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Soccer diplomacy calms border nerves

Jorhat, Dec. 7: The administrations of Golaghat and Wokha districts have organised a three-day football tournament-cum-cultural programme in a Naga village along the border since yesterday to improve ties between villages along the Assam-Nagaland border.

The area falls under the C sector of the disputed area belt between Ralan subdivision of Wokha and Dhansiri subdivision of Golaghat.

The sector C, along with the A and B sectors, share the inter-state boundary with Golaghat and Wokha districts guarded by the CRPF.

The areas under these sectors have been witnessing tension arising out of minor incidents leading to a blockade on supply of goods to Nagaland.

The blockade was imposed by organisations in Assam as a mark of protest against alleged encroachment of the state’s land by villagers from other side.

“Sports is the right platform to foster brotherhood and football being a popular sport among the villagers of both sides, we hope a new chapter will be opened by this move,” extra assistant commissioner and border magistrate of Dhansiri subdivision of Golaghat, Bipul Das, told The Telegraph today over phone from Sarupathar.

The tournament was jointly inaugurated by Das and his Nagaland counterpart, Kethosito Sekhose.

Das said eight teams, with four teams from each side were participating in the tournament, which has a total prize money of Rs 17,000. “We have added prize money to raise the competitiveness of the tournament,” he said, adding that the winning team will get Rs 10,000 while runners-up will get Rs 7,000.

He said the tournament was being held at a big playground of Liphanyan village and the next such initiative will be organised on the Assam side.

Villagers from both sides were watching the matches in large numbers. Tomorrow, a cultural show will be organised in the evening at the same venue after the final match of the tournament in which traditional dances of both the communities will be performed.

Commissioner (Upper Assam division) S.I. Hussain, Golaghat deputy commissioner Sanjib Gohain Boruah and his Wokha counterpart, Vyasan R, will be among the guests of honour to be present at the closing function tomorrow. A team of the Border Peace Co-ordination Committee (Assam-Nagaland) — an organisation with representatives from both sides of the boundary and working at the grassroots level to promote friendly ties through sports and culture — will also be present on the occasion.

Temsu Wathi Ao, co-ordinator of the border organisation, said his organisation would extend full support to the move.

Hussain said such sports and cultural functions have been happening in the inter-state border under Jorhat, Sivasagar districts on the Assam side and Mokokchung, Longleng and districts of Nagaland, but now the initiative has been expanded to Golaghat and Wokha districts.

Hussain had led a team of citizens from Sivasagar and Jorhat districts to Mokok-chung district to attend a pre-Christmas cultural festival in December last year.


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