NE Dispatch: Gangrape in Imphal; Nagaland Gets Asia's Largest Baptist Church

A roundup of this week's news from the northeast.

Assam: Supreme Court rejects ration cards as valid documentation for NRC update

After the Gauhati high court recently refused residency certificates issued by gram panchayats as valid documents for including a person in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the Supreme Court on April 20 refused to accept ration cards as a valid record of citizenship.

The NRC is being updated in the state as per an apex court order. Extended a few times by the court on the request of the state government, the latest deadline to ready an updated NRC is December 2017.

Hearing a bunch of related petitions, a division bench comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton F. Nariman gave the order on the ration cards after Prateek Hajela, the NRC state coordinator, informed the court that the central government had objections to accepting ration cards as proof of citizenship.

The Tarun Gogoi government accepted 11 documents as valid to prove one’s citizenship which included ration cards. Petitioners in the Supreme Court case, such as the NGO Assam Public Works, objected to it followed by the Centre stating that it is not a valid document to prove citizenship in any other parts of the country.

Though the Centre has already stated to the apex court that it doesn’t want to oppose the Gauhati high court order, the court has received a petition challenging it. After the HC order, as many as 48 lakh panchayat documents are lying at the office of the state coordinator for the NRC.

According to local news reports, the Assam State Jamiat Ulama “will explore legal options to redress the problem arising after the April 20 SC order.”

Manipur: Imphal rocked by gangrape of two school girls

The rape of two schoolgirls, allegedly by seven youths – six of whom are reportedly juveniles – in Imphal on April 14, has sent shockwaves through the capital city of Manipur.

As per news reports, the schoolgirls were travelling on two motorbikes with their male friends from Khurai area of Imphal East district to take part in Thabal Chongba, a traditional dance for boys and girls as part of the Meitei new year Cheiraoba celebrations, when a group of seven young men attacked them. The attackers were travelling in a car and on a few bikes. They allegedly kidnapped the girls along with their male friends, took them to a hillock 7 km away where they assaulted the girls and beat up the boys.

Protests in Imphal. Credit: PTI

A day after an Imphal-based NGO, Women Action for Development, filed an FIR against the accused on April 17, the district police arrested all seven. While one was remanded to police custody, six others were sent to a juvenile home by the court.

Women activists have urged the authorities to re-check the age of the juvenile accused by conducting bone density tests. A group of women tried to attack the only adult accused, 22-year-old Th. Sadananda Singh, when he was produced at the court of the sessions judge of Imphal East on April 25 to hear his bail application, which was denied.

Monolith installed in Kohima in memory of Naga Labour Corps’ participation in First World War

A century after the Naga Labour Corps (NLC) took part in the First World War as a part of the Allied Powers, the Nagaland government dedicated a monolith in state capital Kohima on April 23 in its memory.

On April 21, 1917, the first batch of the NLC set sail for the war in Europe. As per some reports, as many as 2,000 Naga men were recruited by the British who reached France in two batches. They were said to have been engaged in road repair and salvage work besides other tasks.

The Monolith in Kohima. Credit: Twitter

Inaugurating the monolith, state chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu said, “We are forever grateful to the NLC for the foundation it laid for the everlasting friendship and unity of the Nagas. The NLC created history for our present and for our better future. Let us never forget them for generations to come.” He said his government thought of the monolith because there was none in their memory even though some of them died in France.

Those who survived the war returned home in June 1918. Thereafter, the NLC members founded a socio-political group called Naga Club in Kohima and Mokokchung, which first sowed the seeds of the Naga national movement. In 1929, the Naga Club submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission seeking the right to self-determination for the Nagas after the British left India.

Shurhozelie said, “Amongst all the tribes sent on WW1 duty, the Nagas were the first to realise the need to organise and unite themselves.” He said his government would soon build a memorial and a park in Kohima in the memory of the NLC.

Asia’s largest Baptist church inaugurated in Nagaland

Standing at a height of 1,8,64.9 m above sea level, Nagaland now has Asia’s largest Baptist church.

Asia’s largest Baptist church in Nagaland.Credit: Twitter

Inaugurated in Zunheboto town of the Christian-majority state on April 22, the Sumi Baptish Church has a sitting capacity of 8, 500 people in nine storeys. As per local news reports, it was built over a period of about ten years at a cost of Rs 36 crores, involving 3,000 construction workers.

Inaugurating the church, Reverend Solomon Rongpi said, “The people of Zunheboto have been blessed with a magnificent church which is the second largest in Asia, the largest being Yoido Full Church at Seoul, South Korea, which is a Pentecostal Church.” He said the church was constructed “through free will donation, house budget and contributions of one month salaries of believers.”

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