इंडियन आवाज़     21 May 2024 04:00:17      انڈین آواز

Winning ‘Hearts and Minds’: Unique ‘National Integration’ initiative by Assam Rifles 

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Nirendra Dev in Kohima  
It was heart warming to see and experience a different Kohima. There was warmth, passionate people and integration of Assam Rifles with natives especially mothers. The connect reflected the espoused idea of considering the Naga mothers as  stakeholders in “gathering the peace dividend”. 

Travels to northeast and in particular Nagaland often offers occasions to pick up matters for sharing stories. 
The people’s friendly paramilitary force Assam Rifles in north east has undertaken a unique national integration initiative involving elderly women and mothers and widows taking them out on a tour of north India. 

To begin with, one can say the mothers of Nagaland are the shapers of society – they tend families and are thus backbone of the collective idea of Naga as a people and family. As they landed in Kohima after a tour of national capital New Delhi and tourists’ haven Agra; .. several of 16 women participants from remote Phek district in Nagaland admitted – they came back with wonderful sweet memories… memories of care as well which they will treasure for life.

 Yes, in effect they will now have a new story to tell their offsprings and grand children… a perspective which is so important for forging the bonds between all sections of people.

A group of 16 women from remote Phek district in Nagaland visited New Delhi and Agra and returned to state capital Kohima on Monday under a unique National Integration initiative. 
The enthusiastic women shared their experience at a function organised at the Assam Rilfes complex on Oct 22 calling it an “eye opener” as many of them ventured out of northeast and also traveled in the train for the first time. During their stay in the national capital, the group also met Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani.

“Meeting the incredible women of Nagaland during their visit to New Delhi as a part of the Assam Rifles National Integration Tour was truly enriching,” wrote Ms Irani on microblogging site X. 
“We engaged in a fruitful conversation about empowering tribals and minorities through skill development,” she wrote. 

Endorsing the Minister’s views, Ms Akulo Vero, a participant at the tour, told this journalist that the Minister has advised them to select one or two projects in Phek district and assured that she would provide necessary support for the same.

“This tour has connected us with the heart of India. With our visit to India Gate and National War memorial we could feel the search of emotions,” she said, adding “As a matter of fact we could feel connected to their memories”.

GoC Nagaland, Maj Gen Vikas  Lakhera said, “To me these women 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 narative be changed and take out people from the legacy of past”. 

A number of women participants at the tour said having seen the technological and scientific developments in heart of the country and with amazing opportunities waiting to be exploited by the talent of the future youth; they will now “encourage their new generation to venture out and be a participant without hesitation”.
One of them said, “…travel and moving out of home is must….it opens new vistas of starts a new conversation… between people.. a conversation which is so unique and leave a far reaching impact”. 
In other words, these Naga mothers and widows can in future connect the dots when the of Nagaland actually charts its own journey of growth with a fresh endeavour. 

“Mothers are same everywhere whether it is Nagaland , Tamil Nadu or UP , they are the backbone of the family and society. This is no rocket science but we all must go back to these roots,” said General Lakhera.
“The interesting part is we have soldiers from UP and these Naga mothers realise that young boys and girls are discharging duties and providing security to people and nation in the border state,” he said. 
GoC Lakhera said this tour would go a long way in promoting national integration as it is for the first time in northeast such initiatives have been undertaken.

  “…this trip has sown a seed and we hope to get good and effective fruits in the national interest and in the interest of peace”. 
In the next round 24 elderly people both men and women will be taken for a tour of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur from insurgency hit Razoza region of Satakha assembly constituency, Maj General Lakhera said.

In the words of Briton Verrier Elvin, the Assam Rifles is described as “the cutodians of law and order, pioneers of every advance into the interior, the guardians of our border and above all, the friends of the Hill People.” It is to credit if the force that though Assam Rifles faced every possible hardship and difficulty over the years but thousands of villagers in the wildest areas think of them with “affection and gratitude”.  This is once again being repeated with a difference.

( Nirendra Dev is a New Delhi-based journalist. He is also author of the books ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’,and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’. Views expressed are personal)

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