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Sporadic firing, tension continue
Nagaland slams Assam

Kohima, Aug. 13: Villagers in Nagaland today reiterated that Assam was fanning flare-ups on the inter-state boundary by pushing illegal immigrants inside its territory.

Nagaland said it would make all efforts to defuse the tension on the inter-state boundary that has remained tense since yesterday’s firing.

Trouble began yesterday when villagers of Chetia Gaon in Golaghat district of Assam, protesting against the alleged abduction of two schoolboys in an adjacent village of Nagaland, were caned by CRPF personnel and while fleeing were fired upon by alleged miscreants from Nagaland which killed at least two persons. The miscreants also allegedly torched scores of huts belonging to Adivasis in Assam.

Sources at Ralan in Wokha district of Nagaland, where the firing took place, said sporadic firing was still going on from both sides but no further casualty had been reported so far. They said the situation was tense with Naga villagers fearing an attack from Adivasis anytime.

Residents of Wokha claimed that trouble had been brewing in the border areas as people from Assam had encroached upon their lands and had been harassing them.

Nagaland has been accusing Assam of settling illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Nepal and Adivasis in the disturbed areas along the Nagaland-Assam border and pushing them inside Nagaland.

A former president of Naga Students’ Federation, Achumbemo Kikon, said the situation was very tense and could take a turn for the worse if the governments did not take appropriate measures.

Mmholumho Kikon, who represents Bhandari Assembly seat in Wokha district, said India Reserve Battalion (IRB) and police personnel had been deployed in the state.

Wokha district administration officials and several NGOs are also camping in the area to defuse the situation.

Chief minister T.R. Zeliang said the government would make all efforts to resolve the problem soon.

Kyong Students’ Union (KSU) president Amos Lotha alleged that the Adivasis had first attacked Naga villagers, who then torched their huts. He claimed that while Dispur has deployed scores of police in the area, Nagaland had deployed only a few. Nagaland deployed an IRB company in the area last evening.

Lotha criticised Nagaland home minister Y. Patton and parliamentary secretary for border affairs N. Thomas Lotha, both from Wokha, for not visiting the area.

Patton appealed to the people to maintain peace. He said the state government would make efforts to settle the issue with the Assam government.

Lotha called for a review of the 1972 interim agreement with Assam, alleging that the neighbouring state had failed to maintain status quo. According to the agreement, both states had agreed not to set up police posts along the disputed areas but Assam has dozens of police posts in these areas. The 1979 Interim Agreement between the two states says Assam will withdraw its armed police from the predominantly Naga-inhabited areas of Diphu and Namborand Rengma reserve forest area and replace it with the CRPF and the Assam Rifles as neutral forces.

Retired Nagaland commissioner T.N. Mannen said Nagaland had withdrawn its police outposts from the border areas in accordance with the agreements but Assam had increased the same in all the sectors. He said encroachments were going on in all sectors from the Assam side leading to Nagaland losing land.

Mannen also alleged that the CRPF was not being neutral, perhaps because of an inherent defective command structure. “The greatest mistake was agreeing to place them under the command of Additional IG of police, Assam,” he added. He alleged that Assam had never intended to implement the interim agreements. It had blatantly flouted the agreements while accusing Nagaland of violation and encroachment to cover up its “wrong acts”, he alleged. Former Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio had met Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi in December last year to find a solution to the dispute. Both vowed to try and settle the issue. Zeliang is likely to meet Gogoi to discuss the latest development.