‘Operation Paint Bridge’

Cadres of the Naga Army diligently applying paint to the railings of the Dimapur over-bridge during the public service rendered by the GPRN/NSCN, NNC/FGN and NSCN/GPRN on December 10, the International Human Rights Day. The public service was part of the symbolic expression of Unity in Purpose to strengthen the Naga Reconciliation process. (Caiisii Mao/Photo)
If you were on the roads of Dimapur on Saturday morning and managed to serpentine your way through the only flyover in this city, you couldn’t have missed men in white shirts and army camouflage trousers painting the bridge bright. Even if you passed by the bridge later in the day, it was hard to miss the freshly painted railings of the flyover. What the municipality had left undone, the Journey of Common Hope had completed.
Carrying the historic and significant Naga reconciliation process further, the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) brought cadres of the three groups undergoing reconciliation, NSCN/GPRN, NNC/FGN and GPRN/NSCN, together into the mainframe of the process by involving them in a group activity on the morning of December 10, coinciding with International Human Rights Day. It was telling of the effort taken to keep the promise made in the Naga Concordant.
Clearly conscious of being thrown into full public view after spending a predominant part of their years in camps, the boys 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 the three groups were up and about from the wee hours of the morning, first attending a prayer meeting followed by being divided up into two mixed groups whose formation the FNR micro managed ardently, making sure the boys got to work with cadre from the other camps, whether friend or former foe.
Bucket of paint in one hand (alternating black, white or grey) 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 would work on together at the end. Commitment to the group exercise was evident and not being part of the fun of reconciliation here meant losing out on such moving moments of team work, splendid in bringing together warring men for whom reconciliation was but a myth, now taking the turn to reality.
“I find it very difficult to express what this means to me,” said a cadre from GPRN/NSCN. “It’s like a dream, all of us holding our brushes, engaged in constructive work together. I would like this to go on. We should always be together.” A young cadre from NNC/FGN with black paint all over his white ‘Naga Reconciliation’ shirt was of similar opinion apart from being highly appreciative of the FNR while a NSCN/GPRN cadre invoked the image of the ‘Prince of Peace’ saying, “Working together is like praying together.” Such kind of positivity was visible throughout the hours in which they joined brush to paint. In spite of the scorching hour of 11:00 am they made sure the job was done.
Cars passing by continued on their way but not before raising a brow of inquisition. Shopkeepers from the nearby Hongkong market who started opening for business by 8:00 or 9:00 am were more enthusiastic.
In fact, some of them even helped the boys to paint from the other side of the bridge where their carts doubled up as platforms to share the job with the cadre. The same enthusiasm was visible in the FNR members, many of who joined hands to paint the job. Rev. Dr. Wati Aier was seen in a black ‘Naga Reconciliation’ t-shirt and cargo pants encouraging the boys to carry on. 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.
FNR had taken up a similar exercise couple of years back as part of the reconciliation process, and such regular group activities seem to be on the calendar as the three groups seek to strengthen their solidarity to end inter faction rivalry and violence at the deepest level possible.