ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Assam-Nagaland Border Violence

The violence in August on the border of the Naga Hills that left 17 people dead, scores injured and over 200 houses burnt has its roots in the colonial period. But a solution to this long-standing dispute over land lies not in the realm of constitutional borders or assertion of historical claims to "ancestral land", but in mutual give and take.

What happened on the nights of 12-14 August in 16 villages situated on the border of the Naga Hills, some 5 kilometres from Uriamghat of Golaghat district of Assam was not totally unexpected. The Assam-Nagaland border in the region had long been simmering, with the Nagas insisting that the villages near the 2-km stretch of forest area near Uriamghat are inhabited chiefly by relatively recent settlers who are “encroaching” upon Naga territory. The fact is that encroachment of forest areas has been taking place over the years, with both Nagas as well as villagers from Assam setting up hamlets.

Most of the villages set up by the Assamese on the border of the Naga Hills are populated by marginalised sections of society consisting mainly of adivasis or tea tribes as well as some local Assamese and Nepalese settlers. These villagers have been cultivating crops for years, all the while regularly paying “taxes” to the Naga militant factions in the hope that they would not be disturbed. But the overall situation has been far from peaceful. Stray attacks on the villagers, abductions and extortions of money from the Naga side of the border had become a common feature of an area which was supposed be under the control of a “neutral” central force, in this case, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

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