There’s only one road to Kiphire. And for roughly a month, awash by rains and landslides, it’s been blocked. Life in the worst-hit district of Nagaland this monsoon, Kiphire (which borders Myanmar on the east) is slowly getting back to normal. “What affected Kiphire was the loss of connectivity to other parts of Nagaland — the main road had obstructions in two-three spots. Basic provisions such as food was not available to the residents and around one lakh people were affected,” said Deputy Commissioner, Kiphire, A Shihab, adding that the situation was now improving. “We got 1,408 rice bags from the state government — this was distributed yesterday.” A relief fund of Rs 10 lakh was sanctioned by the CMO as well as Rs 2 lakh from the Eastern Nagaland Peoples Organisation to Kiphire.
The provisions are being sent through a temporary muddy road which “quickly built” in July. “The lorries are carrying all the commodities but it’s not the most ideal route — even yesterday, some of our smaller vehicles were stuck there,” says Johnny Ruangmei, officer on special duty, Nagaland State disaster management authority.
Despite the odds, the residents of the 110 villages of Kiphire district are slowly getting back to regular life. Just last week, several had to be airlifted out and rushed to Dimapur. On August 31, seven truck loads of rice reached the district headquarters and distribution started on Sunday. On Monday morning, villagers came out in huge numbers to collect the relief materials in the rain.
Meanwhile, the Sangtam Tribe, that occupies Kiphire and Tuensang districts, are celebrating their biggest festival of the year: the Mongmong harvest festival. “Every September (1-6), we get together and pray for a good harvest,” said R Tsithongse, General Secretary, United Sangtam Likhum Punji, the tribe’s apex tribal organisation. On Monday, despite the rains, hundreds attended the festival celebrations in Kiphire town. “It is an important day for the tribe. We made sure each family got 10kg of rice,” says DC A Shihab.
Meanwhile, in other parts of Nagaland, music concerts have been organised to raise funds for Kiphire. On August 25, several Nagaland musicians had collaborated for a fund-raiser for the Kerala floods. Now at the same venue — The Heritage, Kohima — another concert is slated for September 16, organised by Indihut, a home-grown platform for Northeastern musicians.
“Somebody sent me videos on whatsapp of a group of women and children gathering rice in Kiphire — when I saw that video, I was shocked. Just the previous day we had a concert in Nagaland for Kerala, Then I thought, why not do it for our own people?” said Yanpvuo Kikon, founder, Indihut.
On August 29, Indihut had an impromptu concert on the streets of Kohima — “And we raised Rs 28,880 in two hours!” said Kikon. “It was like an open mic event — whoever was passing by just joined. We borrowed a sound system, we used a new hospital construction site as a venue. It was so spontaneous.” The September 16 concert is going to be much bigger and planning and promotion are already underway.
In Mokokchung district, the Mokokchung District Musicians Association (MDMA) — a collective of local artistes — is planning a concert on the September 8. “It’s a free concert to help our brothers and sisters from Kiphire,” said Arsashi Ozukum, President, MDMA.
Nagaland has been battling landslides and floods since July 26. 12 have lost their lives and two lakh people (which accounts for 13.9% of the population) have been affected in the state. While waters have receded and the “situation is under control” for now, the state is expecting more rain through the month of September.