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Nagaland mum on ex gratia to families

Kohima, Aug. 18: The Nagaland government has not yet decided to pay ex gratia to the Adivasi families at Ralan in the disputed areas belt with Assam whose kin were killed in firing and arson allegedly by Naga militants on August 12 and 13.

Lalthara, retired Nagaland chief secretary and adviser to chief minister T.R. Zeliang, said this here today.

Sources said Adivasis were demanding Rs 15 lakh each for those killed, Rs 5 lakh each for the injured and Rs 7 lakh each for construction of houses destroyed by “Naga militants”.

The Lotha Youth Hoho has, however, demanded assistance from the state government for over 500 Nagas displaced from Ralan.

It said Adivasis had torched over 300 Naga houses on August 12 and 13, rendering scores of Nagas homeless. The displaced people are taking shelter at Chandalshung-B, Yanlum, Tehujanpen and Wochan villages in Wokha district.

Lotha Students’ Union president Amos Odyuo said they had not received any assistance from the state government and had set up relief camps in the area with help provided by NGOs.

He said no top state official had visited the affected area so far.

Neither Zeliang nor Nagaland home minister Y. Patton has visited the area since the incident.

All attempts to contact Patton have proved futile. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi visited the Assam side of the disputed area today. However, local legislator Mmhonlumo Kikon, who represents Bhandari Assembly constituency, visited the area today and met the elders of Ralan in an effort to defuse the tension.

Parliamentary secretary for border affairs Thomas Ngullie had visited the area two days ago.

Zeliang, who was in Dimapur, about an hour from Ralan, today to inaugurate a multi-crore luxurious hotel, said he was constantly in touch with his Assam counterpart and with central leaders to defuse the tension in Ralan and resolve the long-pending border row between the two states.

Zeliang and Gogoi are scheduled to meet in Guwahati on Thursday to discuss the situation on the border but the patience of people is running out because of the lackadaisical approach of the state government.

Nagaland armed police are manning the area but local residents have demanded for more forces.

The Nagaland government has constituted a committee, headed by commissioner and secretary Imkonglemba Ao, to inquire into the August 12 and 13 border skirmish.

The committee’s brief is to find out whether the violence was the handiwork of individuals, groups or organisations and to make recommendations on how to prevent such incidents in future.

It has been asked to submit its report within 15 days.

The NSCN (Isak-Muivah) has denied its involvement in the August 12 violence. A senior functionary of the group said the NSCN was the only ghost that haunted the Assam government. “They don’t see any other ghost.”

The Nagas claimed that the All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA) was responsible for the violence in Ralan and that arms and ammunition belonging to the outfit were recovered from the houses of Adivasis on August 12 and 13.

As a result of the blockades in Assam that have cut off Nagaland, prices of essential commodities spiralled by 10 to 20 per cent today. There was shortage of LPG but sources said essential commodities and fuel would last some more weeks. Sources in Dimapur said the blockades had hit traders in Karbi Anglong, who primarily sell their products in and around Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland. Assam’s flourishing border towns of Lahorijan, Khatkhati and Bokajan remained almost deserted as their business mainly depends on Nagaland.

At Tuli in Nagaland, bordering Assam’s Halwating area in Sivasagar district, people staged a protest against the highway blockade in Assam that has been continuing for the past six days. The highway blockade was put up to protest against the firing and arson in Uriamghat by militants from Nagaland.

People at Tuli are suffering from food and fuel scarcity as refuelling stations have run out of petrol. Supplies to Nagaland pass through Assam.

Halwating officer-in-charge Simanta Bora said the people were protesting at Tuli against the blockade called by the All Tea tribe Students’ Association (ATTSA) and All Tai Ahom students’ Union (ATASU). They were questioning why they were being punished when they had no hand in the Uriamghat incident.

Additional reporting by our correspondent in Jorhat