Reconciling Land Disputes

There is great pride in the slogan ‘the historical and political rights of the Nagas’. At the heart of this philosophy we have the land and resource of our people and this actually defines Naga nationhood to a large extent. For the Naga people therefore, land is a vital source of the very political rights that we aspire to have as a people and nation. Nevertheless for the Nagas, land can also destroy our nationhood. Today, what we are seeing both in Nagaland and beyond is the problem associated with land demarcation and therefore disputes arising between villages, tribes, churches, districts, individuals etc. Today our Naga society faces the bleak prospect of future wars, violence and bloodshed taking place as a result of unresolved land disputes. This is taking the form of bitter misunderstanding between tribes. As we have mentioned, the nature of such disputes are such that it can destroy trust and goodwill even among people belonging to the same community or region. Indeed our land disputes are looking ominous for Nagas shared future and peaceful co-existence. Unless we do something about this problem, the wounds from the current imbroglio will only fester into an abyss from where we may not be able to recover our solidarity. Further, the Naga people’s historical and political rights will simply remain a myth.
But who will take the initiative to address this problem of land disputes. The State government is so busy with its development objectives and political management that it has been unable to deal with the myriad of problems associated with such disputes. For instance, no headway is being made as far as the boundary dispute between Peren and Dimapur district. This delay in resolution has only led to encroachment and more confusion. Intangki imbroglio has become a major headache for all of us. It has become extremely sensitive taking on tribal colour. Then we have other disturbing reports about tensions between two communities in the traditional boundary of the Angamis and Mao people. Even within a particular tribe, there is misunderstanding over land rights. Tobu issue between Konyaks and Changs is also sensitive. Recent tensions have also been reported in the Mokokchung-Longleng border areas. Right from the time of our forefathers, Nagas of today have inherited so many land disputes. This is definitely a matter of concern. Do we bequeath our disputes to the future generation of Nagas?  
We need to take up our internal problems before it destroys us. While disputes related to land and resource is aplenty, what has been encouraging to see, especially in recent years is attempts of well meaning people, from the community and the church in particular, to reconcile differences. Our local newspapers are testimony to this spirit of forgiveness and the willingness to embrace peace with others. Recently there was a reconciliation meet between Yingphire (Sangtam tribe) and Shotomi (Sumi tribe) village. Right from the days of head hunting the two villages were bitter enemies. Likewise fifty years ago, villagers of Phiro and Phenshünyu (in Wokha district) were in conflict with each other. “The unrelenting character of both the villagers coupled with disputes over pockets of unmarked boundaries ignited fire between the two villages”. As is evident above from the resolving of long held conflicts, there is hope for reconciliation in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Since at the moment, the State government or the Naga Hoho obviously cannot get the job done, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) along with the respective tribal hohos should take the initiative to help facilitate dialogue on the range of land disputes and seek resolution in the Christian spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation and settlement. We cannot allow disputes to remain. The Church along with other stakeholders must help in brokering our own solutions to land conflicts before it turns into unwanted situations. Fixing our land disputes may lay the foundation for fixing so many other internal worries facing the Naga people.