Sunday, 22 March 2015

‘Town where the big water flows’


-Brian Mendonça

              When I travelled through Dimapur years ago, it was a sleepy town. I would never have believed it had the guts to beat someone to death and hang him from a clock tower to be displayed -- for a crime he was not proven guilty off and in full view of the CRPF.  
               The troubled North-East, ‘the seven sisters,’ comprise of Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura.  People from the North East have flocked to the metros in ‘mainland’ India for jobs. My instructor in classical guitar at the Delhi School of Music was the friendly Lallawmzuala (Lawmte) from Mizoram. He even invited me to visit Aizawl for his wedding.
             Sarif Khan (28 or 35?) was murdered in full public view by a self-righteous mob in Dimapur. He was from Karimganj district, Assam and had been living in Dimapur for over two years. He chose to marry a Naga woman and had a young daughter. Following local media hype he was mistaken to be an illegal Bangladeshi immigrant (IBI).  Sarif, suspected for rape, was dragged out of jail by a crowd of 1000, led mostly by women, beaten, tied to a vehicle and dragged for almost 7 kms. before his dead body was hoisted up on the clock tower for public derision.  Nagaland government issued a statement later that the rape charge could have no basis.
            Nagaland, a Christian state, doesn’t take kindly to those from the plains, particularly small traders and workers who they believe are taking their jobs, their land – and in this case, their women. The labour does blue-collar jobs like maintenance services which the Nagas won’t do.
             The scenario is similar to Goa with an antipathy simmering against ‘outsiders.’ The lynching of Nigerians in 2013 and the burning alive of tribal leaders Manguesh Gaunkar (26)  and Katu Velip (28) while agitating over reservation in Government jobs at Balli, Quepem in 2011 are cases in point.
             ‘Octave 2015’ organized jointly by North East Zonal Cultural Centre, Dimapur at Darya Sangam, Kala Academy, Campal 18-22 March, for the first time, is a laudable state event showcasing the art and culture of the North East.
             Dimapur means ‘Town where the big water flows.’ The reference is to the Dhansiri river in Dimapur, Nandita Haksar informs us in her book Across the Chicken Neck: Travels in Northeast India (2013). Superintendent of Police,  Assam, Satyaraj Hazarika showed me Majuli island on the Brahmaputra  when I went to read my poems in Jorhat 10 years ago. May the mighty river which the Dhansiri, rising from the Naga hills, meets upstream, bring peace to the troubled region.
             On my way back I had brought with me a beautiful red cloth bag from Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, with a tribal motif of zig zag white lines. It used to be an extension of myself on my travels across India.
            Now I hide it -- it is soaked in Sarif’s blood. 

Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 22 March 2015; Pix source okhlaheadlines.com; See also ‘Christmas in Kohima’ (2007) by Brian Mendonca on Goanet

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