The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bihari workers flee Nagaland
- Student union in damage-control drive

Kohima/Dimapur, Aug. 6: Panic-stricken Biharis today started fleeing Nagaland in droves after student activists physically abused migrants in the state capital over the alleged rape of a minor by Bangladeshi settlers.

The Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) claimed to have relaxed its campaign against “outsiders”, but it did little to ease the worries of labourers from Bihar, some of whom were caned in public and forced to do sit-ups.

There were unconfirmed reports of migrants being hounded elsewhere in the state, too. As the day progressed, batches of labourers from Bihar left the state by rail and road.

Yahan logon ka maar khane ke liye baithega kya' (Should I stay here to get beaten up'),” a newspaper vendor asked, packing his meagre belongings.

On Wednesday, the NSF asked “Muslims from Assam” — alluding to Bangladeshi migrants who possess permanent resident certificates of the neighbouring state — to leave Nagaland for good. The student organisation, however, did not issue any such diktat to migrants from Bihar.

NSF president Achumbemo Kikon said his organisation was only protesting against the alleged rape. He urged migrants who possessed valid documents to resume work without fear.

Though a semblance of normality returned with markets in Kohima opening after three days, the Bihari workforce seemed demoralised after yesterday’s events.

Student activists had herded a large group of migrants from Bihar and north India into the Kohima playground and collected their inner-line permits, which any visitor to Nagaland must acquire before entering the state. They were asked to do sit-ups and caned for not coming to the same ground for a meeting convened by the NSF the previous day.

This is the second exodus of Bihari labourers from Kohima in less than a year. These migrants faced a backlash last year after a tribal girl was molested on a train that was passing through Bihar.

Apart from the NSF, the influential Naga Mothers’ Association actively participated in the agitation following the alleged rape of a minor by Bangladeshi migrants. As tension ran high in Kohima, almost every “outsider”, including government employees, remained indoors for fear of being assaulted.

Kohima deputy commissioner Zhaleo Rio downplayed the exodus of Biharis, saying the majority of those leaving the state did not have valid inner-line permits.

“In times like these, fear psychosis is a common phenomenon. But the town is back to normal.”

The official said the campaign by the students and mothers’ associations was against illegal Bangladeshi settlers and not all migrants.

In Assam, an unidentified group allegedly asked Naga students of Gauhati Medical College and Silchar Medical College to be prepared to leave if the campaign against non-Nagas in Kohima did not end immediately.

A representative of the All-Assam Students’ Union, however, said his organisation would not allow any retaliatory campaign to gain ground.

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