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Mokokchung rises from ashes

A Nagaland town that was set ablaze in December 1994 by the army in retaliation to a rebel ambush, is now an important link in Indo-Myanmar trade, reports Rahul Karmakar.
None | By Rahul Karmakar, Nagaland
UPDATED ON DEC 06, 2007 03:09 AM IST

Mokokchung has risen from the ashes to claim its place on India’s trade map in 13 years. The town’s commercial hub was set ablaze in December 1994 by the army in retaliation to a rebel ambush that killed a colonel. But today, Mokokchung is an important point in India’s trade with Myanmar.

Former MLA R Lisen Ao shudders recalling Mokokchung’s “trial by fire”, but he, like others in the town, would rather dwell on the “brighter side” of this 117-year-old town. More so, because it is the golden jubilee year of Mokokchung district. The district was carved out of the centrally-administered Naga Hills Tuensang Area on December 1, 1957.

Dominated by the Ao tribe, Mokokchung was the launch pad for Baptists in the Northeast. Christianity entered Nagaland through Mokokchung in 1872, but it was not until 1937 that the first Baptist church was established here.

“The church here organised the first Christian Naga marriage, triggering a craze for western fashion in Nagaland,” Ao said.

Most of Nagaland’s top officers and politicians are products of schools here. The town also became a centre of the Naga nationhood movement with A.Z. Phizo and Imkongmeren laying the foundation for sovereignty that the NSCN championed later.

If the district had given birth to Naga militancy, it also resisted militants “who cross the line”. In August 2003, residents of Mokokchung revolted against “overbearing” NSCN (Khaplang) members and flushed them out.

Neither faction of the NSCN, the other being the Isak-Muivah faction, has been able to gain a toehold here. “Mokokchung is returning to its old glory,” said former district magistrate Imkongtemsu Ao.

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