|(Top) CRPF personnel stop AASU activists near the Assam-Nagaland border; Naga armed police guard a village in the disputed area. Pictures by Ritupallab Saikia
Uriamghat/Kohima, Aug. 16: Four days of Assam-Nagaland border skirmish, which has left 11 dead and 10,000 displaced in Golaghat district of Assam, has prompted both Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and his Nagaland counterpart T.R. Zeliang to move Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking restoration of peace in the area.
As protests rocked Assam seeking deployment of state forces for security of the border residents, the affected villagers wondered if they indeed hailed from Assam.
Tarun Khalko, a villager of Golaghat, said they had not batted their eyelids in four days fearing raids by militants from Nagaland. “What has left us even more shaken is why can’t the state government deploy Assam police personnel to provide security just in the manner Nagaland has provided security to its villagers by deploying Naga armed police force,” he said.
While Assam has said it cannot deploy state police forces in the disputed areas belt, between the two states, Nagaland has gone ahead and deployed its armed police in the area. “We are left to wonder if we are indeed citizens of Assam,” said Khalko, probably summing up the feelings of the affected villagers put up in 13 relief camps in Uriamghat in Golaghat district.
Sukleswar Mech, gaon bura (village head) of Kamalpur, said miscreants from Nagaland, allegedly backed by NSCN (I-M) cadres, had fired at villagers till last night.
Gogoi has written to Modi seeking restoration of peace in the disputed belt. He urged Modi to immediately hold a meeting at political and official level to restore peace, amity and harmony on the Assam-Nagaland boundary.
He also requested additional 10 companies of CRPF for rapid reinforcement and setting up of security pickets in the affected areas, which fall in the B sector of the disputed area belt and are located within the constitutional boundary of Assam. “The personnel deployed should be directed to take stern action proactively against the miscreants/extremists in an unbiased manner,” Gogoi said, while accusing the CRPF of “failing miserably” to protect the poor villagers of Assam.
Zeliang, in his letter to Modi, sought release of nine personnel attached to Nagaland parliamentary secretary Paiwang Konyak. The nine were proceeding towards Jorhat airport along National Highway 39, which connects the two states, yesterday when they ran into a blockade at Rangajan Tinali in Golaghat district. The blockade enforcers stopped them, held them captive and refused to release them till the border crisis got resolved.
Zeliang said his government was making all efforts to defuse the situation at Ralan and that eight persons had been arrested for killing Adivasis who had allegedly encroached into Nagaland. He said Gogoi’s promise to get his parliamentary secretary’s staff released had not yielded results and he had also spoken to Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju on the matter.
In the meantime, bandhs, blockades and protests continued to compound the crisis for both the states.
The NH 39 blockade cut off surface transport to and from Nagaland for the fourth day today.
The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) blocked trains to Dimapur in Nagaland in Golaghat district for over nine hours today, seeking deployment of Assam Rifles and Assam police personnel in the disputed area. KMSS president Akhil Gogoi blamed the bloodshed on the “conspiracy” to carve out Greater Nagalim, covering parts of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. He accused the “neutral force” (CRPF) of doing nothing to counter the Naga militants as they torched Assam villages and fired upon the villagers.
The Assam bandh call by the All Assam Adivasi Students Association crippled normal life in Sonitpur district. Bandh supporters set ablaze a Mahindra Quanto at Alisinga on NH 15 under Dhekiajuli police station and damaged a bus.
A delegation of the All Assam Students Union (AASU), led by general secretary Tapan Gogoi, visited the inter-state boundary and demanded immediate replacement of the CRPF with Assam police personnel to safeguard the state’s borders. It said if the government failed to do so, it should provide licensed arms to the villagers to protect themselves from the bullets of Naga miscreants.
A 10-member team of Naga Students Federation also visited the area. NSF president Tongpang Ogukura told The Telegraph that there was no clear proof of the involvement of the NSCN (I-M) but they suspected the involvement of All Adivasi National Liberation Army in the unrest.