NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 3: The strategic and security scenarios are changing fast in the Northeast region. Military officers these days believe true and long lasting peace is more attainable today than ever before in history. There are reasons more than one. The men and women in camouflage also tell themselves ~ the human mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open. And the Assam Rifles, called ‘friends of the hill people’, have given unto themselves a job ~ help all stakeholders open up, open their minds.
The far-flung Ruzhazo village in the Phek district of Nagaland has a unique history of its own. It had become the ‘first Indian village’ to have been liberated from British control way back in 1944 by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Azad Hind Fauj, also called the Indian National Army. It is said the village was subsequently administered by the Azad Hind government.
In November 2023, the hamlet wrote another important milestone; thanks to the National Integration Tour (NIT) conducted by Assam Rifles. The oldest paramilitary force and the officers and personnel are enthusiastic playing the roles of the harbingers of peace. Here the combative guns are kept away and soldiers and officers operate with what are called their ‘hearts’.
Under its latest NIT programme, a group of 24 villagers from Ruzazho ~ including a few on the wrong side of the ’50s and ’60s ~ were taken for an 11-day tour of the national capital New Delhi and Amritsar in Punjab. In the words of GoC, Nagaland, Maj Gen Vikas Lakhera, “The strength of our great nation lies in our diversity and this tour symbolises our collective commitment to understand, respect and celebrate that diversity.”
During the tour, the participants were able to interact with President Droupadi Murmu and also Vice Chief of Indian Army, Lt Gen MV Suchindra Kumar.
The visiting group comprised 15 men and nine women between the age group of 24 years to 60 years.
The participants displayed enthusiasm and interest of high order to get the first hand knowledge of the life and history of sacrifices in States such as Punjab.
Such tours are now being conducted from time to time focusing on multiple social groups.
In October this year, a group of 16 ‘elderly women of mothers and widows’ visited New Delhi and Agra. The women told this Journalist on completion of the tour that their experiences were “eye opener” as many of them ventured out of the Northeast and had also traveled on the train for the first time.
“The Naga mothers symbolise strengths and love…we took this out of box initiative to take elderly mothers for the exposure at the suggestion of some of my young women soldiers and officers. Earlier we have taken young school children for the exposures a number of times. We want the narrative to be changed and take out people from the legacy of the past”, General Lakhera said.
Earlier also such trips were undertaken. In 2022, under the ’10-Days National Integration Tour’ to Gujarat for students of Dimapur and Chumukedima districts in Nagaland, the youngsters were given a glimpse of lifestyles, good governance and development models in the western State.
“A total of 16 students, 9 girls and 7 boys and 2 teachers of Tetso College and St Joseph University participated in the tour. The team visited IIM Ahmedabad, Statue of Unity, NIFT Gandhinagar, Reliance Refinery, Ahmedabad Science City, Vikram Sarabhai Space Exhibition Centre, Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram and in Delhi the students also visited India Gate and National War Memorial”, said Brig Sachinder Tiwari, who served in 2022 as the Commander 6 Sector of Assam Rifles.
“Taking different social groups including students and mothers help reap rich dividends because the message of unity of purpose and to look at positive things of life are ingrained at different levels”, says General Lakhera.
During my recent trip to Nagaland, one Assam Rifles soldier shared his state of mind vis-à-vis the scenic natural beauty of the State. “The best thing of nature in the hills is that a flower doesn’t think of competing with the flower next. It just blooms and both shine bright.”
Human bonds and brotherhood are no exception perhaps.
A flower’s analogy applies best when it comes to the relationship between a security personnel and a civilian in a State like Nagaland. These conducted tours and their achievements are true testimonies to this theory. (Views are personal)