Miao-Vijaynagar Road: What after the VIP visit?

By Avia Ngwazah, first published in Assam Sentinel on 25 November 2010. Used with permission from the author.

Time has never been this good for Yobin community over these many years with road development speeding up, with a target to complete in January next. But with our experience of deprivations over these many years, ‘good intents’ too are viewed with cynicism, if not suspicion. Though such cynicisms are not without reasons.

The road was made jeepable by 1975 when the then Governor of Arunachal Pradesh KAA Raja came through the MV Road in a fleet of 12 jeeps. Bridges of wood logs were constructed over the streams and rivers on the way; concrete bridges were built over rivers and streams only up to the 40th mile. When the road was newly built I remember well, soon afterwards, our neighbours bought a jeep. Also an uncle who had a jeep at Dawodi village used to fetch essential commodities from Naharkatia (Assam). But very soon, the road was abandoned, disrupted and the jeeps became useless! Sitting idle for years, the jeep was sold off to one of Assam rifles’ Majors who transported it to Dibrugarh by plane.

Subsequently, almost all the bridges and logs disappeared and the road too disappeared over the years. One wonders why the road construction did not continue after the visit of his Excellency KAA Raja! It was as though the road was made only for that one VIP visit. In a way, this stretch of Miao-Vijaynagar road has been one of the longest road projects ever undertaken in India!

One becomes more cynical when one hears about sacrifices made by thousands of people with their tear and sweat. Recently, I had visited West Siang district. There I met at least five gentlemen of different generation, who were the builders of MV Road. When they came to know that I am from Vijoynagar, they immediately asked about the Lisus, the Road, Dawodi etc. I told them that we have no road now! Their jaws dropped as I narrated them that we trek for 6 days to reach Vijaynagar from Miao! They were aghast in disbelief as if disappearance of MV road was their personal lose. Their reactions were in a sense a reflection of the fact that efforts of thousands of poor citizens who toiled on the MV Road were wasted. It is also a matter of fact that many lives were lost in the process of making the mammoth 157-Km MV Road in the early 1970s.

Noise of earthmovers and bulldozers may be generating lot of excitement amongst media, well wishers including the office of Governor JJ Singh and that of now Capital Deputy Commissioner SB Deepak Kumar, who walked for days to reach the forbidden town during his stint in Changlang, as much as amongst those who know about Yobins and Vijaynagar but frankly, we do not hear anyone from Vijaynagar expressing hope that the MV Road will be made a standard road by PWD.  Most of the people in Vijaynagar do not share the same optimism about PWD department as most believe. The current crop of PWD engineers are adopting the same technique and methodologies adopted years ago by their own seniors: roads are narrow- only fit to be used for one way traffic and bridges are built with wood-logs again! All signs indicate that the road would work-out only for one season. In other words this means that the road construction activity is only to quench His Excellency Governor JJ Singh’s desire to hoist the tricolour at Vijaynagar on January 26, 2011. This very same PWD would be in trouble if Governor JJ Singh says that he wants to hoist national flag on August 15, 2011, forget 2012 because January 26 would mean a dry month with only ankle-deep water flowing over river ‘Pagla Nadi’ at the 6th Mile, which is otherwise a ferocious wild river during monsoons. Question is, will the road-builder leave it like that or will they construct standard road after the VIP visit? Will the government continue to fund till the road is done, as indicated? Or will it be conveniently forgotten yet again?

Optimism, which has been the diet of Yobins all through these dark years, makes us believe that the Governor would visit during monsoon months too. And also believe that new crop of officers like Dr. SB Deepak Kumar, who after the trekking the MV Road, does not brag about his feat but advocates re-making of the road to alleviate people’s sufferings. With this band of new officers, India will just thrive and likes of Dr SB Deepak Kumar will not have to walk the 157 Kms ever again, instead they will drive in and out of Vijaynagar!


Vijaynagar vis-à-vis Dawodi: A historical perspective-II


By Philip Ngwazah, first published in Sentinel Assam on 8 Dec 2010. Used with permission from the author.

In a recent publication, three friends settled at Vijoynagar, had admitted that they were induced by the Government to settle in the valley as a security measure. This is a shocking revelation as it questions the patriotism of the indigenous people already inhabiting the region.

The first expedition attempt was started from Sadiya and reached Jairampur where they had established a camp. In the second attempt, they could only reach Frontbase from where they had to retreat as the river was flooded. Finally in the third attempt they reached Shi-Di village (Gandhigram) on Sunday, May 7 1961. In fact, Major Sumer Singh’s contribution in the discovery of Lisu/Yobin people in Vijoynagar valley was worth mentioning more than the names of Maj.Gen Guraya’s children – Vijoy, Preety and Ram.

It is very unfortunate to read the writings of the three ‘friends’ who have been living on ‘borrowed’ land since 1964 by claiming their writings are actual facts while ignoring the true historical facts about the land and the local aboriginal tribes. It is time that people of Arunachal got to know the truth and they should judge for themselves from the following developments which are living testimonies:

The Presidential Order of 1956 granted Schedule Tribe status to all the tribes residing in NEFA and this was applicable to the Lisu/Yobin tribe and later after the 1961 census the Lisu/Yobins were enlisted at Sl. No. 78. This was before the arrival of Nepali settlers in 1964. In 1993 the State Government constituted a High Power Committee headed by RK Khrimey. After interacting with the Lisu/Yobin people and verifying all the documents, it made a strong recommendation to the Government of India and finally restored to the Lisus/Yobins their constitutional status as citizens of India in 1994 (vide notification no. POL 57/79/vol II. Dated 18th-Jan-1994).

The Singphos and the Yobins are considered descendants of the same ancestors. As such, on November 20,1999 the Singpho community leaders wrote a letter to the President of AAPSU apprising them that the Lisu/Yobins are the aboriginal tribe of Da-Wo-Di which is presently known as Vijoynagar. And the signatories included former MLAs, many well known community leaders and Ex-PI Pisilah Singpho, who was the main interpreter during Major Sumer Singh’s expedition when they found the Lisu/Yobin people at Shi-Di (Gandhigram).

Similarly, a Tangsa community meeting, held on January 27 and 28, 2000 unanimously passed the resolution that Lisu/Yobins, an aboriginal tribe residing in Vijoynagar, is one of the Schedule Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and the signatories included former ministers, MLAs, ASMs and PIs from the community.

On April 2, 1942 the Registration Officer of Dibrugarh issued certificates of Registration to two Lisus namely Aphu Nukfa and Akheya followed by issuing of permit on 23/4/1942 by Deputy Commissioner, Lakhimpur in accordance with the Indian Defence Coordination department notification no. 819 or /1/41, dated 24/5/1941. It had clearly mentioned the date of arrival in India as 1917.

When Major.General AS Guraya invaded Da-Wo-Di valley, the peaceful atmosphere got permanently scarred. Names of villages were replaced by his children’s names from Da-Wo-Di to Vijoynagar, Ba-Da-Di to Preetnagar and Anyi-Chi-Du to Ramnagar.

Other villages were also replaced by new names. Gwa-Mi-Di was renamed to Phaparbari and Ngwa-Na-Lo to Gehri Gaon. But fortunately, Chi-Du-Di village where the Lisu/Yobin’s livestock were shot dead when they refused to vacate the village, still retains its original name officially. Presently, the 100 per cent of the inhabitants are Nepali settlers. The three friends claim that they were the first people to settle in Vijoynagar valley, but if that is true, then how is it that their village bears a Lisu name (Chi-Du-Di)?

The ex-Assam Rifle pensioners who had settled in the Lisu/Yobin land comprised mostly of Nepalese people and around three-four Mizo families. Settlement began from 1964 with few families in the beginning. And the major bulk of settlement took place in 1969 and 1970. During this period, in the first year the newly settled faced scarcity of food and the Lisu families helped them as much as possible with food items on humanitarian grounds. It is unfortunate that today they refuse to acknowledge the noble gesture which the elders had extended to them during their difficult days.

In addition to the local MLA apprising the State Government many times for the cause of the Lisu/Yobins on December 10 2007, a memorandum was submitted to the Chief Minister requesting him to take up the matter as a special case for granting ST status to the Lisu/Yobins at the earliest. Again on January 31, 2008 Setong Sena the then Speaker of Legislative Assembly, and MLA Kamlung Mosang wrote a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India requesting him to grant Schedule Tribe status to the Lisu/Yobin community apprising him that they were the aboriginal tribe residing in Vijoynagar valley. On December 16 2008, Kiren Rijiju, the then MP, wrote a letter to the Minister for Tribal Affairs, New Delhi urging for inclusion of the Lisu/Yobin tribe in the list of Schedule Tribes for which the later had reciprocated. On June 18, 2003 the Deputy Director, Ministry of Tribal Affairs forwarded a copy of the Schedule Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 2002 which received the ascent of the President of India on January 7, 2003 to the Chief Secretary with a copy of suggested amendments on 20 tribes of Arunachal Pradesh in which Lisu/Yobin was enlisted at Sl. No. 20. Again on November 20, 2006 the Secretary, Social Welfare, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh submitted a letter to the Joint Director, Ministry of Tribal Affairs under the Government of Indiaon ethnographic information in respect of 9 tribes and Yobin was enlisted at sl. No. 9.

The above-mentioned developments did not happen without scrutiny and without facts but are based on ground realities. The British officials, the Government of India, Government of Arunachal, learned officials, elected representatives and community leaders did not take up any action on a nameless people and empty valley but when they were convinced that the Lisu/Yobin people were aboriginal tribe in the valley.

It is time that the government came out with a white paper to let the people of Arunachal know exactly how many ex-Assam Rifle pensioners were originally allowed to settle in Da-Wo-Di(Vijoynagar) with land patta and exact measurement area per family and for how many years. This will help the local indigenous people to accommodate growing populace, who are otherwise compelled to eye the Park area. It will also foster peaceful coexistence in the future which is necessary.

Our three friends had also mentioned “Khamong” as the original name of Vijoynagar instead of Da-Wo-Di. Vijoynagar was never the place called Khamong which many people wrongly perceive. Our forefathers had narrated to us that Khamong village was located in between Burma Nallah and Namphuk River near Burma border. To substantiate this story, anyone can visit Khamong, which our forefathers used to call ‘Awa-Di’ which lies in between the two rivers mentioned above. After visiting the place one will get to see traces and markings of paddy fields and tea plants, which used to grow freely in the valley. Tea plants can also be seen in nearby Burmese territories. There is also a small lake in the valley and the area looks like it was once inhabited by humans. A small stream flowing down from the lake comes down at 27 miles (point) on MV Road. Prior to the construction of Stilwell Road, which connects Ledo-Nampong(India)–Pangsau–Myitkyina(Burma) and Kunming(China), people used to travel from Khamong to Myitkyina via Ngalunga–Namyung–Tannai to reach Myitkyina. As for the discovery of a stupa in Vijoynagar valley, before jumping to any conclusions please observe and research carefully the inscribed letters on the discovered items. That will throw light on a lot of information.