As the country celebrates 69th Republic Day, for the Dimasas it is a day of mourning. Mithun Dibragede, a father of a toddler died of bullet injury caused by police firing at Maibang on Thursday.
Prakanta Hakmaosa who was shifted to Guwahati for advanced treatment also breathed his last at GNRC, Guwahati. Dozens more are being treated for bullet injury and trauma at Haflong Civil Hospital.
The incident took place at Maibang while people gathered at the railway station against the draft Naga Framework Agreement (NFA) which allegedly includes a portion of Dima Hasao district.
The protests had been peaceful. Reportedly the protest became violent after the Dima Hasao Deputy Commissioner (DC) arrived at the scene and ordered baton charge without any provocation. The public retaliated by pelting stones and police resorted to firing. Bullets against stones is the answer of the police.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal came out with a statement from Delhi that not an inch of land shall be compromised to the proposed Nagalim.
Others in the helms of affairs, including his cabinet colleagues, pointed to political conspiracy. Rather than trying to divert attention with lame excuses, the government should fix responsibility for this tragic incident that has claimed two precious lives already.
This was totally uncalled for given the eyewitness accounts. The DC arrived in the afternoon at about 2.30 meaning that the protest would have ebbed in few hours with onset of dusk.
Reportedly no standard procedures required to be observed were followed prior to lathi-charge and firing in this case. No announcement through PA system was made declaring the gathering unlawful.
Government must fix responsibility for this unjustified use of excessive force rather than building up a narrative of conspiracy.
The Assam Government though has clarified their stand on sacrificing land to the proposed Nagalim have not allayed the apprehension of public in the affected areas.
Because, the NFA envisages a supra-political structure that would encompass other states without compromising their geographical boundaries.
This means some parts of Naga inhabited areas in Dima Hasao district under the bounds of the proposed Naga Political arrangement.
This opens a multiple possibilities for future. The Dimasas, who have been dispersed in different administrative districts including in the state of Nagaland, have been demanding an arrangement where they can live under single administrative unit or at least creation of satellite councils.
Under the circumstance, it is bound to bring discontentment among the Dimasas that a portion of their districts are being placed under proposed Naga political structure by overlooking their own demand. The Government of Assam must take clear stand in this regard too.
While the attitude of Government of Assam is full of apathy, opinion of the Assamese public is not far from it. If this incident of firing was to take place in other parts of the state, the entire state would be under siege.
However, not a single word of condemnation from the Assamese nationalist organisations so far. Rather abominably derogatory comments from some plainsmen are seen in social media.
This attitude of the state government and people of Assam shows that we are nothing more than a burden of the state. This, once again show that we are lesser Assamese and high time we completely Dimasa chart our path separately.
The trigger of the whole event came from the statement of Jadamba Mall, an RSS pracharak on the NFA. The RSS was quick to denounce his opinion as personal and not of the RSS. Jagdamba Mall was also denied any link to the organisation. But RSS themselves did not make their stand clear on the NFA.
But how can one blame the RSS when the democratically elected government itself is not disclosing anything the NFA. Why cannot the government strive for brokering peace openly rather than under a veil of secrecy?
Why not involve all stakeholders in discussion under open public view? Such secrecy can only brew mistrust among the stakeholders and public. And distrust does not augur well for peace.
Uttam Bathari is Deputy Director (Research) at Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.