By Oken Jeet Sandham
About a year back, a high-profile team led by State Home Minister Y Patton visited Shamator areas and later Tuensang areas. Shamator is Sub-Division under Tuensang District. The purpose of the visits to these areas was mainly to meet and interact with the leaders and communities belonging to Chang and Yimchunger who were having problems. There were losses of lives and properties due to clashes between these two tribes and the situation was quite tense.
So when they landed in Shamator Subdivision HQ under Tuensang district on March 30, 2015, a mammoth Yimchunger crowd in their public ground was waiting to hear from the State Home Minister of what the Government was thinking about the clashes between the Chang and Yimchunger people in their areas.
After three days, another team led by the Home Minister visited the Tuensang HQ on April 2, 2015, and interacted with the leaders of various Chang frontal organizations. They also narrated their side of the stories as to how the unwanted Chang-Yimchunger clashes happened in the district. They, however, did not buy the idea that the current issue was “tribal issue.” “This incident is not a tribal issue. It is an issue that started in a small village due to a land dispute and it should be handled and solved locally,” said S Ato Chang, former CKS president.
They told the Home Minister that they had neither asked the Yimchunger people to leave the Tuensang town nor did they have any ill-feeling towards Yimchunger brothers till date. The Chang leaders urged the state law enforcement agencies to arrest the actual culprits responsible for the incidents.
During that time, many NGOs including church leaders met leaders of both Chang and Yimchunger tribes and appealed them to maintain peace and tranquility, besides interacting with the affected people taking shelter in nearby villages and at Shamator town with aids. The ENLU team led by Medical Minister P Longon also visited the affected people with monetary aids.
While acknowledging efforts and contributions of various NGOs and church leaders for helping normalize the situation in the areas, the ENLU also appealed to Chang leaders to show their magnanimity as they were the big brothers in the district. They even urged the Chang people to call the fleeing Yimchunger people back to the Town to live as before and open channels for “dialogue” between them for an amicable and permanent solution to their problem.
It is very unfortunate that the region has been plagued with tribal issues one way or the other. The recent killing of a couple – Mr. Alemba Sangtam and his wife Naro – by unidentified gunmen while they were returning from Shamator to Kiphire has added another problem to the already complex tribal scenario in the region. The immediate fallout of this unfortunate incident was the mobs in Kiphire town going rampage and vandalizing houses including a house belonging to local MLA, Torechu. And the next day, another mob went rampage in Pungro areas. But such immediate public anger was only expected to follow and law enforcement agencies and administrations should be intelligent enough and position the State forces in areas where violence is expected to happen.
The past experiences showed that such tribal-related issues were not that easy to solve. One positive development prevailing when the issues cropped up between the Chang and Yimchunger people was that they had not uttered any undesirable words so far. They were seen maintaining such a maturity and this showed that they knew who they were and what their future was.
Although the latest incident was different than that of earlier Chang-Yimchunger issue, an immediate intervention is needed to defuse the situation before worsening. The situation in the region is so fragile. A lot of measures have to be taken by the Government with the cooperation of the civil societies and church leaders.
Following measures may be initiated immediately to defuse the situation.
1. State leaders should immediately meet all the communities – particularly Yimchungers and Sangtams – and tell them what the Government is doing in connection with the unfortunate incident that took place on the night of February 6 at Mongshike Project Area, under Shamator Sub-Division. They could also meet the victims’ family members as such gestures will not only give a peace of mind, oneness, and consolation to them but also sending a positive message to all the communities.
2. The region is sensitive for quite some time and the need of the hour is the Government should step in and try to work with the leaders of different civil societies to form Peace Committees to spread goodwill so as to remove feelings of fear and hatred in the affected areas. This will be effective not only in diffusing communal tensions but also in preventing violence from breaking out.
3. The State leaders should restore people’s confidence in them, and this can be only done when they start visiting them personally and share free and frank minds. They should appeal to various communities to call back those who left their houses, and such measures are urgently needed to restore peace, oneness and one-family mind among the different communities.
4. The ENLU also should immediately meet leaders of both the communities and urge them to call the fleeing citizens of both the communities back to their respective places to live as before.
If we allow the unrest and turmoil to continue, the region will become a boiling cauldron and a huge security concern for the State. As such constant efforts should be there to promote reconciliation and reconstruction with the two tribes so as to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in future. In a larger sense, such reconciliation and reconstruction need larger transformation toward manageable, peaceful relationships and governance structures. We also should remember that the ultimate solution lies between the Sangtam and Yimchunger people who have been living as one family and even heaven falls, they will continue to live as one family. This is the reality.