The Telegraph
Saturday , December 1 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Panel for special law in border villages

Jorhat, Nov. 30: The Assam-Nagaland border peace coordination committee has sent a proposal to Dispur to introduce special laws for Assam villages bordering Nagaland so that petty criminal offences can be dealt with following the Naga Council model, which metes out justice faster.

Temsu Wati Ao, coordinator of the committee, told this correspondent that petty crimes such as theft of cattle, fruits and vegetables, which are actually law and order problems and should be treated accordingly, often blow up into an inter-state boundary issue. Lack of proper handling of such petty crimes leads to tension, agitation and road blockades along the border. As a result, vehicles to Nagaland get stranded, supply of essential commodities is cut off and innocent people suffer.

“If Assam enacts a special law to empower its village panchayats and village defence parties located within a particular radius along the inter-state boundary to function like the Naga village councils, which adjudicate petty crimes and other civil disputes within a short period under the Naga customary laws guaranteed by the Constitution, it would contribute a lot in maintaining peace and tranquility along the border areas,” he said.

Elaborating, Ao, who is also the Mokokchung district informatics officer, said if the accused is handed over to Assam police, the person is arrested and sent to judicial custody and the trial takes much longer compared to the Naga village council system. Thus the victim does not get immediate relief.

In the Naga village council system, an accused facing a similar charge is made to appear before the council members and villagers in a public meeting organised within 10-15 days of the crime, depending on the gravity of the charge levelled against the accused.

After hearing the accused and the victim, if the council finds the person guilty, it imposes a fine on him/her. The fine may be in cash or kind. For example, the accused may be asked to give an animal to the victim. He also has to pay a fine to the council. The accused may be also sent to khojaghar (a small triangular-shaped cell containing itching plants), Ao added.

“Our committee tries to help the Assamese people get justice from such councils if a Naga person is alleged to have committed a crime on the Assam side,” the coordinator said.

But if a person from Assam is arrested by Assam police on charges of petty theft after being informed by the Nagaland side and is sent to jail, the delivery of justice is delayed and the victims does not get any compensation, he added.

The Naga councils also hear cases of murder, he said.

Ao said the committee had sent a proposal to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and home commissioner Jishnu Baruah two days ago to introduce special laws for Assam villages bordering Nagaland.

The Assam-Nagaland peace coordination committee has representatives from both sides of the boundary and works at the grassroots level to promote friendly ties through sports and culture. It has been operating since 2005 along Assam’s border districts of Sivasagar, Jorhat and Golaghat and the Nagaland districts of Mon, Wokha, Mokokchung and Longleng. Assam shares over 400km of border with Nagaland.

The main committee has 24 members with 12 members each from either border of the border. There are four sub-committees at the district level, which also have members from both sides.

Several incidents of violence have been witnessed along the border in the nearly five decades since Nagaland became a separate state in 1963.