On December 10, 2011, cadres of several Naga National groups joined the Journey of Common Hope on the lone flyover in Dimapur.
If you were on the roads of Dimapur that Saturday morning and managed to serpentine your way through the flyover, you couldn’t have missed men in white shirts and army camouflage trousers painting the bridge bright. Some among them were members of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) that had brought them together.
Conscious of being thrown into full public view after spending years in camps, the men were shy to meet the eye but firm in their resolve to stay focused on the group activity assigned to them—painting the dust ridden, dulled out, railings of the Dimapur flyover white, black and grey in organized symmetry. Seventy five cadre from three Naga national groups were up and about from wee hours of the morning, first attending a prayer meet followed by dividing into two mixed groups whose formation the FNR micro managed, making sure the men got to work with cadre from the other camps, whether friend or former foe.
Bucket of paint in one hand and brush in another, each group started painting from two ends of the bridge to meet at the point where the flyover takes a turn in the direction of the Dimapur rail station; the part that all of them worked on, together at the end. Commitment to the group exercise was evident and not being part of the effort of reconciliation here meant losing out on moving moments of team work, splendid in converging warring men for whom reconciliation was but a myth, then taking the turn to reality.
Shopkeepers from the nearby Hongkong market opened business by 8:00-9:00 am. Some of them helped the cadre paint from the other side of the bridge, their carts doubled up as platforms to share the job—the groups imposed taxes on the shopkeepers, a burden the people protested in the years to come.
At the time though, people remained enthusiastic given the sharp decline in violence that Dimapur had witnessed following the reconciliation process. The enthusiasm was visible in the FNR members that day, many of who joined hands to paint the bridge. Rev. Dr. Wati Aier, Convener of the FNR, was seen in a black ‘Naga Reconciliation’ t-shirt and cargo pants encouraging the boys; girls in similar attire distributed water and painted some too.
“They were quite conscious of being out in the public domain but they collaborated and concentrated on the task. They remembered working with some of the other cadre who were friends before but joined other groups later. Some of them shed tears when they finished and looked back at the product of their shared labour,” said Dr. Wati, clearly proud of the FNR team and the cadre for this achievement.
On January 10, 2018, a similar achievement became visible as reconciliation poured out of the cadre bucket into the middle of the people, painting borders to oblivion.
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