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PM hails Gaon Burahs; makes a big political statement

Nagaland News

Will things be taken the Kashmir way?

Nirendra Dev
NEW DELHI, JUNE 10: It is not without good reason that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hailed for his strategic, often tricky and far-sighted statements.
This was one such case. Interacting with a group of young women students from Nagaland, the Prime Minister applauded the rich cultural traditions associated with the ‘Gaon Burah’ ~ village elders ~ institutions in the State and in the process made a big political statement and understandably this makes a lot of political sense.
In a conversation regarding food with a delegation of women students from Nagaland , Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have said that he likes the food at various Bhavans in Delhi including his own State’s Gujarat Bhavan.
So he was quizzed on what it is that the Prime Minister likes about Nagaland? To this query from students, Mr Modi is learnt to have said he was really impressed with the rich cultural tradition of the “Gaon Burah” institution.
‘Gaon Burahs’ ~ as the word suggests in Nagamese or Assamese ~ are the village headmen. They are considered the eyes and ears of the district administration at the village level.
In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only Prime Minister to have called ‘Gaon Burahs’ of Nagaland for interaction with him in September 2020.
Notably, the Gaon Burahs’ Federation is also taking keen interest in the ongoing peace process.
On peace parleys and alleged delay tactics, the Nagaland Gaon Burahs’ Federation has earlier submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Modi and insisted categorically that “there is no reason to account for the delay in concluding the ongoing phase of Naga peace talks”.
In March 2022 again, the leaders of Gaon Burahs’ Federation joined other Naga organisations and students bodies and Naga Global Forum to assert that the State Government and the Nagaland legislature ‘are not authorized’ to speak on matters beyond the Indian constitution and what is defined and legitimate under the powers of the State Government.
The village elders have also backed pro-Solution NNPG, led by N Kitovi Zhimomi.
As part of the National Commission for Women (NCW) initiative under ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’, (United India, Great India), the delegation of women students from Nagaland met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his Lok Kalyan Marg residence on Thursday.
The students expressed their happiness at meeting the Prime Minister.
In a freewheeling interaction, it is learnt they discussed and sought views of the Prime Minister on a host of topics, including his vision for the Northeast, his experiences in Nagaland and the importance of Yoga.
It may be mentioned that as peace Interlocutor and Nagaland Governor RN Ravi also used to interact with the leaders of the Gaon Burahs’ Federation quite frequently.
Sources have revealed in the past that by involving village elders the Prime Minister and his Government have sought to play a major game-changer.
It’s almost the model tried in Kashmir.
Empowering the local administrative bodies ~ that is panchayats in Kashmir or Village Gaon Burah bodies in Nagaland ~ experts feel would be critical to improving the situations vis-à-vis insurgency and also resolve the problems in respective States.
Both the States are known for unending cycles of violence, protests over human rights and counter-violence by security forces.
In fact in Jammu and Kashmir, even lately local panchayat polls were marred by violence and killings of some local leaders.
The first elections in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir took place between November 28 and December 19, 2020 in the form of by-elections to District Development Councils and municipal and panchayat level bodies.
In 2010, it is said that the Chief Minister of J&K, Omar Abdullah had told the Manmohan Singh Government that he would try to empower the local panchayats.
But, according to former Home Secretary GK Pillai, “…he got back to the Centre stating that there were hurdles as the MLAs were not allowing this to happen. If I take a sanguine stand, my chair will be at risk, Omar had then informed the UPA Government”.
Under the Modi Government, the plan allocation for Panchayats of J&K has doubled from Rs.5136 crore in 2020-21 to Rs.12600 crore in 2021-22.
An insurance cover of Rs.25 lakh has also been provisioned for the elected representatives of all
panchayats. In fact, as many as 1889 Panchayat Accounts Assistants and 317 secretaries were recruited through the written test.
In Nagaland, last year the Gaon Burahs’ Federation had submitted a list 8000 GBs to the then
Governor RN Ravi. The Federation had also publicly opposed any demand for removal of Ravi from the gubernatorial post.
Similar village level institutions exist in Arunachal Pradesh also.
Therein along with the Gaon Burahs for men, there are also Gaon Buris (for female) who display immense responsibilities in ensuring that there is no corruption in the community and they also take part in ‘convincing’ land owners to accept reasonable compensation for land acquisition as land acquired by official agencies are used for institutions for the public only.