The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Backlash spreads to Nagaland

Nov. 20: The backlash against Biharis residing in Assam spilled over into neighbouring Nagaland with at least three labourers from the community being assaulted in the state capital.

The women’s wing of the Naga National Council (NNC) added to the tension by backing the oust-Bihari campaign, asking all Nagas to evict settlers hailing from Bihar.

The NSCN (Isak-Muivah) struck a different note, joining the Neiphiu Rio government, the Congress, the Naga Students Federation (NSF) and various human rights organisations in appealing for restraint.

India Reserve Battalion personnel were deployed in several places, including Dimapur and Kohima, after the assault on the Bihari labourers early today.

Several Bihari and Marwari organisations issued statements condemning the incidents in Nagaland, Assam and Bihar.

The Naga Hoho made an appeal for peace, but said the Bihar government must own responsibility for the attacks on train passengers from the Northeast in that state and make adequate security arrangements.

Criticising those involved in the backlash, the apex organisation of Naga tribes said: “Space for dialogue must exist and we believe that there exist standard procedures to firmly deal with such acts.”

The clashes between the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) and the Kuki Revolutionary Army in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district, too, evoked concern in Nagaland.

The NSF said it feared that Naga youth might come to harm because of misidentification. “We fear that Naga students may get caught in the crossfire because of the similarity in looks with the Kukis and the Karbis,” student leader W.H. Marang said.

The NSF, however, ruled out the possibility of the violence in Karbi Anglong spreading to the neighbouring town of Dimapur, which has a sizeable Karbi and Kuki presence.

Marang said the organisation’s only worry was that the Nagas could be dragged into the conflict by default. “We are concerned because Naga travellers were victimised in Bihar because of mistaken identity.”

In Meghalaya, there were signs of normality after two weeks of tension between the Khasi-Pnar communities and the Karbis. The ethnic strife began in Hamren subdivision of Karbi Anglong district with Karbi militants attacking Pnar residents.

A team from the Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council today visited the strife zone.

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