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New spirit in the North East

The Kohima Orphanage is a renowned establishment with some 80 such orphans living their dreams.

, ET Bureau|
Apr 20, 2009, 11.05 PM IST
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"We will not go down In the night, without a fight You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools But our spirit will never die We will not go down In Gaza tonight"-- Michael Heart : Song For Gaza

GUWAHATI: Zaputo Angami of Nagaland is an 85-year old lady, the mother of Neibanuo who assists her. Zaputo is called "Mother" in Kohima where she runs an orphanage. The lady worked as nurse in the Kohima Government Hospital. One day, a woman died on child birth and the grief-stricken father fled the hospital, never to return. Zaputo took the child home and named him Dezilie. That was the start of a movement, a one-woman sponsored movement to take care of orphans, many of them insurgency victims.

Today, the Kohima Orphanage is a renowned establishment with some 80 such orphans living their dreams. As many as 29 of them are insurgency-spawned. When the blasts go off and innocent people die, it���s usually one more "successful hit" for the militants, a security failure for the administration and one more scope for political leaders to deliver their usual post-carnage bhashans. What nobody ever thinks about are the orphans the dead leave behind - in many cases, toddlers who are victims of fate.

In the sprawling North East where militancy is a principal pastime, blood is shed to achieve political mileage. Nobody is spared and greater the casualty figures the more is the measure of success. An entire region has thus suffered for decades and lost lives and limbs for the pleasure of a few depraved and mentally sick people who glorify their acts of violence and take perverse pleasure in creating orphans.

Zaputo Angami���s breed goes against the grain of terror to provide the healing touch and nurture hope. It is an act of exemplary courage of the kind that is also depicted by scores of other very ordinary residents.

In 2006, Nasir Ahmad���s small tailoring shop at Doomdooma in Tinsukia was blasted by an explosion triggered by militants. Nasir sustained severe injuries from which he took months to recover. His shop was shattered. Today, Nasir is back at the same spot, bravely fighting on. He has rebuilt his shop and is back in business. Talking to ET, Nasir said : ""Prior to blast I used to work 8 hours a day. Now I work 10-14 hours daily. It was a big loss for me but I have overcome. I hope peace returns to this state."

Sisters Jaya and Andri Sarma were at Nasir���s shop when the explosion hit. Both were students and they had gone to Nasir to get their new dresses tailored. Jaya lost the use of one hand. For months they fought the trauma and are now back to studying once again.

Take the case of Chanchal Saha, a small tea grower in upper Assam. A militant strike, a hail of bullets one evening and Saha���s world lay shattered. His niece dropped dead beside him and his wife took bullets and collapsed. For the last two years, Saha���s wife is bed-ridden, surviving on medicines. But the family is not cowed down. "We re-located from to town after the incident. But I am continuing with my plantation business and am grateful to the people for they all supported me during those bad days," says Saha.

Ganeshguri is close to where the state secretariat is in Guwahati which is considered the ultimate safe place in the whole of Assam. Ganeshguri has seen some 19 explosions in the last two years. Ghanashyam Kalita is a vegetable vendor in Ganeshguri. "Several traders here have sustained injuries during blasts, but we have managed to restore the marketplace every time and function once again", he says simply.

That���s the new spirit in the North East. Despite the bloodshed, ordinary people are rallying back, refusing to get cowed down, picking up the strands of life where militants had snipped them temporarily. There is fear, but there is anger as well. But what comes through most of all is this new resolve that is noticeable even among children. They just refuse to go down....
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