Guwahati/Kohima, Aug. 8: Pre-emptive restraint from Assam was reciprocated with uncontrolled aggression from the Nagaland side today, triggering a second flare-up along their long-disputed boundary in just over a month.
The Jorhat district administration prevented a march by students towards the inter-state border in Mariani in anticipation of trouble, but could do little when a mob from the opposite side went about ransacking and setting houses ablaze on Assam’s territory a few hours later.
The incident occurred in Udaipur village near Nagajanka, under Mariani police station. Apart from targeting houses, the intruders fired at an Assam police team and manhandled workers of Bosajan tea estate.
The scale of violence would have been bigger had the police not intercepted the student activists marching towards the New Sunthia border outpost earlier in the day. “Had we allowed the procession of students to New Sunthia, armed people from Nagaland villages were ready for them,” deputy commissioner L.S. Sangson said.
Last month, Naga villagers raided three villages near Geleki in Sivasagar district, killed two residents and torched several houses. The incident provoked an economic blockade against Nagaland by the All Assam Students’ Union.
The president of the AASU’s Jorhat unit, Biren Saikia, said another economic blockade was inevitable if residents of the neighbouring state continued to attack villages on the Assam side.
Jorhat police intercepted AASU activists at the Psutaphala checkpoint on the Mariani-Mokokchung road, not far from the New Sunthia border outpost. People on the Nagaland side had, of course, made all preparations to take on the student activists.
The Mokokchung-based vice-president of the Ao Students’ Conference, L. Imti Jamir, said hundreds of Ao Nagas were still camping close to the border to repulse a possible attack from the Assam side. “We are fully prepared to march to the area to protect our land from the encroachers.”
The Naga student leader revealed that thousands of students were “on standby” to proceed to Longtho and Tzurangkong “if anything happens”.
The Ao Senden, the apex organisation of the Ao community, asked tribesmen to prepare for the worst.
Mokokchung deputy commissioner Abhishek Singh said he had been in touch with his Jorhat counterpart since learning of the AASU’s plan to march to the border. “We requested the Jorhat district administration to take necessary steps to stop the procession from proceeding towards New Sunthia.”
Sangson said the AASU precipitated the crisis by violating prohibitory orders.
But Nilofer Rahman, who led the procession, said it was unfortunate that “Assamese people cannot walk freely in their own land” and blamed the government for the lingering border dispute.
“Our government has failed to keep our border intact and is allowing other states to capture land,” Rahman said.
Chief secretary P.C. Sarma called up his Nagaland counterpart twice during the day and also spoke to officials in the Union home ministry about the dispute.
Assam maintains that its boundary extends to the New Chuntia border outpost but Nagaland police have set up a permanent camp 13 km inside its territory at New Sonowal. Naga villagers have allegedly encroached upon land even beyond that point.