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The quest for the epic identity

He comes across as a mild mannered, humble man. But surely, there’s more to Dilip Nunisa than meets the eye, reports Nivedita Khandekar.

delhi Updated: Nov 28, 2009 23:50 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

He comes across as a mild mannered, humble man. But surely, there’s more to Dilip Nunisa than meets the eye.

After all, mild mannered, humble men don’t usually become leaders of insurgent groups.

The chairman of the Dima Halam Daoga, an armed militant group of the Dimasa community of Assam, Nunisa was a feared presence in the North Cachar and Karbi Anglong districts where his cadres operated. One of nine children, he grew up in a town called Lanka on the road from Guwahati to Haflong. After schooling in Lanka, Nunisa went to college at the Diphu Government College in Diphu town of Karbi Anglong, where he got his Bachelor of Arts degree.

He was studying law at the same college when, in November 1994, he decided to turn outlaw and joined then newly-formed DHD.

It was a matter of identity and honour for Nunisa. He had been active in student politics, and college cultural activities. His motive, he says, was “protection and preservation of Dimasa culture and preservation of Dimasa identity”.

The Dimasas pride themselves as descendants of Ghatotkach, the son of Bhim, one of the Pandavas from the epic Mahabharata.
Ghatotkach is said to have been born to Hidimba, a Dimasa princess.

“We had a Hidimba kingdom for years. In fact, till recently, Dimapur (in Nagaland) was the headquarters of the Kachari kings and belonged to the Dimasa community”, says Nunisa.

His group, the DHD, fought to carve a state called Dimarji out of Assam. After hundreds of killings spanning the years from 1995 to 2003, the group came to a ceasefire with the state. The DHD’s then commander in chief, Jewel Garlosa, quit and went on to found a group called Black Widow. The violence continued in the faraway hills till earlier this year. In October, Garlosa’s group surrendered arms.

Nunisa says Garlosa’s group had no aim but to derail the peace process. Their surrender was also without achieving any goal, he says.

On his part, he is ready to settle now for a Union Territory rather than a state.

“The subjects of the erstwhile Hidimba kingdom should be under a single administration,” he says.

That, however, is a demand that will place the DHD in direct conflict with the group’s erstwhile mentors, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), under whom Nunisa and his men trained. The Naga group has its camp in Dimapur, which is in Nagaland.

Tension is building in the hills around Haflong. Nunisa says NSCN cadres are hiding out in a Naga village in the area. “Why should they come to our territory?” he asks.