Kohima: Cries of women were heard as a huge crowd was dispersed by police personnel on Monday night when two famous marketplaces in Kohima, the Mao market known for indigenous and exotic food products, and NN market known for the thrift shops and fast fashion goods, as well as few private residences were gutted down in a massive fire.

Located at BOC, the adjoined marketplaces were only metres away from the Police headquarter. Around 200 shops from the two markets, and few private residences were reduced to ashes as the shops remained closed for 48 hours due to the election in Nagaland.

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As usual, shutters were down on Sunday, and it continued on Monday as Nagaland went to polls. As polls came to a close, news of the tragic fire-incident raised alarm.

Over a dozen fire-tenders from Kohima, Chumoukedima, Tseminyu, Khuzama, Dimapur, and Chiephobozou, were engaged in dousing the fire, which simmered for hours. Local residents were seen assisting the firefighters as one of the biggest marketplaces in Kohima was ablaze. The heat from the inferno was felt even from a distance away.

Till 2 am on Tuesday, firefighters fought the fire, ensuring it was completely doused. But by then, dreams of vendors and entrepreneurs were destroyed. 

Before the inferno, the Mao market had about 85 shops while the NN market had over 60 shops. 

30-year-old Din and his 27-year old sister Gaisinliu Ruangmei had begun their entrepreneurial journey in 2020 by starting a thrift shop at NN market. The siblings returned to the state from Chennai following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have been here for 2 years. We are COVID-19 returnees. After we came back, we borrowed money from people here and there and started work as an entrepreneur. But due to bad luck today, nothing is left. Forget about the shop, the whole market is gone,” Din told EastMojo as his younger sister emotionally stood by his side. 

Blood, sweat & tears: How fire at 2 famous marketplaces in Kohima destroyed dreams
Mao community and T Khel community leaders outside the Mao market

Apparels worth an approximate of Rs 20 lakh in their shop, he said, were turned to ashes.

“It was not easy money. We borrowed from people and we are still paying our debt. As young entrepreneurs, we borrowed money and started a venture but now we are worried about how we will support our family. Our hopes are gone,” he said. 

Likewise, Alinmei, a vendor at Mao market who had gone to her native place at New Jalukie under Peren district to participate in the “festival of democracy” was rendered helpless when she received the news. Broken and shattered, she reached Kohima at around 9:30 am the next day only to witness the horrific sight.

She had been living in Kohima for 18 years and sold local items, including rice, eggs, pigeons, and fish, among others. “I am still shaking from what happened. There is nothing left here. Not a grain was saved,” the mother of six said as she showed EastMojo her vending space.

Trays of burnt local eggs, rice, and vegetables, all colored in black, were scattered. “Everything has been burned down. We leave all our goods and products here. This was our only means of livelihood. About Rs 1.50 lakh worth of goods have been destroyed,” she said.

Alinmei is uncertain of what she should do next to sustain a livelihood. “What should we do now? This was our field. We have no other field to work and bring food to the table. There is nowhere we can go,” she said.

Chairman of Mao market Organization, Mozhuli Koso informed that the Mao community in Kohima, with the land provided by T Khel community under Kohima village, the market was able to become a reality, especially for women vendors who struggled to travel on a regular basis to sell items. 

“Unfortunately, fire broke out and destroyed everything. The cause of fire is still unknown. In this market, there are 85 shops of which the majority are managed by mothers, especially widows but the sudden fire has destroyed all and we are helpless,” he said. 

kohima market fire
Debris of the fire incident 

The government, on Tuesday, constituted an assessment committee to oversee the distribution of relief materials and rehabilitation for victims of the fire incident. 

The committee is headed by ADC & CEO DDMA Kohima, as convenor, SDO (C) Sadar as member secretary and SDPO-South, OC-Fire & Emergency Services South, chairman of T Khel Council Kohima Village, committee chairman-Mao Market Kohima, nodal officer (NSDMA) for Kohima district as members.

The Tsütuonuomia (T-Khel) Council also extended help to the fire victims. The council also had a sitting with the Mao Union Kohima, Mao Market Organization to work out on ways to explore relief. 

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Chief minister Neiphiu Rio also visited the affected families and assured a sum of Rs. 20 lakh from Chief Minister Relief Fund as financial assistance to the affected families. 

The Chief Minister was accompanied by DC Kohima, Shanavas C IAS, SP Kohima, Imnalensa, Kohima Village T Khel council members, and other government officials.

Also Read | Nagaland market fire: CM visits spot, assures of relief

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