Law enforcement criminal investigators say that there is no such thing as "the perfect crime".There is always a clue, an evidence, no matter how minute, left at the scene, to crack the case. The perfect crime is in which where there are absolutely no clues nor evidences to prove that a crime has even been committed. Professional criminals always try to execute such a crime, and it’s a constant battle for law enforcement agents to stay ahead of the game. For specialized investigators with advanced forensics, a scrap of the skin, a saliva, a scratch, a hair piece, a small video footage etc. is often enough to begin and unravel a crime scene. The more unplanned and hurried the crime is committed, that more evidences and clues are likely to be left behind.
But hang on, what has Longwa got to do with all this? Actually I just wanted to describe a visit to the village, which is located bang in the middle of the Indo-Myanmar international border in Mon district of Nagaland.
Perched at an altitude of 1400m, Longwa is 41 km east from Mon town. It was on a fine clear December morning that we reached Longwa after one and half hours drive from Mon. Thus as per Nagaland standards, the road condition, maintained by the BRO, though narrow and winding was not too bad. As we neared, the first visible sights of the village was of the ubiquitous Assam Rifles paramilitary camp.
At Longwa we were met by Panlung Konyak, whom we had requested to show us around. We found the village in a festive mood, with hectic preparations going on in the local ground for the forthcoming football Indo-Myanmar Border Trophyto be hosted by Longwa in about a week’s time.
From here we went to a cardamom farm located on the outskirts of the village. In the farm, there was this quaint house. This was the caretaker’s house. We entered the house to meet him. He was puffing his opium. The opium were in neatly processed strips, brought from Myanmar. From this farm we could clearly see Konsa about 5km away, in Arunachal Pradesh. This is also a Konyak village then under the rule of the Longwa Angh, but because of the inter-state border, now falls under Arunachal. The Angh of Longwa ruled over 70 villages spread across Mon district, Arunachal and Myanmar. Even today, there are visible signs of his suzerainty within his jurisdiction across the arbitrary borders.
We then went to see the Angh’s house, famously located in the middle of the Indo-Myanmar international border. I was eager to see how the front kitchen was supposed to be in Nagaland side, and the back in Myanmar. Like if a body was cut horizontally in half by the waist. It took me a few moments and a few questions to realize that this popular description was not actually the case. The border did not cut the house horizontally, but vertically. If we face its front, the right half is in Nagaland and the left half in Sagaing Division of Myanmar - literally. The border ran through the middle of the house from front to back – not side to side. The doorway and the corridor in the centre of the house is the International border! On both sides of the corridor are rooms housing the several wives of the Angh.
The Angh’s house was recently reconstructed with modern materials and inaugurated last month by the Governor of Nagaland. I don’t know how many foreign tourists will find this new building interesting, but it sure makes for a more comfortable living for the Angh and his family, I guess.
Quite a good number of western tourists visit Mon and Longwa. Most probably inspired by the writings of German anthropologist Haimendorf, to experience the culture as described, and see the traditional villages. Longwa still has most of its houses made with traditional thatch and bamboo. A few on the Nagaland side has CGI sheet roofing. But none in about the 70-80 odd houses on the Myanmar side. Physical development though still very poor, the border division has a distinct impact on the two sides of the same village. Though just across the next house, no Government developmental assistance to the households in the Myanmar side are allowed and though citizens of the same village, they are not included in the electoral roll either. But they have a single Church and one Village Council. I was reminded in my mind, where in some villages in Nagaland, where no such boundary division exists, there are more than one church of even the same denomination, and perhaps, even more than one village council authority. We ought to learn a lesson from Longwa.
After having met the young Angh and some photographs, we went up to see the International boundary pillar marked as 154 B.P 1970-71. This was about another 100 meters above the Village and from this vintage point we could have a clear and paranomic view of both the Nagaland and Myanmar side stretching to miles and miles, as far as the eyes could see. In the distance we could see Pukha, Langkhu, and two or three other Konyak villages in Myanmar. Some houses had CGI roofing, which were carried by headload from Nagaland side. There are about 7 Konyak Naga villages in Arunachal and about 57 in Myanmar.
From here we could clearly see two different bike dirt routes leading from Myanmar villages to Longwa. Myanmar made bikes were clearly a favourite and there were dozens of them being used by the locals. These made daily trips from Longwa to the other Konyak Naga villages in Myanmar carrying passengers, provisions and goods for trade. Each Rs 100 would exchange for about Kyat 1,000. Almost twice as expensive then the official rate.I asked our local guide in which mode of transport the Naga MLA from Myanmar came to attend the Angh’s house inauguration during last November. We were told that he and his entourage and body guards came in about 10 bikes from the Myanmar side.
From the IB pillar post hill we came back to the village to have tea in a makeshift road side hotel. Unfortunately for us, he had a good business that day, and everything was sold out by 1:00 pm! We asked for at least some khalap (black tea). Even that was finished, we were told. As a tea addict I was disappointed, but took a positive view that at least business was good for the ‘hotelier’.
From here we said our goodbyes and returned to Mon, after a very interesting and memorable day.
But let me come back to the crime story. If ever, an injustice was done by any power, dividing and bifurcating a people without their consent nor knowledge, Longwa stands as a living witness. The powers, in their hurry to execute the deed, not an iota of thought nor concern was given to the people nor their land and only an arbitrary line simply using the watershed was drawn to divide the people across international and inter-state boundaries. The Village – described as “straddling across two countries”, “dual citizenship”,“people moving across international borders without visas” etc. is often romanticized by casual visitors. But the reality is not a romantic story, but the pain and struggles of a real division that they live and experience every day. Hundreds of such evidences lay across the Naga ancestral lands, but Longwa is the most glaring one. Even a layman can easily see and understand. Is it not a daily living evidence of an international crime scene, a grave injustice, committed against the Naga people? If so, which court will deliver justice and when?