The Telegraph
Thursday , April 17 , 2014
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Bikers tour troubled spots

Shillong, April 16: A group of young enthusiasts is on a whirlwind tour on motorbikes to strife-torn areas of the Northeast to propagate what cannot be bought — peace.

The group, Northeast Students Volunteers’ from Jorhat in Upper Assam consisting of 20 young men, started its journey on Monday to interact with people they encounter during the trip. The entire trip will cover at least 2,500km and will conclude on April 22 in Dimapur, Nagaland.

Rev. Dr Woba James, a lecturer in the Eastern Theological College, Jorhat, is leading the group of students who are studying in different parts of Assam. They are visiting Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam — states plagued with insurgency.

“Peace is not a commodity where we can go to the market and buy it. Peace is something which can be created by every individual and it has to begin from oneself,” James told reporters here today after arriving in the state capital last night.

The group members consist of individuals hailing from the four states as a mark of “solidarity”.

Unlike other peace groups, which undertake similar trips, the group claimed to have met some of the leaders of powerful insurgent groups operating in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.

On the response from the insurgent groups, James, without disclosing the identity of the groups, said their leaders were “supportive” of the initiative undertaken by the young volunteers.

“But when we ask those insurgent leaders why they are carrying arms in spite of supporting the idea of peace, their response was that it was their human right,” he said, adding that the group had met leaders representing around five groups.

He also said the volunteers would continue to engage with the insurgent outfits to ensure lasting peace in the region.

The group will tour some militant-infested areas in Nagaland, Manipur and the Karbi Anglong district of Assam.

From here, it will head to Diphu in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district before touring other places like Senapati, Zunheboto, Pfutsero, Tsumeniu, Kohima and Dimapur.

On the response from commoners to the volunteers’ initiative, James said the people at the ground were very encouraging and most of them blamed the political leaders for “politicising peace”.

“The majority of them pin the blame on politicians, and they say that political leaders have politicised our peace,” he said.

While stating that they oppose racial abuse against people hailing from the Northeast in other parts of the country, James said people from here should also accord respect to those who come from outside the region.

In the course of its journey, the group intends to meet leaders representing various communities, NGOs, churches, public administrators, students’ organisations and others.