Land and border disputes

By: Z. Katiry (Ex-MLA From Meluri:    25 Jul. 2015 
1. Why is the Naga society beset with so many internal disorders and conflicts?
Many thoughtful persons agree that something manifestly is going wrong with the Naga society but nobody cares to assume responsibility to define the nature of its causes and formulate a solution for the same. Why are there too many internal disorders and conflicts? To this, I can say without hesitation that all our internal disorders and conflicts that beset Naga society is due to the many unsettled conditions which we now need to identify and discover the hidden assets for rebuilding the Naga society. The volatile situations that often emanated from border and land disputes which are spreading across the state and beyond like virus is slowly eating into the vital parts of our collective future.
Look, the situation that has been going on between Konyak and Chang who could not see eye to eye for the past so many years which has already cost loss of many valuable lives; the recent clash between Yimchunger and Chang over land dispute leading to extreme form of raw vandalism to properties of one tribe by another; the frequent border clashes that involve between several villages of Nagaland and Manipur states under Phek district in the most virulent form for the past many years; the intermittent border clashes between Assam and Nagaland states in the Karbi sector; the recent border conflict between SAYO and Mao community¬¬- all these and others, have destroyed a sense of oneness amongst the Nagas almost irreconcilably.
It is indeed tragic and painful that, at the time when Nagas are sorely in need of unity for achieving our common goal, there are irreconcilable conflicts everywhere over boundary issue which can potentially affect the collective destiny of the Nagas. The malaise had reached to such a level that a day is not far off when the unity of the Nagas may be torn asunder beyond any possibility of gluing back together the bits and pieces. A warning bell has already been sounded that the Nagas need to be very careful and cautious in tackling issue that affects the whole Naga people. Let the NGOs and Civil Societies in Nagaland seriously think about setting up module for peace advocacy, although few feel strongly about the need for it as peace-making is a very tedious process. We need to set our house in order immediately.
2. Why peace is needed?
Peace is pre-requisite to development. As such one of our deals must be peace, based on understanding and self-restraint. Tragically, our relations among our own people as well as with people of neighboring states are far from ideal at this present time. It will do us immense good if each one of us realizes that our future depends on peace. We need to give increasing talk to people around us including others about the need of peace.
It should be kept in mind that every issue can be moderated through enormous respect for reality, and the reality can emerge only when both the parties involved in the dispute can come together with open-mindedness and engage in serious discussion to involve ways and means for meaningful solution. All issues are not insoluble; they are all soluble if we are honest, sincere and determined. The party that lays false claim must admit to being wrong which is not a weakness but a process of healing the wound, for both cannot have right. The lost of a case in the court should not necessarily be construed as a humiliating defeat.
3. Why border and land disputes are rising increasingly ?
Land represents the single most important source of livelihood. People everywhere clamor for land. “The proletariats need land”, said Karl Marx in his Das Kapital. At one point of time in the distant past in our Naga society, lands were aplenty as the population was thinly scattered, and they were in no way pressed for land and its resources as there were vast areas of uninhabited virgin forests. They also did not appreciate the value of land unlike people of our time due to ignorance. They roamed and roamed about like gypsies without any emotional attachment to the land. Apart from this fact, the Nagas were migratory in nature. Their slush and burn agriculture practice accounted for this migratory nature. They kept shifting from place to place along with the shifting of cultivation in that they would abandon their old temporary make-shift huts and move on to a new place near the site where they would decide upon for the next slash and burn cycle.
With the passage of time, people ceased to be nomadic as population was growing exponentially and land and its resources were depleting correspondingly. In fact, we are already at a level where our small planet can no longer support the weight of our population. It is due to this population pressure on land and its resources that border and land disputes are bound to arise at an alarming rate, often creating volatile situations everywhere which are beyond control even by the government authorities. According to 1961 census, the population of Nagaland was recorded as 3, 69,210 only. In 2001 census, the population of Nagaland has shot up to 19, 90,636 with decadal growth of 64.05% as against the national decadal growth of 21.54% (which has almost tripled and abnormally very high). If the decadal growth of population of any given census exceeds 23%, it is said to abnormally high.
This being the trend of population growth, the policy makers and planners should give serious thought to it as the exponential growth of population can have serious impact on the society of the future. We also need to tell our people how they must utilize their land and its resources wisely in such a way that they are not swiftly exhausted in their greed to gain short-term easy money. A resource-starved State like ours where economy is extremely fragile, compounded with insurgency problem and acute unemployment problems, has assumed threatening dimension. Considering all these, we are indeed heading towards the worst of times if we fail to formulate appropriate policies and programs based on visionary and futuristic approach so as to salvage our collective future. In this kind of land you get back less than what you had invested.
4. Type of boundaries:-
There are two types of boundaries:-(1) Traditional boundaries which were in existence since time immemorial and(2) Political boundaries which were demarcated between states by the British government in India for the purpose of revenue collection within the British administered area. At some stretch of length, both descriptions coincide.
5. Traditional boundaries:-
Except for interstate boundaries, all other boundaries such as between tribes, villages and individuals in every village are all traditional which are upheld and protected/safeguarded by the customary law and practices which were considered as sacrosanct and inviolable. These traditional boundaries are more authentic, binding and lasting as they have been there since time immemorial much before the British came to our land. The jurisdiction of every Naga tribe or village is clearly delineated from the other mountain spurs, hill ridges, rivers or streams as boundaries to avoid any conflict between the tribes or villages, and these are upheld and protected by the customary practices. The boundaries between individuals are marked out by stone pillars, and any removal of these ancient pillars was considered taboo, and worthy of death. Even the Bible says so, in Deuteronomy 23:27 and Proverbs 22:28. There is three categories of land in almost every village with a few exceptions. They are:- (1) Individual land, (2) clan land and (3) Village community land. Whereas lands held by individuals are meant for agriculture farming, lands held by clan and village community are basically meant for cane and bamboo growing and include reserved forests.
(To be continued)
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