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A view on Dimapur

The town of Dimapur has never been busier. Mega constructions (mega because many Nagas invest almost everything they have in land and buildings), traffic snarls (assisted by some unruly people on wheels), massive religious gatherings, schools and colleges entering a new academic year, examinations. Dimapur looks all the more busy because of the cramped roads assisted by drivers who take advantage of the Wild West kind of scenario. The city is not prepared to accommodate many more vehicles at the rate their numbers are increasing every year.
Well Dimapur is the gateway (at least the main) to Naga-land. It has the only airport on the Indian side of Nagaland (there is a nice one at Homalin in Burmese Naga territory not far from the border). It has all the traits of a city ready to march forward. However, today let us talk about some of the flip sides of this very big town.
Let us start with traffic. I think the traffic police are doing an okay job considering the constraints. Well we have some uniformed individuals among them seen furtively grabbing notes from truckers and commercial vehicles. One early evening, I saw three thela wallas paying the traffic policemen manning the Bata Chariali so that they can pass towards the DMC as they entered from Eros Lane side.
Now talking about safety of people, let us start with street lights. Forget about the national highway, even smaller big town roads like Kuda (formerly Nagarjan), Duncan or Burma Camp have no street lights. This is one reason shutters come down quickly in Dimapur and Kohima. There is no safety for those having to commute back and forth in dark lanes.  Hence, our women and girls are all the more hesitant to venture out after dark.
This affects our economy in a major way. I remember taking an auto ride at about 6.05 pm and the driver charged me 40 bucks between Bata Chariali and Nagarjan Junction. “Rati te charge beshi asseto,” he said. “Eessh!” I kind of pleaded, it just got dark 5 munites ago. I politely engaged in a conversation with him and gave him 30. It just about got dark man.
Now, can anyone point out any zebra crossing anywhere in Dimapur? I have watched with much anxiety some of the major crossings in the town where people, especially children and elderly have to literally gamble their lives to reach the other end of the road. Talk about Purana Bazar for instance, the whole stretch between Axis Bank and Hollotoli School.  Talking about space, the pedestrian paths are very tiny and in some places have gaping holes leading to the drain (no, it should reach plastics and garbage) below. Some of these lie in very dark areas and I have to sometimes depend on the headlights from passing vehicles to maneuver these holes.
Now, let us agree that riding the stretch between Purana Bazar and Chumukedima is one risky affair. Whether you are driving your own car or sitting in an autorickshaw, you are exposed to a hazard that could be costly. On most stretches of this road there are sudden drops because the sides of the highway has no mud protection. You can either swerve off the highway or damage the belly of your car. One more thing on pedestrians. It would be a great idea to enlarge the bridge that connects the SP Office with the Town Hall. This must be done by ensuring that there are footpaths on both sides of the bridge. This ought to happen before the area sees more constructions right on the edge of this arterial bridge.
Now let’s go to urinals shall we? Or do we talk about the eateries, even the best ones. Their kitchens are so very unpleasant for the eyes. Naga eateries are no better. Talk about bakeries, dhabbas, hotels. Perhaps even the swanky lounges because their focus is on the liquid and not so much the food. Now let’s all agree that prohibition ought to be done away with and more realistic policies ought to come into place. Who knows, a bold decision on prohibition could ensure a political party to retain power for atleast two (more) terms.  With the amount of garbage Dimapur generates, it could make a dozen Nagas turn lakhpattis if we started recycling or regenerating business.  Eve teasing and street harassment of our women and girls are at an all time high. It is not confined to areas around booze joints. It is widespread. Perhaps men have to wake up because our women may have resigned to this reality.
I will leave this episode with a thought on the question of “plain manu”. Dimapur’s demography is so diverse today. Anyone who does not look like Naga or Kuki or Meitei has the likelihood of being referred to as “plain manu”. This description subtly legitimizes some of the atrocities Nagas commit to what we now refer to as non-locals.
I am talking about day to day dealings. Lemme give one example. A slow moving bike carrying three Naga youths touch the heels of a man (fitting the description of being an ‘outsider’) walking in front. They could be from mainland India or a plain tribal anywhere from Assam. Now, is it okay of these three guys blurt out something like “hai”. What if you were walking in Guwahati or Delhi and there were three youth treating you the same way.  Perhaps the IRBs are great levelers. These guys do not care if your father is someone. They deliver their justice right there and then, Nagas or not. They are well trained but I just hope they will stay in Nagaland and not get posted every year to a region that have demands like the Nagas have.
Otherwise, Dimapur is quite a fun place. There is much to brag about too. Some of the best schools, colleges, resorts, houses. Some of the richest people own dozens of square kilometers of land (am not sure if they are ill gotten or not). Some of the most sophisticated people live right here. We also have some of the most vibrant cross cultural settings and some very enterprising people in business, music, fashion. Perhaps some other time.
Athili Sapriina
Kuda-B Village, Dimapur

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