Peace is linked to political identity
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Rengma Naga Hills Protection Force (RNHPF) was born out of the dire necessity to protect the Rengma Hills and its inhabitants from complete extermination from a people who were once upon a time slaves, slaves in the Jaintia Hills. This is a lesson for all Nagas; be careful whom you patronise because like the proverbial snake, the very people you nurture, give shelter to and protect with your lives is always looking for an opportunity to bite your hand.The story of the Rengmas in Rengma hills is akin to the story of the camel in the tent and since we were being pushed out of the tent, the Rengmas decided- too late, to pick up arms and defend our honour and our lives. The deep rooted Karbi conspiracy to exterminate Rengmas did not start with KPLT but was laid in 1950 when Satro Sing Engti, the Karbi leader laid down the theory of “Unclean Field,” that is, the need for the Karbis to deliberately avoid developing the Rengma inhabited areas interms of infrastructure, education, health care, water, electricity, etc., so as to either rid the Rengmas off their land or to render our people so backward that they could never be a threat to the Karbi people. This philosophy has more or less guided the Karbis politicians, militants and civil society alike vis-à-vis in their relationship with Rengmas over the decades.RNHPF senses that sections of Nagas are cross for the Pachaspura episode and rightly so. However, our perspective is slightly different. According to our interrogation of the 3 persons caught in Lahorijan, the so-called student leader was down and out a KPLT arms smuggler and he led us to the other 6 persons who were nabbed at 7th Mile area after a chase. During our interrogation, the 6 Karbis admitted that they were newly trained militants. The people of Assam and Nagaland should understand that NRHPF is involved in a war of attrition with KPLT militants. It is an open secret that KPLT militants got their training in Nagaland- this view is corroborated by an article in a popular NE magazine- and ever since our formation in 2012, RNHPF has been on their scent. However, it is through sheer coincidence that the Pachaspura episode occurred around the time when 27th Dec killings took place in Rengma Hills. During our interrogation, none of the 9 karbis claimed to be mere labourers or student leaders. RNHPF also initially claimed that it was not responsible for the killings but sensing that Nagaland government was under undue stress, we claimed responsibility since under the circumstances, it was the right thing to do for which we have also apologized to the state government.
As a Protection Force having sworn to defend our land with blood, NRHPF raising the issue of the disappearance of civilians may sound hypocritical to many but the murder of Njakhen Rengma, an innocent person was a turning point in Rengma-Karbi relations. Late Njakhen was abducted on 21st Oct 2013 and was killed by KPLT militants and the whereabout of his bones is still a mystery except to the Assam police. On 14th Dec, Diventiso and John Rongphar (both KPLT) after their capture told Protection Force that Njakhen was murdered at Panjan village. They also admitted that one Rajan Engti, who is still under the custody of Assam police, knew about the whole episode. An FIR was filed but Assam police still refuses to act. This episode is proof that the Rengmas face hostility on every front on account of us being Nagas. The murder of Njakhen Rengma is proof once again that Rengmas cannot not live with the Karbis. Therefore, subsequent events led to another leading to the 27th Dec bloodbath in Rengma Hills. Considering the plight of the Rengmas, another Karbi propaganda is being floated around by the mastermind, JL Kathar, also the tour de force of Karbi propaganda and politics. In fact, he has pretty much managed to seduce our imaginations thanks to his well-connected years as a civil servant in Nagaland. JI Kathar is the proprietor of the “Third force” theory, the theory which at its most base wants all of us to believe that “Someone is out there to break Karbi-Rengma unity at all cost.” The problem with this theory is that there is no Rengma-Karbi unity or brotherhood to begin with; the last 60 years has been nothing but Karbi hegemony and betrayal. It is unbelievable that for a community which has spent the last 10-15 years trying to wipe out every minority ethnic community in Karbi Anglong in their quest for statehood, to suddenly talk about unity between the tribals bespeaks of ulterior motive. At the core of the third force theory is fear; the fear of Kathar that his AKS or Autonomous Karbi state is falling apart. How a community known for persecuting minority population groups through ethnic cleansing be conferred statehood is not lost on the enlightened Indian government, we presume. Protection Force in its numerous forays in Rengma Hills has never encountered any ‘third force’ or ‘second force’ or ‘first force’, only Karbi militants with sophisticated weapons. However, it is to the credit of this man that his ‘third force’ propaganda has managed to make waves on both sides of the border but time will see through this man and his propaganda.
Unlike Nagas, the Karbi militancy was started by politicians and civil society leaders to achieve statehood. Hence, it was only natural for KAAC (Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council) to arm and finance its militants. In 1999, Dr. Janyanta Rongpi, a two time Chief Executive of KAAC, and then CPI (ML) MP, suggested that free arms license should be issued to the poor people living in rural but border hill areas, so as to allow them the right to protect themselves from militants creating havoc in the rural areas. In the aftermath of the 27th Dec killings by KPLT militants with help from Karbi mobs, Jammu and Kashmir Rifles while combing for empty cases found that most of it were Government Issue. This connection is not lost on the Protection Force. It only reinforces our stand that KAAC is not only responsible for subjugating our rights but is involved in serious human rights violations too. The NHRC would do well to document the killings of innocent Rengmas by state actors rather than trying to highlight the Pachaspura episode at the peril of Rengmas in Rengma Hills. Diventiso in his confessional statement to Protection Force also said that Karbis have been preparing for civil war since 2011. Whether such a statement should be given credence is for the people to judge, but the fact of the matter is that Karbi villagers were involved in attacking and destroying Rengma villages. Despite their cry for peace, it sounds hollow and bereft of truth since Kathar and his Karbi Anglong Peace Forum (KAPF) are yet to acknowledge that indeed KPLT is responsible for the 27th Dec killings or that Karbi civilian were actively involved in burning the dead Rengmas and their villages. Unless, certain sincerity is forthcoming from the Karbi civil society, the Protection Force views any corresponding peace effort from Naga civil society a wasted effort. Moreover, for the RNHPF, any credible peace can only be achieved if Rengma Nagas are given constitutional protection or political identity separate from Karbis. The greatest danger to normalcy in Rengma Hills is not KPLT but civil society leaders like Kathar who can weave web of creative arguments to justify the actions of their militant boys at the cost of precious lives.
Lastly, in this conflict, the Karbis have been the aggressors not Rengmas. We are the victims who have been chased out from our homeland and placed in relief camps. We’re a people against whom war has been declared not the other way around. The Protection Force is simply a defensive force out to defend our land. We have not fired even a single shot at the police or at the security forces in Assam. To judge us in the same breath as the Karbi militants would be a travesty of justice. Therefore, to consider the nature of the conflict as Karbi-Rengma clash is injustice itself.
Naga Rengma Hill Protection Force (NRHPF)