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Assam: Why has Dima Hasao Been Observing ‘Black Day’ on January 25 Since 2018?

Two youngsters died in police firing in January 2018 during the protest against a proposal by an RSS stalwart which presented Dima Hasao as a part of the 'Greater Nagalim'.
Assam: Why has Dima Hasao Been Observing ‘Black Day’ on January 25 Since 2018?

Just five years ago, on the eve of Republic Day (January 25, 2018), people in the Dima Hasao district of Assam had to witness to bloodshed. The lives of two youngsters were snuffed out by the barrels of the police while they were protesting for their land and rights. Mithunjoy Dibragede , 27, and 17-year-old Prabanta Hakmaosa died in police firing at the Maibang railway station on January 25, 2018.

Since then, the people of Dima Hasao have been observing 'Black Day' on January 25, demanding justice for them. Enquiry committees were made, and ministers and high officials visited Dima Hasao several times, but no report proved the futility of such exercises.


The reason for the unrest in Dima Hasao was Jagdamba Mall, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) stalwart in the Northeast. Mall came out with a proposed 'draft Naga Agreement,' suggesting separate development authorities to be constituted in places outside Nagaland where Naga people live. This paved the way for disappointment in Dima Hasao as the district also has scattered Naga populations in several regions. More so, the draft plan also showed Dima Hasao as a part of the 'Greater Nagalim'. These were enough to ignite the Dimasa people, and after Mall's report was made public on January 20, 2018, protests erupted in many places.

On January 22, protestors led by the Jadhike Naisho Hoshom submitted a memorandum through the DC (Deputy Commissioner) to the Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, seeking clarification about Mall's proposal. The protestors also urged Mall to come over to Haflong and tender an apology.

Following that, there was a call for a 12-hour bandh in the district. On that day, hundreds thronged into the Maibang railway station and blocked the railway track. Police opened fire, leading to the deaths of Dibragede and Hakmaosa.

Notably, Dima Hasao is an important district for railway connectivity. Trains must pass through Dima Hasao en route to Tripura or from Assam's Barak valley to the Brahmaputra valley. All the Silchar bound trains have to cross Maibang station.

Importantly, the colonial regime also constructed the meter gauge railway line through Dima Hasao, which extended to Bangladesh and became an important trading route for the migration of people. Currently, a broad-gauge line is functional, and last year's massive erosions across Dima Hasao washed away the Haflong Station. There have been apprehensions that the newly constructed broad gauge railway line and broadening of the highway through the district contributed to the massive landslides this year.


This year also, people in Dima Hasao observed January 25 as a black day with a march at Maibang, a candlelight protest at Haflong and other activities at several other places amidst the 'Busu Dima' festival of the Dimasas.

Samarjit Haflongbar, the former MLA from Haflong (the only legislative constituency in the hill district) and the present president of the Dima Hasao District Congress, was present on the day the police firing took place at Maibang in 2018.

Haflongbar told NewsClick how things turned disastrous five years ago.

"The protestors were blocking the railroad. The ADC (Additional DC) was present on the spot before the firing occurred and was trying to talk to the protestors to settle down. The SP (superintendent of Police) Ankit Jain and the DC Devajyoti Hazarika came to Maibang later. After they arrived, police opened fire."

Haflongbar expressed his apprehension that these two top district-level officials could have been instructed or influenced by ruling political leaders to shoot at the protestors.

"APCC (Assam Pradesh Congress Committee) demanded a judicial enquiry against the DC and SP of Dima Hasao and still holds that stance," said Haflongbar.

"Debolal Gorlosa, the CEM (Chief Executive Member) of the District Autonomous Council, was also the CEM then. In a statement in front of the media, he said something extremely reckless.

Gorlosa said that these two young boys died due to drinking and eating meat as this was the season of the Busu Dima festival, and nothing happened at Maibang. It was on record,"—

Haflongbar commented, "Police could have used tear gas, lathi charge or even rubber bullets if law and order were disrupted. Why did they open fire on unarmed people protesting for a cause? Were these people terrorists? They did not even have a stick in their hands. It was a murder."

The question here is, what made the people of Dima Hasao furious after Jagdamba Mall's proposal came to light? Dimasa Kacharis had a glorious history of ruling themselves under the Dimasa kingdom. The present Dima Hasao was the dynasty's central place, which was spread up to Dimapur in present-day Nagaland and the Barak valley of Assam.

"Dimasa people know their history well. They are not the same as the Nagas. They want to stay where they are with autonomy at par with the Constitution of India. See, the irony is two persons lost their lives in the hands of Assam police while protesting to remain in Assam," Haflongbar said.

However, Mall later clarified that it was his opinion and suggestion from his 'knowledge of Nagaland for past 45 years.'

Sarbananda Sonowal, the then CM of Assam, also declared that not an inch of Dima Hasao would be spared. But all these happened after the incident. Mall disappeared from the scenario hereafter.

"This was a ploy, and what Mall drafted was actually in the mind of RSS. If the people of Dima Hasao had not protested, this draft would have been implemented. It was sort of testing," said an eminent journalist of Haflong under the condition of anonymity. He also said that when the police opened fires, Dibragede held the mike appealing to the protestors to calm down.

"It was deplorable. He was shot from a close range. It was like a conscious step taken by the police," he said.

Notably, that was the time before the Nagaland election in 2018.

"And there could be calculation to woo the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) only to win the election," he said.

It is worth mentioning that on August 3, 2015, a framework agreement was signed between the NSCN (I-M) and the Union Home Ministry to solve the Naga issue. The 'Greater Nagalim' demand of NSCN (I-M) is based on the idea of Naga ancestral land, which are the Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh besides Nagaland. The Naga peace talk was much hyped, with PM Modi tweeting about it eloquently.

narendra modi

“However, based upon the framework agreement, the Naga peace talk could be seen nowhere near completion; then how will the Naga issue be resolved easily?” asked Joymo Jidung, a political leader from Maibang.

“In the name of resolving the Naga issue, people had to die in Dima Hasao. Even then, we don’t get justice. What happened to the enquiry committee? Why, after five years, could it not complete the report? Does the government have any motive to give justice to the people in Dima Hasao?” questioned Jidung.

Divisive ideas proposed by the RSS stalwart Mall led to the fury of people in Dima Hasao, and two young boys lost their lives. They have not got justice yet; their killers are not booked yet. Mall disappeared from the issue, and people in Dima Hasao still struggle to get justice. However, BJP came into power in Nagaland in 2018.

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