GUWAHATI: More often than not, the North East gets into the national news for wrong reasons. It’s no exception this time also. An under trial inmate of Dimapur Central Jail is forcefully taken out by a frenzied mob,stripped, tied to a rope and dragged behind a running vehicle for a stretch over 7.5 km, beaten to a pulp on the way. By the time the mob reaches the clock tower where the victim was supposed to be hanged, he is already dead.

But take it from me; Dimapur does not represent the true face of Nagaland. What Mumbai is to India, Dimapur is to Nagaland. Dimapur is called the commercial capital of Nagaland. Also note that any Indian who lives outside Nagaland needs an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter Nagaland. ILP applies to all districts of Nagaland except Dimapur town. So you have all kinds of people living in Dimapur which is not the case with rest of Nagaland. Non-Nagas constitute a substantial portion of population in Dimapur. What makes things worse is that Dimapur is also a safe haven for criminals of all kinds. A person who commits a crime in neighbouring Assam, can easily creep into Dimapur and hide comfortably away from the clutches of the Assam Police. Thus extortions, snatching, intoxicated brawls and even gunfights are common in Dimapur.

Administration is very weak in Dimapur and rule of law is as good as nonexistent. Three splinter groups of once outlawed National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), two others of Naga National Council (NNC), and the State Government run the show here but the last named outfit does not wield any real power nor does it want to get on the wrong side of the five other powerful ‘authorities’ in the scene.

Before I ventured into the world of media, I was an officer of State Bank of India, the country’s largest bank. During 1993-94 I was posted at the Dimapur Regional Office of SBI. One fine morning a phone call comes to the Regional Manager of the Bank to pay up Rs one crore to NSCN or face consequences. SBI decides not to bow down to the extortion demand. The Regional Office and 35 branches of SBI operating in Nagaland are shut down and they remain that way for over a month. This kind of things can happen only in Nagaland and I don’t think anywhere else in the country.

In addition to the above mentioned militant groups, there are groups of hoodlums and mafia who are always in a hurry to earn a quick buck without much labour and they would do anything to achieve their goals. Non Naga population that lives and works in Dimapur always makes a compromise with these elements and buys peace at a cost. Others who cannot cope with the ever growing demands of the extortionists, leave Nagaland to search for new pastures.

Just on the periphery of Dimapur, there are flat lands most of which are under the possession of people belonging to the Sema tribe of Nagas. Usually rice is cultivated on these lands. The Nagas these days do not want to till the land themselves and thus they look out for cheap labour. This labour comes from adjacent Morigaon and Nagaon Districts and also from the three districts of Barak Valley viz Cachar, Hailakandi, and Karimganj. These labourers are almost entirely Bengali speaking Muslims. They have good relations with the Sema tribe but a love hate relationship with the rest of the Naga tribes such as Angami, Ao, Lotha etc.

Over decades, many of these migrant farm workers got into the good books of their masters to the extent that many of them were adopted as foster sons or were allowed to marry Naga women from the village. Their off springs are often called ‘Sumias’ and this new breed are very enterprising both in agriculture as well as in business. Semas treat them as Nagas while other tribes detest them.

The lynch victim of March 5, Syed Sarif Uddin Khan, was a Bengali speaking Muslim who was living in Dimapur for nearly two decades. He came from Karimganj District of Barak Valley in Assam. He had married a Sema girl and had a daughter from her. He had started his small business with a pan-supari shop years ago and had graduated into a used car dealer since last few years. This is just one angle of his undoing which was in the coming. But there were many other factors at play which we shall deal with a little later in the week.

[Narul Laskar is the Executive Editor of the English Daily ‘Eastern Chronicle’. )