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Zeliangrong and Athuan Abonmai

by Rinku Khumukcham
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By: Pakinrichapbo, Advocate
The cold blooded murder of late Athuan Abonmai former President of Zeliangrong Baudi (Assam, Manipur and Nagaland) on the 22nd of September 2021 will go down in the history of the Zeliangrong people as a darkest period in this 21st century. The brutal murder of our late leader not only displayed the presence of irreconcilable social and political differences among the Zeliangrong community, it also showed the deep hatred within the Zeliangrong community and to what extend that hatred can make a person do to his fellow brethren.
Hearing the news of demise of our late leader give us a chill down our spine and leaves more question than answer, which may never be answered unless the investigation team digs out the truth in its purest form. Before I put forward my question let us briefly remember Late Athuan Abonmai as a person and what he stood for in his life.
I never had the privilege to sit down and discuss all the relevant issues affecting the Zeliangrong people and Naga as a whole but I did had the privilege to listen to his speech in a huge public rally held at Jalukie Town, Peren Nagaland in the year 2019. And that short speech of our late leader was sufficient enough to prove that he can move oceans and mountains to protect the interest of his Zeliangrong people spread across Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. He not only had the courage and was brave beyond any limits of bravery but he also had the much needed patience to lead the bitterly divided and politically ignorant people in his capacity as the president of the Zeliangrong Baudi (AMN), for I believe it will definitely be a real torture both mentally and physically to lead a group of bitterly divided people who fail to realize what has went wrong socially, politically and economically. Yet he chose to devote his life to fearlessly speak and work not fearing for his own life in securing the political interest of the Zeliangrong people till his last day on earth.
Late Athuan Abonmai one of the bravest and tallest leader among Zeliangrongs in today’s contemporary lives and breath Zeliangrong till his last breath; he understood very well the administrative consequences faced by his Zeliangrong people and the huge price, the Zeliangrong people continues to pay the price of being recognized under different tribe name in the three states. This was the very reason he fought tooth and nail in his capacity as president of Zeliangrong Baudi against the separate tribe recognition passed by the Tatar Hoho NSCN-IM on 28 March 2018. For his opposition he was called black sheep of the Liangmai community, excommunicated by his own village Machengluang and Liangmai Naga Council, given the title of self styled president of defunct organization, if the information is correct, his excommunication was revoke posthumously. He did not stand with majority for it is easy to stand in the crowd but it takes courage to stand alone; his own tribe differed with him in major issues yet he continues to do what he believe his best for his people.
Some of the remarks made by our late leader which were not well received by some organizations and general public were: he said that the self styled “Joint Tribes Council” (JTC) created by the NSCN (IM) for the fortification of the vested interest of Hebron Camp are living in fool’s paradise as they think that there is no more Zeliangrong, he also stated that the ulterior motive of NSCN (IM) is to eliminate or at least sabotage the prospects of Zeliangrong Homeland movement which they think is against the Pan Naga Hoho design but have no courage to say anything against the ENPO movement for separate frontier Nagaland State nor do they have anything to say against existing State of Nagaland which was formed only for few sections of the Nagas, he added that such double standard will not work and shall not be tolerated anymore by the Zeliangrong people. Another remark is that the Zeliangrong people extend support to the Agreed Position signed between NNPG and Government of India (ZB responds to “Joint Tribes Council’’ JTC claims that there is no “Zeliangrong nomenclature anymore”, Sangai express 31/12/2020). Whatever he said, he did not make it up, it was a plain truth, NSCN (IM) did not bat an eyelid on ENPO demand of Frontier Nagaland but continues to bully Zeliangrong leaders even for harboring dreams of single administrative unit whereas in regard to JTC, the issue is too deep and will need to discuss through another article.
Now, one is compelled to raise several questions, who gave the final order for eliminating Late Athuan Abonmai and why?
Especially the Zeliangrong people knew that there is no love lost between former president of ZB and NSCN IM for so many reasons, but now the said Naga armed faction has denied it involvement. And until the investigation completes, one cannot conclude anything. Yet one is forced to wonder and ask whether the above statements made by former president have such a huge impact that it will derail the Naga peace talk or whether his support to Agreed Position can easily influence the Centre to sign and implement the final agreement with NNPG leaving behind NSCN IM. To which I believe no sane person following the Naga peace talk will believe a piece of it. Facts tell us that the fate and duration of the peace talk remain unsure with new interlocutor taking over and relying on the stand of the Government of India that there will be only one solution irrespective of numbers of factions in talk with Government of India. And is Naga peace talk at an inter tribe level, that opinion of leaders of certain tribe organization will derail the peace talk. Statistics will show that majority of Zeliangrong solidly stand behind the Frame Work Agreement. So now, what is the need to physically target former president and who gave the final order?
Who benefit the most, now that Late Athuan Abonmai is gone?
Manipur State Assembly election is due next year so is his presence really a threat to some politicians in the state of Manipur. Now that he is gone who will benefit the most by his absence, a contesting politician or NSCN IM so to say. The answer may likely remain unanswered for a long time to come.
Are the killers really a brave hearts or a bunch of cowards who follows order without any spine?
Whoever killed the former president displayed some sort of bravery for it will take courage to mercilessly hit a person to his death, but what are they accomplishing by killing a defenseless man. We are not living in the times of war but in a period of ceasefire. Whoever did it be individual or organizations should come forward and take responsibility like a real man and not hide behind like a bunch of cowards after behaving like a real man. And cowards will only follow orders like a spineless man and a puppet.
Tamenglong at its darkest hours:
The horrific incident will never be forgotten even in generations to come, particularly the spot from where former president was abducted. Tamenglong is not only district administrative headquarter but a religious centre of all Zeliangrong people with a highest number of churches majestically standing in the hillock of Tamenglong town and home to hundreds of religious figures and intellectuals from varied fields. However, the incident shows despite the outwardly religious outlook of its population, the society is of a decaying and intolerant society. It is not wrong to say the society is also responsible for the killing of former president for failing to intervene at the most crucial hour not forgetting the security personals who stood and look at on as abduction was carried right beneath their nose, such police personals does not deserve to wear police uniform for they have failed to perform the basic duty of a police that is to protect the citizens and justice will be partly served by terminating their services immediately.
Lastly, the brutal killing of former president ZB depicts that Naga society is still an intolerant primitive society, where some groups of people still choose to settle differences by butchering up their political opponents. Such incident brings back past memories and renew old painful memories and if it continues unabated, nation builders will be nothing but a nation destroyer causing chaos and instability all along the way. Till then Zeliangrong people must not rest until justice is done to our late leader failing which our leaders will continue to face the same fate of late Athuan Abonmai for adversaries demand silence and obedience at all cost.

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