Kohima: The Rengma Hoho, the apex traditional body of Rengma Naga tribe, on Wednesday, denounced any “peace deal without the consent, consultation and consideration of the legitimate historical facts and rights of the indigenous inhabitants of the land”, including the Rengma Nagas living in Assam, over the proposed Karbi-Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council (KAATC).
The Hoho, through its president Pollem Tep and general secretary Sinhilo Thongseb, appealed to the Government of India to show “human compassion towards the Rengmas of Assam and consider their demand for an autonomous district for permanent settlement.
The Rengmas in Assam had earlier written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding an autonomous district council. The proposed KAATC in Karbi Anglong between the Government of India (GoI) and the Assam government had also irked the NSCN-IM and the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF).
While denouncing the peace deal, the Rengma Hoho stated that the historical record of Rengmas who have been living in the Rengma Hills of Assam, now changed to Karbi Anglong, have been distinctly documented even before the advent of the Britishers in the area.
Through a release, the Hoho stated that several British writers recounted that there were no other groups of people living in Assam besides the Ahoms and Rengmas when they first came to Assam.
It further said, “The Rengmas fought alongside the Ahom King against the Burmese invasion on two occasions; 1816 and 1819, for which the Ahom King conferred Phukan title to Keyhang Rengma and named him Keyhang Phukan. Had it not been for the Rengmas living in the Hills or if the Rengma warriors had yielded to the Burmese soldiers, the reality today would be different and this part of the country (North-East) now so proudly held by India, would have been Burmese territory”.
While the Rengmas have been protecting the Rengma Hills in Assam for centuries, even before the British invasion, it said that following the Indian independence, the Rengmas have been repressed. “In contrast, people who were not original inhabitants of the hill territories but latter-day migrants to the land during peaceful times have been given precedence, this can be construed as democratic insanity in the present political scenario,” it said.
It questioned if a group of people should be allowed to consciously and systematically erase the historical record of the indigenous people from their land. “Is this not a human rights violation, how can the country ardently advocate human rights while at the same time tolerate violation of human rights within her own territory,” it questioned.
The Hoho said that the Rengma Hills of Karbi Anglong have been deprived of basic human needs such as electricity, road, communication and water supply, further stating that several government schemes have also been deprived. It questioned if the deprivation is a “hidden agenda to slowly and systematically decimate small ethnic groups like the Rengmas, inhabiting the Rengma Hill territories of Assam”.
The Hoho also said that if anyone wants to know the reality of life in the Rengma Hills of Assam, one can pay a visit for a “once in a lifetime experience” as the “region has not witnessed any substantial development and continues to be trapped in a poverty-stricken pre-independence time capsule”.
Further, it said that if the government cannot provide basic human needs to the Rengma inhabitants of the Rengma Hill territories in Assam, then why imposes a “pseudo administration only to aggravate their sufferings”. “They have survived on their own for centuries but now their existence is threatened and endangered partly due to the apathy of the government,” it added.
In commiserating with the hardship of the Rengmas living in Assam, the Rengma Hoho said that it strongly stands behind the Rengmas of Assam and denounces any peace deal without the consent, consultation and consideration of the legitimate historical facts and rights of the indigenous inhabitants of the land.