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President Murmu's visit to Nagaland marred by 'ignoring' Village elders

Nirendra Dev *



The much popular 'red blankets' -- traditional attires of Naga village elders -- did a vanishing act during President Droupadi Murmu's civic reception at Kohima on Wednesday. The President embarked on a four-day visit to northeastern states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Sikkim beginning Wednesday, Nov 2.

However, her maiden visit to Nagaland on Wednesday and Thursday was marred by 'ignoring' village elders - the much respected Gaon Burrahs. Of course the fault line does not lie with the Rashtrapati Bhavan or the centre.

Local organisers at Kohima under the aegis of state government run by NDPP-BJP-NPF coalition have sought to ignore the Nagaland Gaon Burrah Federation (NGBF). The NGBF and also the apex Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) were not invited for the Nov 2 mega show at Kohima which was graced by India's first woman tribal President Droupadi Murmu.

"In honour of the Honourable President of India, a civic reception is being organised at Capital Cultural Hall, Kohima on 2nd November at 3 pm," says an official circular from Home Commissioner Abhijit Sinha.

The list in the circular dated Oct 28, 2022 includes 22 organisations and civil society bodies but has excluded NTC and GB Federation. "All are requested to attend the civic reception wearing their traditional shawls," the Circular from the Home Commissioner had said.

Another explanation however aimed at defending the authorities is that even influential Naga Students Federation and Naga Mothers Association too have not been invited. But GBs in Nagaland are known as custodians of Naga Customary laws and hence the office bearers of the organisation could have been invited, many say.

Eyebrows are raised by certain quarters as these two organisations NTC and NGBF have been vocal from time to time either on matters relating to the 'delay' in fructifying the peace process and making a strong case for an early solution to the Naga problem.

Observers say at times NGBF and NTC have taken positions not pleasing some political forces either overt or covert in the state. One senior social worker said, "It could be a mistake...even in the past corrigendums have been issued for such lapses".

An office bearer of the Lotha Naga tribe Hoho maintained it would have been good if invitations were extended to these two organisations. Central Naga Tribes Council (CNTC) president Lanu Imchen when contacted told this journalist, "It would have been good if GB federation was invited for the event especially because President Murmu is country's first tribal woman holding the high post".

The CNTC is a body of three tribes - Aos, Lothas and Semas. The formation of umbrella body NNPG by bringing together seven militant groups to a large extent was due to the initiative of the NTC and GB Federation.

It may be mentioned here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government hold the GB federation of Nagaland in high esteem. In June this year, interacting with a group of young women students from Nagaland in his office, Modi had applauded the rich cultural traditions associated with the 'Gaon Burrah' - village elders - institution in the state.

It may be noted the 'importance' given to Naga Gaon Burrahs did not go down well with many established players in the existing power politics structures in Nagaland during the tenure of R N Ravi as the Governor.

According to announcement of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, on Thursday, Nov 3, the President will pay her respect at the Kohima War Cemetery and visit Kigwema village where she will interact with the Village Council Members and the members of Self Help Groups (SHGs).

On Thursday itself, she would fly to Aizawl and grace the 17th convocation of the Mizoram University at Aizawl. She will also inaugurate various education related projects in Mizoram. On November 4, Friday, the President will address the members of the Mizoram Legislative Assembly and on the same day, she will attend a civic reception to be hosted by the Government of Sikkim in her honour at Gangtok.

On Nov 5, 2022, the President will interact with women achievers and members of SHGs at Tathagatha Tsal, Ravongla in Sikkim before returning to Delhi.


* Nirendra Dev wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is based at New Delhi and can be contacted at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 04 November 2022.



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