Showing posts with label Nagaland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nagaland. Show all posts
16 June 2015

The Tortuous Road to Naga Peace

Newly recruited young Naga boys with their automatic weapons during the 33rd Republic Day celebration of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) in Nagaland on March 21, 2012. — File Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

Newly recruited young Naga boys with their automatic weapons during the 33rd Republic Day celebration of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) in Nagaland on March 21, 2012. — File Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

The publicity that surrounds the success of India’s ‘cross-border’ strike against rebels in Myanmar cannot hide the fact that the real failure of Indian intelligence was not in predicting the possible spot of the ambush but in anticipating the emergence of a rebel coalition in the jungles of Myanmar

After the June 4 ambush in Manipur that left at least 20 soldiers of the Indian Army’s 6 Dogra Regiment dead when suspected militants ambushed their convoy in Chandel district bordering Myanmar in Manipur, and the retaliatory transborder raid into Myanmar by Indian para-commandos (21 Para-Regiment — Special Forces), on June 9, the attention is back on the long, tortuous and uncertain Naga peace process.
Since the leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isaac-Muivah) (NSCN), Thuingaleng Muivah and Issac Chisi Swu, signed the ceasefire with the H.D. Deve Gowda government in 1997 and started negotiations, the peace talks have gone on and on, with round after round of inconclusive negotiations. There were suggestions recently that a final solution might be in sight and that may have provoked those left out of the process into striking back. But the secrecy shrouding the Naga peace process only complicates it further and makes it difficult to speculate on when there will be an end to India’s longest running ethnic insurrection.
Dialogue and division
The sheer duration of these negotiations does point to the complexities involved in trying to settle the Naga insurgency, but many critics of the Indian decision-making process have also suggested that New Delhi is trying to wear down the rebel leaders in a battle of attrition since the limited tactical advantages of keeping the Naga rebels off the battlefield have been achieved by the ceasefire. Some have also said that the ceasefire and the political dialogue have helped India further divide the Naga rebels, pointing to the talks with the Muivah faction and the refusal to talk with the Khaplang faction despite a ceasefire with his group. That, many would say, is what finally provoked Khaplang, a warlord, to renege on the ceasefire and form the rebel coalition, the United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFWSEA), with motley rebel factions like the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) (Independent), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) (Songjibit) and the KLA (Jibon).
Like Khaplang’s faction, these other groups are splinters of the original movements. Their factional rivals are already talking to India and New Delhi treats them as principals. These rebel chieftains who are holed up in the remote jungles of Myanmar’s Sagaing division are treated as marginals. Khaplang was under pressure for the last few years from New Delhi for providing shelter to these other Northeast Indian rebel groups. Home Ministry mandarins insist that this was a breach of trust on the part of Khaplang. But in the 1990s, former Home Minister L.K. Advani had clearly said that Khaplang is a Myanmarese national and that India cannot negotiate with him. While that is a valid position if one were to go by legalese, how can one expect Khaplang to just maintain a ceasefire when he knows that New Delhi will never call him for talks, let alone treat him as an equal to Muivah and Issac? On the other hand, the Myanmarese Naga rebel leader has seen his Indian Naga comrades break away to form splinter groups with whom India has promptly signed or negotiated a ceasefire. First it was Khole Konyak and Khitovi Zhimomi; now it is Wangting and Thikhak. The first faction calls itself NSCN (K-K), while the second calls itself NSCN (Reformation). These factions may now be offered to accept a deal India may have finalised with the Muivah-Issac group in an attempt to make it look like a settlement with all NSCN factions who represent “Indian Nagas”.
Sending out a message

Khaplang on the warpath again is partly dictated by his urge to end his isolation in the jungles of Myanmar, if only to remind New Delhi that he cannot be ignored — a point he seeks to make by getting together all those in the Northeast who still intend to fight India. His one-time comrades, Wangting and Thikhak, blame Paresh Barua, an activist with ULFA, for “manipulating” Khaplang into reneging on the ceasefire. Barua has steadfastly remained on a separatist course even after the ULFA was decimated in Bangladesh after a crackdown by the Sheikh Hasina government and by periodic desertions. So, though the ULFA of today is not much of a fighting force, its leader emerges as the glue for a rebel coalition in Myanmar’s jungles because of his track record of leading an armed struggle through unending adversity. The other factions which have joined up with Khaplang in UNLFWSEA are also motley groups capable of occasional hits here and there. But it is the “working relations” of UNLFWSEA with the powerful Meitei rebel groups like the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) (who have not joined Khaplang’s coalition) that makes the anti-India platform in Myanmar’s jungles such a worrying proposition for New Delhi. Khaplang’s faction admitted in the post-June 4 ambush press release that the other two Meitei groups, KYKL and KCP, had joined his fighters to pull off the ambush in Chandel.
Missing the big picture

So, the real failure of Indian intelligence was not in predicting the possible spot of the ambush but in anticipating the emergence of a rebel coalition in the jungles of Myanmar. The first step in that direction was taken by Khaplang when he signed a truce with Myanmar’s Thein Sein government, one of the 14 rebel groups in Myanmar to strike a ceasefire deal with it. Having secured that ceasefire, Khaplang has ensured that his bases in Sagaing will be protected from the occasional raids by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army). Even after the attacks on Indian forces by Khaplang’s fighters in the last two months, the Myanmar government has not broken off the truce with his faction. For the Myanmarese Army which has to battle half-a-dozen powerful home-grown insurgencies at any given point of time, tackling the Kachin or the Kokang guerrillas is a bigger priority, not Khaplang. After the June 9 raid by India, Paresh Barua reiterated that his rebel coalition had “not faced any problems in Myanmar so far”. The second phase of forming that coalition was in extensive negotiations between the constituents. Now, reports about these negotiations have been trickling out of Myanmar off and on. They have been reported in the Northeast Indian media but not picked by the big media guns in faraway Delhi. This is what Indian intelligence seems to have largely missed out. The way the fighters of Khaplang slowly trickled out of their Indian camps in the rundown to the breakdown of the ceasefire was completely missed, despite alerts sounded to Indian intelligence by factional rivals. Then came the actual breakdown of the ceasefire but New Delhi was not concerned because it felt the Myanmarese Naga rebel leader had been isolated and confined to his lair in the jungles of Myanmar. They underestimated his strike power on Indian soil.
The Indian response
The Indian reply after the rebel violence has also been hasty and ill-conceived. The Indian Army was under pressure from top decision makers to hit back immediately, to make a political point of a “strong India which will not tolerate terrorism”. The Indian Army chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhag, was keen on striking back, but after careful planning. Under pressure, all that he could do was to plan two hits on rebel bases on the border or slightly inside it. These locations were chosen not because they had a lot of rebel fighters but because these were rebel bases and could be hit with smaller forces to make a political point that India will go after its enemies. The raids have made much less of an actual impact than was initially suggested by an gung-ho media, joined by a battery of retired soldiers and security officials baying for rebel blood.
The Nagaland Chief Minister, T.R. Zeliang, made a telling point in a recent interview when he said that the Centre has never kept his government in the picture over the breakdown of the ceasefire with Khaplang. Mr. Zeliang said it was possible to have reasoned with Khaplang through Naga civil society against breaking off the ceasefire. After 60 years of brutal conflict, the Nagas have got used to the peace dividend since 1997. Naga civil society groups, which have grown in stature, have ensured that the rebels do not go back to the jungles even if they were upset with the long, unending negotiations with India. Mr. Zeliang thus made a telling point — using the doves of peace to fight the dogs of war. But involving the States in the complex peace negotiations like those with the Naga rebel factions is yet to become a feature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “cooperative federalism”. He is yet to get over the hush-hush hangover of his Congress predecessors when it comes to peacemaking with underground rebel groups. As the leaks after the transborder raids into Myanmar seem to indicate, the government is keen on greater secrecy in peacemaking than in war-making.
(Subir Bhaumik, a former BBC Correspondent, is the author of the books on the Northeast, Insurgent Crossfire and Troubled Periphery.)
01 June 2015

Nagaland Second Highest Tobacco Consumer in Country After Mizoram

Kohima, Jun 1 : The Mission Director of the National Health Mission (NHM) in Nagaland Sukhato A Sema has informed that the state of Nagaland, with 57 per cent of tobacco users, is the second highest consumer of tobacco in the country.

According to an official report on Sunday, Dr Sema was speaking in the observed World No Tobacco Day with a theme Stop Illicit Trade of Tobacco product at the Civil Secretariat Conference Hall, where he said cigarette accounts for 26.3 per cent as the most common form of tobacco consumed in Nagaland followed by other gutkha products.

He also revealed that as per the Nagaland School Oral Health Survey 2014 report, 28.3 per cent of school going children are smokeless oral tobacco users while 14.8 per cent are into smoking habits and 41.2 per cent children are engaged by parents to buy tobacco.

On the district-wise profile of tobacco consumption, Dimapur has the highest number of consumers, followed by Kohima, he shared.  While informing that smokeless tobacco contains 3,095 chemicals, out of which 28 causes cancer and cases of tobacco related cancer are on the rise in Nagaland, Sema informed.

He emphasised on the need for the state government to take serious steps towards enforcement of Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act (COTPA) 2003, which prohibits smoking in public places, advertisement of tobacco product in any manner, sale of tobacco product to or by person below 21 years and sale of tobacco product in and around 100 yards of any educational institutions.

Dr Sema said that strict enforcement is critical to the success of implementation of the Act.  He suggested that ban on sale and consumption of any form of tobacco product during public gatherings or meetings, sporting events and state and tribal festivals would surely help towards bringing down tobacco consumption.

Mizoram ranked first with the highest tobacco consumer population in the country where 70 per cent of its people are addicted.
19 May 2015

Dimapur lynching: Judicial Panel Asks People To Give Written Statements

Syed Sarif Khan, who was arrested following an allegation of rape, was dragged out from the central jail by a mob and lynched.

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Syed Sarif Khan, who was arrested following an allegation of rape, was dragged out from the central jail by a mob and lynched, following which his body was left hanging in the City Tower on March 5. 

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap
Guwahati, May 19 :  A judicial commission into the Dimapur lynching began its inquiry on Monday, asking people to submit written statements in connection with the ghastly incident.

A public notice issued by the judicial inquiry commission headed by retired Gauhati High Court judge Justice BD Agarwal issued a public notice in Dimapur seeking written statements in order to ascertain the causes and circumstances leading to the incident of vandalism and forcible entry into the Dimapur Central Jail by a mob and killing of an under-trial prisoner and another person in the ensuing violence.

Syed Sarif Khan, who was arrested following an allegation of rape, was dragged out from the central jail by a mob and lynched, following which his body was left hanging in the City Tower on March 5. Another person called Inito Swu, who was reportedly amid the crowd, was killed when police opened fire on the mob after Khan was done to death.

The inquiry commission, through the public notice specifically asked local dailies/media fraternity, the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), All Nagaland College Students’ Union (ANCSU), Naga Council Dimapur (NCD), Dimapur Naga Students’ Union (DNSU), Dimapur Chamber of Commerce (DCC), Western Sumi Students’ Union (WSSU), Naga Mothers Association (NMA) Dimapur, Survival Nagaland (SN), Naga Spear, Naga Blog (NB), GBs’ Federation Dimapur, GBs Union Dimapur, Principals of different schools and colleges of the town, as well as family members of the victims to file written statement before it.

The inquiry commission, which also has retired district and sessions judge Veprasa Nyekha as a member, has been also asked to ascertain the person/persons, group/groups responsible for the incident, lapses of dereliction of duty on the part of government officials and public authorities, a press release issued by the state IPR department in Kohima said.
04 May 2015

NSCN Rebels Kill 8 Indian Paramilitary Soldiers

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The Assam Rifles personnel also fired back and one underground militant was killed while some others were injured in the ensuing encounter, they added.

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

Guwahati, May 4 : Eight soldiers, seven of them belonging to the Assam Rifles, were killed when two vehicles of 23 Assam Rifles battalion were ambushed by the NSCN(K) in Mon district in Nagaland on Sunday. While three soldiers were killed on the spot, five others died later.
Sources in Assam Rifles in Kohima said the two vehicles, one a water-trailer and the other a Tata 407, were on their way to collect water from a natural source nearly four kms from their camp location in Mon district when they came under NSCN(K) attack. While the first vehicle was blown off by powerful IED explosion, the heavily armed militants who were positioned on vantage uphill locations sprayed bullets from AK-series weapons on the second vehicle.

The eight soldiers who were killed included seven of the 23 Assam Rifles and one jawan from the 164 Territorial Army Battalion. There were altogether 18 persons including the two drivers in the two vehicles. The incident occurred at around 2:45 pm on Sunday between Chaklangshu and Tobu in Mon district, nearly 390 km east of Kohima.

The surviving soldiers however retaliated, in the process killing at least two NSCN(K) militants, the sources said. While one uniformed body of an NSCN(K) militant was recovered from the spot, the militants managed to remove another militant who was seriously wounded and probably killed, the sources said.

Sunday’’ was the second major attack on security forces by NSCN(K) in the past few weeks. The NSCN(K) had killed two Gurkha regiment jawans in Tamenglong district in Manipur on March 21.

The outfit had called off its 15-year old ceasefire with the Union government on March 28.
16 April 2015

Now fly from Delhi to Dimapur

Nagaland CM TR Zeliang inaugurating the flight at Dimapur Airport in presence of legislator Imtiwapang and IndiGo President Aditya Ghosh

Dimapur, Apr 16 : India's northeastern state of Nagaland, bordering Myanmar, was on Wednesday connected with New Delhi through a daily IndiGo flight via Kolkata.Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang inaugurated the flight at Dimapur Airport in presence of legislator Imtiwapang and IndiGo President Aditya Ghosh.

Ghosh said: "In its ninth year of operations these new IndiGo flights to Dimapur are a reflection of airline company's commitment to grow the northeast connectivity. IndiGo is proud to announce Dimapur as its 33rd domestic and 38th overall destination."

He said that the IndiGo would connect daily flights from Dimapur to Kolkata and Dimapur to New Delhi via Kolkata. "These flights are planned to cater to business and leisure travelers who are constantly on the lookout for new and affordable flying options."

"These new services would further consolidate IndiGo's position as the fastest growing low cost airline in India, with its 623 daily flights connecting 38 destinations across the network," he added.

While addressing the inaugural session of 64th plenary meeting of North Eastern Council (NEC) in New Delhi last week, Minister for Development of North-Eastern Region (DoNER) Jitendra Singh said a daily return flight from Kolkata to Silchar (in southern Assam) was also resumed from March 20.
13 March 2015

Internet, SMS Services Remain Blocked in Nagaland

Guwahati, Mar 13
: Though the situation in Dimapur where a rape accused Sayed Sarif Khan was lynched by a mob, has limped back to normal, the internet and SMS services will remain blocked for another 24 hours effective from Thursday even as the district administration in Dimapur has relaxed the prohibitory order under Section 144 CrPC from 6 A.M. till 9 P.M. from Thursday.

“Though the SMS service will be restored on the expiry of 24 hours, the district administration in Dimapur will be requesting the government to continue the block internet services (GPRS)”, said Wabang Jamir, IGP (Range). Internet (GPRS) and SMS/MMS services were blocked since March 7 night after videos related to the lynching of the rape accused in Dimapur were widely circulated on the net.

The police have so far arrested 48 persons for their involvement in the March 5 incident in which an alleged rape accused was lynched.

The police have published photographs of some of the culprits involved in the lynch incident and called for people’s cooperation in nabbing those.

Meanwhile, clarifying on reports published in a section of national media that Nagaland government had submitted report to the Centre saying there was consensual sex, IGP (Range) said that the a section of the media considered only a certain section of the state government’s report to Union Home Minister and changed the whole story.

The report of the Nagaland Government to the Union Home Minister consists of three statements, that of the victim, the accused and the co-accused.
The IGP (Range) while maintaining that the preliminary medical reports conducted at the Dimapur Civil Hospital confirms rape said that the vaginal swabs and other evidences collected from the victim had been sent to Kolkata for DNA test.

Though the evidences were earlier sent to Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Guwahati for test, however due to lack of facility, it was referred to Kolkata for DNA Analysis.

The North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) has called upon the people of Nagaland and Assam to remain restrained and defeat ‘communal forces’ who were trying to whip up communal tension in the area over the isolated lynch incident.

The rape accused who was lynched hails from Karimganj district of Assam and was residing in Dimapur.
12 March 2015

Nagaland lynching: MHA fears attacks on people from the Northeast in Bengaluru, Pune, Gurgaon

Members of All Assam Muslim Yuba Parishad (S ) protest against the mob lynching of a rape accused in Dimapur, Nagaland on March 07, 2015. Photo: PTI
Union Home Ministry has issued an advisory to Karnataka, Maharashtra and Haryana governments about possible attacks on the people from Northeast states living there as a backlash of Dimapur lynching incident.

In the advisory, MHA has asked these states to be fully alert and ensure security of northeast people.
The communication has been sent by the Home Ministry after it found that a misinformation campaign about the Dimapur incident was going on in social media.

"We suspect that the social media is being used by some anti-social elements to create tension and instigate people to attack people of northeast origin in the three cities," a Home Ministry official said justifying the issuing of the advisory.

The Centre also told the states to deploy adequate security forces in places where sizeable number of northeast people live and roam around in these cities.

The activities in social media have been witnessed after Syed Sarif Khan, who was accused of raping a girl, was lynched by a mob after being dragged out from a jail in Dimapur.

The mob stripped Khan naked, beat him up, pelted him with stones and dragged him towards the centre of Dimapur town, seven kilometres away from the jail. He died from his injuries on the way after which the mob displayed his body from a clock tower.

Thousands of northeast origin people living in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and other cities had fled their place of work and study in August 2012 after rumours of possible attacks on them in the wake of clashes between Bodo tribals and immigrant Muslims in Assam that year.
11 March 2015

HC Directs Centre, Nagaland to Ensure Safety of Prisoners

Dimapur, Mar 11
:The Gauhati High Court has directed the Centre as well as the Nagaland government to ensure adequate security to the prisoners languishing in the jails in Nagaland.
The court issued the directive after hearing a PIL filed by a Guwahati-based activist, Rajib Kalita, on Monday in connection with last week’s lynching of a rape accused in Dimapur.

Kalita had sought an impartial probe into the alleged rape incident. He had requested that the trial of those arrested in connection the lynching of the rape accused be held outside Nagaland.

The court has set a two-week deadline to the Centre and the Nagaland government to respond to the PIL and pointed out that it was the responsibility of Nagaland’s Inspector General of Prisons to provide security to the prisoners.

“The family members of the prisoners are concerned over safety and security inside the jails of Nagaland,” advocate Bhaskar Dev Konwar said.

He also said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had submitted a preliminary report of the alleged rape, received from the Nagaland government, to the court.

Meanwhile, the police said the hunt for the ring leaders of the violent mob, who had stormed Dimapur jail and took away the rape accused, was still on. “We are going after the ring leaders, who have gone into hiding,” IG, Wabang Jamir, told Express.

So far, 43 people have been arrested in connection with the lynching incident.

Meanwhile, Dimapur, which is Nagaland’s largest town and commercial hub, is limping to normalcy, with curfew being relaxed from 6 am- to 4pm on Tuesday.

Bengali Muslims doing business here said a number of traders had fled the town over the past few days.

The community has a sizeable population in the town.

“Traders, especially those who are staying with their families have started leaving. They are worried about their safety. Their family members and relatives are also insisting that they should go back to their villages,” Hasmat Ali, a trader from Assam’s Barak Valley, told Express.
09 March 2015

Nagaland Mob Lynching: Curfew Clamped in Dimapur, 22 Arrested

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Protesters beating the accused in Dimapur. Curfew was on Sunday clamped in Dimapur town of Nagaland and 22 people were arrested in connection with the lynching of a rape accused, a senior police officer said.Also, Internet and cellphone text message services were suspended across Nagaland as protests spread against the lynching of a rape-accused man.

Dimapur, Mar 9 : Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) G Akheto Seema said curfew has been imposed in Dimapur town from 3 PM Sunday till 12 midnight to maintain peace. The preliminary medical report of the woman allegedly raped by Syed Farid Khan, who was lynched, confirms that she had been raped, the ADGP said.

22 people have been arrested in connection with the lynching incident. The arrests were made since last evening after going through the mobile video clippings during the incident and interrogation was on, he said.

Khan was arrested for raping the woman in Dimapur on February 24 and remanded in judicial custody in the Dimapur Central Jail the next day. On March 5, Khan was dragged out of jail and beaten to death. He was today buried at his native village in Karimganj district of Assam amidst tight security.

Rape victim says accused offered her Rs.5,000 to remain silent

Speaking to Headlines Today, the victim said accused, Syed Farid Khan, had offered her Rs.5,000 to remain silent about the incident. "I handed over the money to the police and I expect justice from the Nagaland government, " she said.

Syed Farid Khan, a 35-year-old second hand car dealer, was accused of raping a 20-year-old Naga woman on February 23 and 24 at different locations. Police arrested him on February 25 and a lower court sent him to judicial custody.

The victim also revealed that she filed an FIR and she knew the accused. However, she didn't comment about what how mob killed him.
12 February 2015

Drive To Flush Out Migrants in Nagaland

Kohima, Feb. 12 : The campaign to flush out "illegal Bangladeshi immigrants" from Nagaland has intensified after the Naga Students' Federation (NSF), the apex students' organisation in the state, decided to spearhead the movement.

After the NSF's decision, more principal Naga organisations joined the campaign to drive out "illegal Bangladeshi immigrants".

The drive against illegal immigrants was first initiated in Mokokchung district by students and an NGO known as Survival Mokokchung.

The Nagaland government has blamed Assam for the influx. The NSF said it would organise tours in all Naga-inhabited areas to create awareness on "illegal Bangladeshi immigrants".

During the tour, Naga student leaders will meet representatives of all apex organisations, administrations and members of municipal councils, town councils, youth organisations, women's organisations, students, wards and colony leaders.

The president of the NSF, Tongpang Ozukum, said they were not against any community or citizens of India, but their movement is against illegal immigrants. He said immigration from Bangladesh has become a serious threat to Naga society.

Nagaland has a large population of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Nepal and the authorities have failed to check them.

Most of the alleged Bangladeshi immigrants are engaged in agriculture sector in the plain areas and many are construction labourers.

They are also into businesses dealing with garments and electronic items. In Dimapur, the commercial hub of the state, most of the businesses is controlled by alleged immigrants who are mostly concentrated in New Market, Hazi Park, Railway Bazaar and Super Market areas.

Dimapur is not covered under inner-line permit (ILP) system and in its absence immigrants find it easy to enter the state. The NSF and other Naga organisations have been demanding streamlining of the ILP system.

The government has said most of the alleged illegal Bangladeshi immigrants possess Indian domicile certificates which make it difficult to detect the immigrants.

The minority community in the state too has expressed concern over entry of immigrants and decided to support the movement against them.
21 January 2015

Film on Naga folk music invited to US again

New Delhi, Jan 21
  : “Songs of the Blue Hills”, a documentary on contemporary Naga folk music, has been invited to the North Carolina Global Film Festival in the US.

Directed by National Award-winning film critic and filmmaker Utpal Borpujari, the 2013 documentary will be screened this weekend at the fest, read a statement.

“Songs of the Blue Hills” takes viewers on a journey of contemporary Naga folk music practices and brings under the focus both the music and debate between purists and those who believe in experimenting with folk sounds.

Produced by the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) of Union Ministry of Culture, the film has already been screened at many prestigious film festivals, including Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival (China), Parma Internatonal Music Film Festival (Italy), 11th Eyes and Lenses Ethnographic Film Festival (Poland).

It has also been screened at New York Indian Film Festival, Gothenberg Indie Film Festival (Sweden), Visions du Reel (Nyon, Switzerland) and the World Music and Independent Film Festival (Washington).

The 96-minute film was part of the Indian Panorama at the 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa, in November last year.

21 November 2014

Narendra Modi Wants Final Solution To Naga Imbroglio within 18 Months

By Manan Kumar

Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu

New Delhi, Nov 21 : With his eyes set to have a peaceful Northeast to help expand trade with South Asia, prime minister Narendra Modi has instructed interlocutor R N Ravi to come out with a proposed settlement that could be a final solution to the simmering Naga issue.

Sources said, Ravi, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and ex-special director of Intelligence Bureau, has been asked to try and clinch a solution preferably within a year to 18 months.

Unlike former governments, the emphasis this time is not on a resolution but on a solution which, means the Centre is approaching the issue with a hardened stand of pushing for a settlement on its own terms and putting the onus to accept the proposal on National Socialist Council of Nagalim -- Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM).

Getting rid of the baggage of previous UPA government during which the last interlocutor R S Pandey and before him Ajit Lal had worked hard in shaping up a proposed settlement, new interlocutor Ravi is expected to start the negotiation afresh to find out and lay down a new solution.

In an apparent indication to sound out Centre's tough bargaining policy, Modi has chosen not to meet the NSCN-IM top leaders -- Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah who are camping in Lutyen's Delhi, just a couple of kilometres from Prime Minister's house, for past since mid-September.

This is the first time that the "proud" leaders have waited for so long to meet the PM. The earlier PMs used to give them time rather promptly.

This change also indicates if the Modi government is trying to tell the rebel outfit that the solution would not hinge on a political dialogue but within the given administrative framework which would suggest a drop down for the NSCN-IM, considered to be most formidable in the Northeast.

However, it will also sound out a clear message in general to all the other insurgent outfits in the region that the government's stand would remain tough, sources said.

Modi is expected to discuss the issue with chief ministers of both Nagaland and Manipur during this visit to the Northeast in the end of this month.

A key component of Modi's talk would be how to establish peace between warring Manipur and Naga groups who are demanding autonomy of the state's Naga-dominated hill districts and tackle NSCN-IM that wants integration of the Naga areas under a single administrative umbrella.

Observers within the government say that the tough posturing by the Centre could find answers for a lasting peace in the Northeast that is necessary to take trade with ASEAN group of countries like Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and PDR Laos etc.

A peaceful northeast can help India reach its aim of increasing the bilateral trade with ASEAN to $ 100 billion by 2015 and to $ 2000 by 2022.

To take the trade to this level and beyond, Manipur can serve as a major gateway from border point of Moreh to Myanmar and beyond right up to the doorsteps of ASEAN countries.

"We are looking forward to conclusion of negotiations for an ASEAN-India Transit Transport Agreement by 2015. The Tamu-Kalewa-Kalemyo sector of the India - Myanmar – Thailand trilateral highway project is expected to complete in 2016 and will create a new dynamics of synergy of trade and cultural relations with South Asian countries," said an official of the ministry of external affairs.
20 November 2014

Smokie To Perform in Kohima

By H. Chishi

Kohima, Nov 20
: Once again the stage is set for world famous English band Smokie and Amercian guitarist Vinnie Moore to rock Kohima.

Smokie — a household name and all-time favourite band — will perform on December 3 at Indira Gandhi Stadium hockey ground and Vinnie Moore of legendary US rock band UFO will perform during the Hornbill International Rock contest on December 4 coinciding with the 10-day festival from December 1.

Smokie will also rock Shillong on December 5. The Living next door to Alice band will also visit the Hornbill Festival at Naga Heritage village, Kisama, on December 4 before departing for Shillong.

The band is on a worldwide tour and will perform in more than 50 venues next year.

Several hundreds of fans of Smokie and UFO from the neighbouring states of Manipur and Assam are also expected visit Kohima.

Smokie guys will belt out their all time favourites, Living next door to Alice, Lay back in the arms of someone, Don’t play your rock and roll, Babe it’s upto you, among others.

Moore will also be one of the judges of the Hornbill International Rock contest where several bands from the country and abroad will perform.

Before leaving Moore will also conduct a guitar workshop in Dimapur for Naga music lovers. “True rock legends are characterised by the fact that they not only have added several classics to the rock history, but that their musically output, after many years, still takes place at a constantly high level and there is always something new and fresh coming up. UFO meet all this criteria,” Moore said.

“I will definitely watch the performance of Smokie,” said a fan K.P. Angami.

The organisers of the show are making all effort to stage a well-mannered concert adding that security would be tight during the performances by Smokie and Vinnie Moore.
23 September 2014

India’s Last Surviving Headhunters

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe

The largest tribe in Nagaland

The remote village of Longwa, with Myanmar’s dense forests on one side and India’s rich agricultural lands on the other, is home to the fierce Konyak Naga tribe. The largest of 16 tribes living in the remote northeastern Indian state of Nagaland, the Konyaks were warriors with brutal pasts, using inter-village fights to accede land and ascertain power. As such, Konyak villages are situated on ridge tops, so they can easily monitor and identify an enemy attack.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe

The last generation

From the tribe’s conception centuries ago, until the gruesome practice was banned in 1940s, the Konyaks were fierce headhunters. Killing and severing an enemy’s head was considered a rite of passage for young boys, and success was rewarded with a prestigious facial tattoo. With the last headhunting case in Nagaland reported in 1969, older tribesmen like Pangshong (pictured) belong to the last generation with these striking facial tattoos.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe
Skulls of battles past

Bones of buffaloes, deer, boars, hornbills and mithun (a bovine species found in northeast India) decorate the walls of every Konyak house – prizes from generations of hunting. During the tribe’s headhunting days, the skulls of captured enemies were also prominently displayed, but once headhunting was abolished, the skulls were removed from the village and buried.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe Spacious living quarters

Konyak huts are made primarily out of bamboo. They are spacious, with several partitions forming huge rooms for various purposes including cooking, dining, sleeping and storage. Vegetables, corn and meat are stored above the fireplace, in the centre of the house. Rice, the staple food of the Konyaks Nagas, is usually stored in huge bamboo containers at the back of the house. Pictured here, a Konyak woman named Wanlem breaks the rice by beating it with a wooden log, readying it for a traditional sticky rice dish.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe
One tribe, two countries

Longwa was established long before the borders were drawn between India and Myanmar in 1970. Not knowing how to divide the community between two countries, officials decided that the border would pass through the village and leave the tribe undisturbed. Today, Longwa straddles the international border, with one side of the border pillar containing messaging written in Burmese, and the other side written in Hindi.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe International housing

The border even cuts through the village chief’s house, prompting the joke that he dines in India and sleeps in Myanmar.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe Family gatherings

Konyaks are still ruled by hereditary chieftains, locally known as “Angh”, and one or several villages can come under each chieftain’s rule. The practice of polygamy is prevalent among the Anghs and the chief of Longwa has several children from many wives. Pictured here, several of the tribe’s children gather around the fire.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe Changing beliefs

Konyaks were animists, worshipping elements of nature, until Christian missionaries arrived in the late 19th Century. By the late 20th Century, more than 90% in the state had accepted Christianity as their religion. Today, most of the villages in Nagaland have at least one Christian church. The church in Longwa is located in a vast field atop the ridge, right below the village chief’s house.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe Weekly traditions

Women wearing traditional Naga skirts return from church on a Sunday morning.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe
A disappearing culture

A group of Konyak elders gather around the kitchen fire, chewing on betelnut, roasting corn and sharing a light moment. With the invasion of Christianity, many of the tribe’s traditional practices, such as training young boys as warriors and educating them about the tribe’s beliefs in dedicated community buildings called Morungs, have nearly disappeared.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe Decorative trophies

The practice of wearing colourful beaded jewellery is also declining. In the past, both men and women would wear elaborate necklaces and bracelets. Brass faces were used in some of the men’s necklaces to signify the number of enemy heads severed.

Longwa, Myanmar, Konyak Naga tribe Change creeps in

Sheltered from the reaches of modern civilization, Longwa is a picturesque collection of thatch-roofed wooden houses. But the occasional tin roofs and concrete constructions are tell-tale signs that change is creeping into this rustic corner. What remains of this inevitable marriage between past and present is yet to be seen.

22 September 2014

NSCN (IM) Leaders Arrive in Delhi For Resumption of Naga Peace Talks

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

Guwahati, Sep 22 : More than ten months after the last round of talks, a high-level delegation of NSCN (IM) leaders have arrived in the national capital at the invitation of the government of India for resumption of the Naga peace talks.

The delegation led by its chairman Isak Chisi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah will first meet different officials before attending the formal discussions slated sometime next week. The delegation arrived in New Delhi on Saturday.

It was in November last year that New Delhi had held the last round of discussions, while a meeting with then prime minister Manmohan Singh, slated for December 6, 2013 was cancelled at the last moment. A delegation of the NSCN (IM) had visited New Delhi in March this year after the Centre had called off another round of talks in view of the Lok Sabha elections.

There have been speculations in the media in Nagaland about NSCN (IM) leaders also meeting Prime Minister Modi, especially in view of then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appreciating the “unique history of the Nagas” during his visit to Nagaland in July 2002.

The NSCN (IM) has been on a ceasefire with the government of India since August 1, 1997, following which it has held a series of discussions with New Delhi. While the group has dropped its demand for ‘sovereignty’, but  it has maintained that it would continue to press for integration of all Naga-inhabited areas.

The group had earlier this month taken exception to the appointment of former IB special director RN Ravi as New Delhi’s new interlocutor in view of certain remarks made by him in an newspaper column in December last year. This had prompted new Nagaland governor and veteran BJP leader PB Acharya to clarify that Ravi’s article was written much before the new government was elected.
18 September 2014

Nagaland Police Unearth illegal Tax Network run by NSCN(IM)

By Samudra Gupta Kashyap

Guwahati, Sep 18 : Three weeks after the newly appointed Governor of Nagaland constituted a high-powered committee to probe illegal taxation in the state, the police have unearthed an organised network, controlled by NSCN(IM) cadre, who were illegally taxing transport and commercial vehicles. The network also involved 17 transport and goods companies.

The police action comes a year after NGOs and tribal bodies launched a statewide movement to check illegal ‘taxes’ imposed by different groups.

Dimapur Police additional SP Wati Jamir said the network was run from the offices of different transport and goods carrier companies. The anti-extortion team of the police said the racket ran into crores of rupees. Several persons have been taken into custody and offices of all companies under scanner have been shut down.

“Based on specific inputs, the investigating team Monday raided and searched the office of one M/S Freight Carriers (India) Pvt Ltd in Dimapur, which led to the recovery and seizure of 43 illegal lorry challans for trucks plying on the Guwahati-Imphal route through Nagaland,” Jamir said.

The police found that the challans had the signature of one John, a NSCN(IM) cadre. The managers of the company, Rajbir Sharma and Vikash Sharma, were taken into custody.

During questioning, the two managers admitted that “taxes” were collected from all Manipur-bound transport trucks by issuing the challans on the direction of the NSCN(IM) cadres.
27 August 2014

Nagalim: Mass Rallies to Put Pressure on Indian Government

The United Naga Council is organizing mass rallies to push towards the solution of the Indo–Naga issue, as well as to protest against militarisation of Ukhrul area and the aggressive policies of the Government of Manipur in terms of the ancestral lands of Naga people. 

United Naga Council (UNC) has announced its decision of launching mass rallies in the four Naga dominated district headquarters of Tamenglong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel on August 30 [2014] to exert pressure on the Government of India for expediting an acceptable and honourable settlement of the Indo-Naga issue.
The rallies will also be in protest against the alleged militarisation of Naga areas particularly Ukhrul district by Government of Manipur by deployment State forces in alleged utter disrespect of the Indo-Naga cease-fire as well as against Government of Manipur's alleged disrespect for the democratic process of tripartite talk on alternative arrangement which has been progressing towards a logical stage.
The UNC further said the August 30 [2014] rallies will also be in protest against the unabated aggressive policies of the Government of Manipur to encroach upon the ancestral lands of the Nagas and tribal through Laws, Acts & Notifications to subvert the protective provisions of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (MLR & LR) Act, 1960 .
In statement issued by its publicity wing, UNC informed that after the rallies joint memorandum on all these points of demand and protests will be submitted by the Tribe Hohos and frontal organisations of the respective districts through the Government of India agencies to the Prime Minister of India and also dispatched through post.
UNC appealed to all churches, Christian leaders, frontal and regional organisations, village chiefs and village councils and village authorities, students and youth’s leaders to take up the moral responsibilities for ensuring the maximum participation of the people in the rally.
It also advised the Naga people to be vigilant against any attempt of the adversaries to discredit the peoples' movement for their political aspirations by sabotaging the democratic civil action.

Source: E–PAO
19 August 2014

Dimapur’s ‘Illicitly Open’ Liquor Industry

A group of people are seen drinking liquor in one of the many clandestine establishments which sell alcohol in Dimapur. Photo by Caisii Mao
By Imti Longchar
Dimapur, Aug 19 : Amidst zealous and earnest debates flooding newspapers, social networking sites and road side liquor joints on the fallacy that Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act (NLTP) 1989 is or not, a less perturbed illicit liquor industry continues to rise to humongous proportions in commercial hub Dimapur.  

Under the guise of mineral water wholesale shops and patently placing them under food restaurant industry on their registration licenses, the spurious liquor business is rising extraordinarily in all stretches of Dimapur.

Keen observers point out how the commercial hub might have the highest number of wholesale shops selling mineral water in the whole of North East, coupled with an abnormal number of Indian cuisine hotels - most of which does not offer even a plate of chapatti. More ironically, amongst all the businesses dotting Dimapur, these shops are diligently the first to open shutters in the morning (by 5 am), and the last to close at night (11 pm) for its ‘customers.’

People in the know (and who does not know?) counted nearly 500 illegal wine shops in Dimapur and along NH 29 and rising.  This figure does not include restaurants which have liquor on their menu, or home/residence based IMFL businesses inside the numerous colonies.

To cite instances, a year or two ago, there was only one wine store, a very renowned one, near Dhobi Nullah traffic point intersection. Of late, it has tripled, flanking each other on the left and right of the road.

Or along the neglected Signal road, where setting up business was deemed a bad idea (except for a Punjabi hotel prospering in mineral water business) because of the deplorable road condition or so, nearly half a dozen wine stores have cropped up and is doing brisk business.  

Likewise, be it City Tower, Nagarjan junction, Purana Bazaar, Burma Camp, 4th Mile and elsewhere, the sprouting liquor hotels with its trademark mineral water cartons and cold drinks decorated cupboards can hardly miss our sight.

Lure of quick and highly dividend earnings and unemployment can be attributed for people venturing into the illicit liquor business, despite the knowledge of prohibition. No regard for the law because everyone else is breaking the law of prohibition can be another issue.  

Owner of a paan shop cum liquor joint was candid enough to reveal how one can become a ‘lakhpati’ if one lasts a year into the business. “After that, its snapping fingers for you,” he quipped. His bold declaration holds water.

A personnel of the Intelligence Branch revealed how during one of the recent routine closure of liquor stores by authorities, a single wine shop could earn a whopping profit of Rs 16 lakh by selling liquor to alarmed imbibers from 4 pm till 9 pm.

The stretch of Shillong and Guahati night bus boarding station (Blue Hill station) decorated with high rise hotels, lodgings, and bus counters is infamous for its alleged distinction of being a ‘syndicate’s haven,’ – meaning a hotspot from where most networking of illicit liquor supplies allegedly originate.

A source, working in the police department explains how the illegal chain of the liquor industry is segregated into four components – syndicate, whole-seller, retailer and home business makers. Syndicates are the main suppliers to the whole-sellers, who, then sell to retailers and home business makers.

Illicit liquor is also supplied directly by kingpins at Lahorijan and Khat Khati under Assam which, according to this source, is more cumbersome and risky for the bootleggers.
One key factor on how syndicates manage to operate the illicit liquor business full swing may also be directly linked with the license awarded by the State government to individuals or groups for bonded ware house to supply liquor to Armed forces stationed in Nagaland and Manipur, says the source.

With these licences, purportedly bought with ludicrous amounts of bribes landing in the hands of syndicates, trucks after trucks of liquor enter Nagaland gate unrestrained. These consignments not only go to the Armed forces, but flows directly into the general market, the source claimed.

“But who can prove what when everyone- the excise, police, State government officials, politicians, church members, public- from the top rung to the bottom, are equally involved in the making of this industry?” he said, implicitly pinpointing the reason why the NLTP Act has not been a success or will never be.

The roaring illicit liquor industry in Dimapur has also witnessed the rise of a new breed of apprentice in the brewing business. There was a time when local beer made of rice were mostly brewed and sold by local women as means to survival and livelihood. And also with their contention that drinking rice beer was Naga traditional way of life.

A walk around Westyard (Rail bazaar) area or Dhobi Nullah would reveal otherwise. At the bustling stretches of rice beer joints, swift and business minded non locals sell local brew kept in large basins along with plates of dry fried fish, fried blood cakes, mutton heads and innards.

Many of these versatile non local businessmen have learnt the art of brewing rice beer as means to employment. They also buy the fermented rice from locals.

In a reverse scenario, local women mostly widows or those with unemployed husbands have turned to sale of IMFL instead of the local brew. “This is more lucrative and hassle free than selling rice beer,” a woman who was into rice beer business, but now sells rum, remarked. 

That’s prohibition in Dimapur.

Source: Morung Express
04 August 2014

Wildlife Trust of India team to search origin of star tortoises seized in Nagaland

By Pullock Dutta

Star tortoises at Nagaland Zoological Park.

Jorhat, Aug 4 : The Wildlife Trust of India has the daunting task of finding the home of 62 star tortoises that were seized at Dimapur railway station last month.

A team from the WTI will collect blood and tissue samples of the tortoises, now kept at the zoo in Dimapur to ascertain their place of origin.
“The blood and tissue samples are necessary to ascertain the location from where these tortoises originated. By ascertaining to which sub-species they belong, we can subsequently release these tortoises in the particular location or at least near it,” N.V.K. Ashraf, the chief of conservation of WTI, told The Telegraph today.
Ashraf said the Indian star tortoise (Geochelone elegans) is a species found in dry forest areas in the northwest and southeastern regions of the country and is quite popular in exotic pet trade across the world.
“Thanks to the distinctively-marked and highly-rounded shell, this species has become popular in the world’s pet trade,” he said.
Indian star tortoises are medium sized, with the average adult rarely growing to more than 30cm in length.
The trade in star tortoises has been banned under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild fauna and flora. The species is also protected under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which bans its possession and trade.
The consignment of 62 tortoises was found concealed under fruits in two crates parcelled from New Delhi on July 12.
Sources said one of the tortoises managed to sneak out of the packet, which attracted the attention of railway officials. Subsequently, the wildlife crime control bureau seized the two packets.
The principal chief conservator of forests, Nagaland, M. Lokeswara Rao, said all the 62 tortoises were alive and being kept at a special enclosure at Nagaland zoological park.
He said WTI had sought permission from the forest department to collect blood and tissue samples of the tortoises to ascertain the location from where they originated.
“We have given them permission,” he said.
He said this was the first time that star tortoises, which are found in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, were seized in Nagaland.
Rao said a telephone number and an address were mentioned in the two packets but there was no reply on the particular telephone number.
“The address was also fake,” he added.
An official of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau told The Telegraph that the haul has established the fact that Dimapur is used as a transit route to smuggle star tortoises to Southeast Asian countries.
“The porous international border in Manipur is being used to smuggle these star tortoises. We are probing the incident,” he said.
The ministry of home affairs has said the porosity of the 1,643km India-Myanmar border facilitates cross-border movement of militants, illegal arms and drugs. “The border (Indo-Myanmar) permits free movement regime up to 16km across the border. This makes the International border extremely porous. The border runs along hilly and inhospitable terrain, which grossly lacks basic infrastructure and provides cover to the activities of various insurgent groups and smugglers,” a ministry of home affairs report had said recently.
29 July 2014

Edinburgh Tattoo to Drum up Viewers with TV Deals

Members of the Nagakand Folkloric Group, from north-east India, are among the international acts at this years show. Picture: Hemedia By BRIAN FERGUSON

Organisers of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo aim to increase the global TV audience of the event to more than a billion – with lucrative new agreements in China and India.

Brigadier David Allfrey, chief executive and producer of the event, has unveiled ambitious plans to secure long-running broadcast deals with the two countries. The move – expected to coincide with the appearance of more Indian and Chinese performers in the event – would see the number of viewers rise tenfold from its present level.

Plans to greatly expand the global reach of the event were announced as it emerged the Tattoo is set to sell out in advance for the first time in five years – despite its opening weekend clashing with the Commonwealth Games.

Organisers have revealed sales are running around 8,000 ahead of last year, with 97 per cent of seats already snapped up ahead of yesterday’s official launch, when details of the programme were announced.

Last year’s event did not sell out until around two weeks into the run at the Castle Esplanade.

The Tattoo opens on Thursday night, with its dress rehearsal, with another three performances due to be held before the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow draw to a close on Sunday.

The event – which is being held for the 65th year – has sold out for the last 15 years in a row, but is viewed by a further 100 million people in around 45 countries thanks to coverage filmed by the BBC.
Brigadier Allfrey said: “We are one of four really big offerings that BBC Music record every year, along with the Proms season, the Glastonbury Festival and Radio One’s Big Weekend, and our programme is already licensed out to a huge number of territories around the world.

“I have a real interest in the developing markets, particularly in India and China, where there is an enormous number of people who are tremendously interested in our offering.

“We think there is a real opportunity to reach a stronger audience by working with the two state broadcasters in each of these countries.

“The real interest is in the years to come, where Scotland’s relationship with these great economies is set to grow. I want to make sure the Tattoo is presented to both Indian and Chinese audiences in much the same way as it is in Australia, where the Tattoo is shown every year on New Year’s Day.

“We want to ensure that they take the programme every year, and in years to come we are talking about acts from India and China. We are setting the conditions for proper broadcast of those programmes, which we think will capture the public imagination in those countries.”

Acts from South Africa, the Caribbean, New Zealand, India and Singapore appear in this year’s Tattoo, which runs until 23 August.

Highlights are expected to include appearances from the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force Steel Orchestra, the iNgobamakhosi Zulu Dance Troupe, from South Africa, the Nagaland Folkloric Group, from north-east India, and a group of Shetland Fiddlers.

Just 3,000 tickets remain on sale for this year’s event, but Brigadier Allfrey warned these were expected to be quickly snapped up, despite the huge 
interest in the Games.