GUWAHATI: government to wrest back a Nagaland town leased out to the neighbouring state in 1963.
Spread over 121 sq km, Dimapur is Nagaland’s largest town and headquarters of Dimapur district, one of 11 in the state bordering Myanmar. It is also Nagaland’s commercial hub and only railhead. The Assam government leased it out for 99 years after Nagaland was carved out of Assam in 1963. It was leased out for its strategic location—it is the only plains tract of hilly Nagaland and had a railway station and airport space for connectivity and economic activity in the new state.
Sharma, who represents BJP from Assam’s Tezpur Lok Sabha seat, touched a raw nerve last week by asserting that the Assam government should reclaim Dimapur, even if it required force. “We leased out Dimapur, also called Hidimbapur, which was a Dimasa kingdom. We should reclaim all land, including that in Merapani encroached by Nagaland,” he told The Sunday Standard.
The Dimasas, a tribe of the Kachari family, once ruled large swathes from present-day Dimapur to southern Assam’s Cachar district. They community traces its ancestry to Hidimba, the demon king who had confronted Pandava prince Bheem of the epic Mahabharata.
Assam says Nagas, allegedly backed by the insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), have encroached 66,000 hectares across Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong districts along the 434-km border. More than 100 people, mostly in Assam, have died in the resultant border friction, forcing the Centre and the Supreme Court to intervene.
Greater Nagaland envisages bringing all Naga-inhabited areas in the northeast under one administrative umbrella, which will include swathes of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Myanmar. The Assam government’s stand is to maintain the boundary “constitutionally” as decided on December 1, 1963, when Nagaland was created. Nagaland says large parts of Assam, wrongfully annexed by the British in 1826, “historically” belongs to it.
“Staking claim to areas beyond Nagaland just because scattered groups of the Nagas live there is ridiculous. If we go by this logic, we should be claiming Byrnihat (town in Meghalaya) where hundreds of Assamese people have been living before Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972,” Sharma argued.
Naga Hoho, the apex body of all Naga tribes in Nagaland, said Sharma was playing with fire. “He cannot foment violence. Border disputes should be resolved politically. If he instigates violence through such assertion, the Assamese and Nagas won’t forgive him. We condemn his statement and appeal to maintain restraint while talking about the sensitive border disputes,” Naga Hoho chief Chuba Ozukum said.