Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Valley of fire

Dzükou valley never fails to hog the headlines – be wildfires that have ravaged thousands of acres of pristine grasslands and unique flora and fauna or the perennial fiery problem between Manipur and Nagaland over claims and counter-claims of the world renowned nature trove. The valley borders a region of old-growth forest, and is home to several rare and endangered species of flora and fauna, including the Dzüko Lily (Lilium mackliniae) and the Blyth’s tragopan, which is the state bird of Nagaland. A number of other rare species are also found here, including several rhododendron species, plants such as the aconita nagaram, and fauna including the Asian golden cat, the Hollock Gibbon, the Dzuko Valley horned toad (Megophrys dzukou), several species of leopard including the clouded leopard, the Asiatic black bear, the capped langur, the stump-tailed macaque, and the serow. Recently the Southern Angami Public Organisation (SAPO) imposed a blockade in protest against the deployment of security personnel from Manipur inside. The blockade began on March 21 and later extended indefinitely from March 23 affecting vehicular movement along the highway between Nagaland and Manipur. According to SAPO, the bandh was precipitated by the action of the Manipur government in deploying its armed police personnel inside Nagaland. The Manipur government has refuted the charges by reasserting that its police forces were deployed in already existing structures within the state’s boundary. This is also not the first time that the issue had spilled over into a blockade. People of Southern Angami area under Nagaland and Mao and Maram people in Manipur are contesting claims over parts of Dzükou valley including Kezoltsa/Koziirii. In this regard, the contending parties are Southern Angami Public Organisation (SAPO) of Nagaland, and Mao Council and Maram Khullen of Manipur. Blockades had also taken place in the past too. Southern Angami Youth Organisation (SAYO) imposed a total economic blockade on the Mao community within Southern Angami territory in 2010. The blockade was enforced in protest against alleged claim by the Maos over the ancestral Kezoltsa area in Dzükou valley. The issue was also highlighted by the blockade in 2015. It may also be recalled that the Tenyimi Public Organisation (TPO) had reiterated that the issue involved two communities having traditional bonds and therefore, it ought to be discussed and resolved through customary practices. Manipur government insists that the matter ought to be discussed with the government of Nagaland. When the matter was reportedly under process of being pursued by the TPO as per its decision, it would be only right that none of the states or even tribes on both sides of the border, do anything to disturb the situation. The two state governments should instead, only play the role of catalysts for peace and promote better understanding on how to jointly utilise the nature trove to benefit the communities. If communities agree to develop the area to its fullest potential then there should be no time or inclination for conflicts. Like the TPO had stated, the nature trove belongs to the people and should remain that way for posterity to inherit.

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