Moon to Mon—all crater

I’m sure some of you read about Miss Mon 2011 being held last week in, well, Mon even if you weren’t lucky enough to be there. I was! And everyone else I came to know in Mon Town was. And anyone whose village wasn’t a light year and a half away from Mon Town was. By ‘a light year and a half’ I’m referring to a distance as short as 50kms, which can be traversed on American roads in less than 30 minutes. If you ignore the traffic and speed limit in Indian cities, the distance can be carred in about the same time to an hour. In Mon though, covering this stretch of a mere 50kms/30 minutes/an hour in most of today’s world takes at least three hours to a light year and a half, depending on road conditions. If it rains, like it did on the day Miss Mon was crowned, you are sure to have assisted in pushing your vehicle out of the muck at least thrice.
The event was massive fun though. Hoards of people had gathered irrespective of the difficult conditions, for both Miss Mon and the Rockaware concert held the day before. Being the few glimpses of entertainment for people in that region, they hooted and cheered even at the empty stage on display of light and smoke from a machine. These were undoubtedly the biggest events of the year and were conducted in the best possible manner, with a round for kids, teenagers and other local participants. I was delighted to be a part of this hooting and cheering owing to the sharp lack of entertainment in my life in weeks.
Miss Mon 2011 was held after a long gap of six years. The previous Miss Mon was sent to participate in Miss Eastern Naga Students’ Federation (ENSF) but not Miss Nagaland, and the practice of sending them for the latter pageant might resume this year. But why not send the participant to Miss Nagaland? I’m not sure, but I suspect we need to look at this with the ENPO-raised issues and their subsequent demands in the background.  
Around 2001, the apex bodies of the Konyaks, the Konyak Union (KU), separated from the Naga Hoho umbrella. They now come together with other tribes under Eastern Naga People’s Organisation (ENPO), representing four districts of the East—Mon, Tuensang, Longleng and Kiphire—consisting of six tribes—Konyak, Phom, Chang, Khiamniungan, Sangtam and Yimchungru. Four years back their women’s body, Konyak Nyupuh Sheko Khong (KNSK), bid the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) adieu and now recognizes the Eastern Naga Women’s Organisation (ENWO) as its apex body which, in turn, equates itself to the NMA. They work on issues such as the 33% reservation as partners, but the alliance ends with that and some more projects. A similar trend applies to the Konyak Students’ Union (KSU) which recognizes ENSF as its apex body, not the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF).  
These separations seem to go hand in hand with a strengthening campaign of the ENPO’s demand for a separate state in India, culminating in current times in December 2010 when they handed over a memorandum to the Indian PM Manmohan Singh. It seems like the funds allocated for the East (of Nagaland) haven’t reached even the most conducive of the ENPO regions. The simple fact was the hard task of getting to Mon district, at a pretty easy location for development considering its sharing of border with Assam. The TaTa powered car we were in got stuck thrice on entering Mon from Assam, till where the roads seemed respectable compared to rest of the region. We had to throw roadside stones into the track and then push the car to get through. It never got better for the 40kms between Tizhit and Mon Town. I’d thought Dimapur and Kohima have unfair road conditions, but Mon is a different story and I haven’t even been further into ENPO represented territories.  
But it’s not just the roads. There is a lack of all other public infrastructure including local public transport, fuel stations and education institutes. I was aghast to hear that Mon Town itself has just one college for higher education which offers only arts as major. I know of a few Konyak students in Dimapur and Kohima, and I’m not sure how their parents fund their education considering how difficult it is to earn wages in Mon. This is a district where some State government heads (and their staff) have never even been to villages just 50kms away from Mon Town, and have only approximations of statistics on some of these villages. This is a district whose civil hospital and other health facilities improved only after Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) set up shop here since 2010. This is a district where this newspaper reaches only after two days of publication, if at all. This is only the story of Mon—this and other districts in the region have similar stories to tell about how no public officials want to work in these areas due to the difficult conditions; about how they probably lag behind even the rest of Nagaland by 50 years.
There are dozens of other issues that shut out the East from the West almost completely. The simplest example being that there is no road through Nagaland itself to reach Mon, and one is forced to take the Assam route. If Assam shuts down, so does Mon. Naga Idol, Renbeni Odyuo, has been touring various parts of Nagaland State as the Rockaware brand ambassador and she is in a much better position to say this, “the region’s in a sad state of affairs. There’s been no development; I went to schools that don’t even have toilets. But people are very enthusiastic about learning, more than many others.”
Since the formation of Nagaland, the Eastern region has been allocated special development and economic packages which most definitely exist on paper, like the Backward Area Development Fund or Border Area Fund, and some politicians would like to think that their glass is brimming over with autonomy. Excellent ideas that the government needs to be commended on, but where did the packages go?
Somewhere down a crater called corruption between the Moon and Mon. As long as that exists, even a new State without accountability mechanisms won’t help.