T S Haokip
“Chassad is burnt down”, informed a friend. I quickly check the news channels; National, Regional and State. There was no news as such. I sighed a relief. Then I came across a state News Channel informing that a hut was burnt down due to forest fire as there was a misunderstanding between two communities. My happiness knew no bound in knowing that Chassad is safe. Later, social media became flooded with video clips; some too heart-touching to even watch. A particular video clip that shows women and children wailing inconsolably as their houses were gutted in flames brought tears to my eyes. ‘O Lord our God, let not these cries and prayers of your people be in vain,’ I prayed in despair.
Never have I imagined that my birthplace would one day be reduced to a house-less village. My father, had he been alive today would still pray for the perpetrators – the Tangkhuls. That basically is our difference. While peace loving Kukis believed in loving their neighbours as they love themselves, their neighbours evidently follow different teachings. It was the year 1979 that my father, then Pastor of KBC, was given posting as Chassad Gambih Pastor (Area Pastor). He’d later served a record 10 years in the region, during which I was born. I have only few memories to recollect as a child but I have heard from my parents, the kindness of people from Chassad area despite the communication hardships which continue to prevail in the area till today. My father had not just good friends but best friend ‘jol’ from the Tangkhul community too. Even when communal tensions were high during the infamous Communal Conflicts of the 90s, my father was invited to Molvailup village, Chassad area for Christmas and New Year celebration. His submission would always be that ‘There are many Tangkhuls who are like us, peace loving. I have many friends in Kamjong too. It is the militants and not the public.’ I know for sure that my father would never lie. But thirty years down the line, If I am to describe the nature of the people who turned my birthplace to ashes today, I will ofcourse say ‘ I have a friend from Kamjong’, like my father, but I will be in lost for good words to honestly describe them. Cowards and miscreants would be the least harsh words to describe people who made more than 100 families homeless.
A few months back, the Kuki Chiefs of Chassad area made a request to the Government for protection of Kuki villages in Chassad Area, Kamjong District. I was surprised because Chassad village has not just a Police Station but also an Assam Rifle post, both of which are located within a mile radius of the village. Then I remember the many villages like Moltuh, Aishi and Molvailup etc who could need security forces for their protection. Chassad village was the last in my mind that I thought, could be attacked, that too in broad daylight. My trust on security forces have now hit rock-bottom after Chassad’s episode. May be it was my fault to have such high hopes. While there are many people, including victims whose houses were burnt down, who strongly feel NSCN IM is behind the attack, I for one thought an organisation which has a motto ‘ Nagaland for Christ’ cannot stoop to that level of burning innocent people’s home which will be directly against Christ’s teaching of ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’. Many people laugh at me at how novice I am, in understanding the plight of the Kukis in Chassad area. I decided not to doubt the people who are on the ground.
As I think of how difficultly the families of the now homeless Chassad villagers will spend their night, my heart weeps not just because of their plight but for my helplessness in ensuring the prevalence of basic sense of humanity in my birthplace which is nothing but a town of ashes now. Herculean efforts of not just physical and economical but emotional and psychological await the villagers to restore their homestead. I gave my utmost respect to the people of Chassad for not retaliating the attacks, which is one of the highest level of provocation and a display of utmost disrespect towards the victims. The people of Chassad even when they were in the jungle, while their houses were gutted to flames, prayed like my father would have done had he been alive today and displayed true characters of believers, which the neighbours could surely learn. Apart from banning the internet, I hope the Government restores Chassad village at the earliest possible and ensure the situation doesn’t get out of control. Or, will my hope on the establishment be failed once again? I do not want to know.
The writer is author of the book HILLY DREAMS