Many estranged thoughts have led me to write this piece, because there is a mix of anger, apathy and helplessness and one cannot just sit idle and not voice these thoughts.
As the country completes its 69th year of being a republic nation, Dima Hasao district, the only hill station of Assam, is boiling in rage. Two have died, including the father of a toddler, and several others have been injured, during a protest against the inclusion of Dima Hasao district in the alleged formation of Nagalim.
The incident took place in the Maibang railway station, where the public of Dima Hasao had gathered and were protesting against the draft of the Naga Framework Agreement. The draft was proposed by Mr Jagdamba Mall, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member. The protest was peaceful but later turned violent when the District Commissioner ordered baton charge and fired at the protestors without any provocation.
The irony is that the people of Dima Hasao were protesting against the inclusion of its region in Nagalim, and some of their own brothers and sisters are either silent or making a mockery of the situation. It has also been observed that a few sections of people are blaming the protestors of Dima Hasao and putting derogatory comments on social media. This situation only adds on to the existential crisis for the Dimasas, who are historically renowned for their warrior skills and vibrant culture.
It is not complicated to understand that the RSS is trying to divide the indigenous communities on communal lines by creating such divisions. They have started secretive talks without considering the rightful stakeholders on the table. Agreements made in secret always raise eyebrows and are a breach of trust. More absurd is the fact that some random person from outside, who has no links to the whole of the north eastern region of India – and who has no historical and cultural understanding of the region – proposed this restructuring of territories.
History has repeated itself one more time. If we recall the Yandaboo Treaty of 1826, the voices and consent of the people were not taken into consideration while signing the agreement between the British and the Burmese. One thing is common between this and the secretive draft agreement with NSCN-IM for Nagalim.
Even though Dima Hasao is an autonomous district constituted under the sixth schedule of the Constitution of India, the draft agreement proposes a satellite council for this district to be managed by Nagalim. This brings deeper issues to the fore like how easily Constitutional mandates are flouted and the audacity of these communal associations to commit such acts.
The sad part of this whole situation is the deafening silence of the Centre and state governments. The BJP government of Assam, who came to power promising to uphold jati, mati and bhetir (race, land, and indigeneity) are eerily quiet about this war on indigeneity.
Nothing different can be said for the Centre as well. The Central Government doesn’t show any signs of being a populist government besides making some wishy-washy promises and pushing the country into a dark era divided on the lines of caste, creed, and religion.
The citizens of India and particularly ones of Assam have to go back to history to understand the contribution of the Dimasas. In spite of the conflict between Ahoms and Dimasas, the latter had always stood beside the former against foreign annexations, be it Mughals or British. Dimasas continue to be by the side of the Assamese community but whether the same thing can be said for the greater Assamese community is doubtful.
It is time to strengthen the unity of the Dimasa community residing in different regions and for the citizens of Assam to come forward and raise their voices before it’s too late. Let the communal elements and their blind followers know that in the land of warriors like Lachit and Sambudhan, we stand strong and shall not allow anyone to divide us and also they can never decide about our future, without considering us.