fauna of Dzuko Valley.
Till the time of filling this report, the released MMTA members had crossed the inter-state gate at Mao town. Minister Dikho is expected to meet CM Biren to brief the latter on the development. The MMTA members were arrested by Nagaland Police after SAYO filed an FIR at Khuzama police station on the charge that the trekkers from Manipur triggered the wild fire. MMTA members and family members of the eight persons met CM Biren on Thursday wherein assurance was given to secure release of the detained trekkers.
Nagaland police had produced the eight trekkers before a Court in Kohima on November 28.
On the other-hand, an informed source conveyed that release of the trekkers materialised as per an agreement signed during a joint meeting held Friday.
The MMTA admitted that it erred by not adhering to standing rules and conducts laid down by SAPO and SAYO, which are the legal custodians of Dzuko Valley.
On the their part, SAYO and SAPO agreed not to raise objection in case MMTA or the government of Manipur decides to move the court for release of the detained persons on bail.
SAYO and SAPO also endorsed appeals by both governments of Nagaland and Manipur to relax the penalty amount imposed against violators to Rs 5000 instead of Rs 1 lakh, the source added.

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