Two unfortunate incidents took place in Naga-inhabited areas this month. One was at Lamhai Namdi village in Peren district and the other at Makhan Bridge in Senapati district. It created chaos and a sense of insecurity in the minds of the people. The incidents that happened just a few days apart bear uncanny resemblance. In both the incidents, miscreants set ablaze several houses in connection with land dispute and involved two Naga communities. It was also reported that some of the miscreants who carried out the attacks were armed with sophisticated automatic weapons. All these happened at a time when the Naga society desperately needed to sit around the table, reconcile differences and work for the ultimate common goal. It is certainly not something that Nagas and the world would like to hear. This is the time when Nagas cutting across tribes and borders should be seriously working towards solving the much-delayed Indo-Naga political issue as the government of India has expressed its will to resolve it once for all. But if the people fail to see the bigger picture and choose to fight against each other over a small piece of land, the very dream of living together as one people under one administrative umbrella will become a mockery.
However, the land dispute between communities is not something that’s new to our society. Such dispute not only takes place between different tribes but also between villages from the same tribe and families. Many altercations have happened in the past because of land dispute and many are left unsolved to this day. However, land encroachment cases escalated only in the past few decades. Naga history, which has been passed down several generations through oral tradition, says that our progenitors were just happy with the little they had and perhaps didn’t claim more than what they needed. There was no doubt warfare and headhunting between different villages then but it was not to expand their territory or to capture other people’ land. They respected each other’s territory and space. Today, Nagas’ excessive attachment to land coupled with growing greed and materialism has disintegrated the whole society and harmed the brotherhood different communities shared.
We are witnessing materialistic development over the years but human development seems to have taken a backseat with crime rate and land encroachment incidents on the rise. This calls for the need to retrospect, learn from our past mistakes, imbibe the virtues of our ancestors, and follow their ideals. Land disputes at all levels should be solved once for all. For this, the public should have the will and spirit to amicably settle all land issues through compromise and sacrifice in the name of brotherhood. If the people cannot solve such disputes, the state government should step in and demarcate the lands of different tribes and villages after thorough investigation and consultation with the people involved in disagreement. Naga unity and peace will be at stake as long as land disputes exist.