At the Assam-Nagaland border, black flags are in high demand.
9 December, Namtola (Assam-Nagaland border) (PTI) In this border town, it’s almost business as usual, except for the black flags flying from the shops that line the main street.
The excitement of the approaching Christmas season is overshadowed by a sense of unease, with the loud chatter of shoppers being replaced by hushed whispers.
The tiny township of Namtola in Assam’s Charaideo district, the last stop before entering Nagaland, is eerily quiet, a stark reminder of how a tragedy that occurred nearly 50 kilometres away and across the inter-state border has cut across geographical and linguistic lines.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, business has been down. However, following the shooting incident, it has simply plummeted,” said Ranu Dey, who owns a grocery store in the area.
Thirteen coal miners were killed Saturday in a botched counter-insurgency operation in Nagaland’s Mon district’s Oting village, and another died the next day in rioting at the district headquarters. Army retaliation violence in Oting, Nagaland’s Mon district, on December 4 and 5. On Saturday, an army soldier was also killed.
While Christmas shoppers may be few and far between, makeshift shops selling black flags affixed to small wooden poles are attracting a sizable crowd.
As part of a week-long mourning for the Oting victims, all private vehicles in Nagaland have been flying black flags since Tuesday, and Namtola traders are making a quick buck selling them.
“I sold quite a few of these flags on Wednesday,” Dey, who hails from Lumding in the Hojai district, said. It isn’t a happy business for me, but it is providing much-needed funds, and people want it.” Several stores, including Dey’s, prominently displayed the black flags outside their stores as vehicles entering Nagaland quickly bought them off.
“These were Rs 10 yesterday (Wednesday), but today they’re Rs 20,” said a biker who bought one from Dey before crossing the state line.
Outsider footfall has multiplied by the dozen since the incident, resulting in brisk sales at the food stalls.
“Even though the incident occurred in a different direction, most people, whether government officials or journalists, must visit the district headquarters in Mon and pass through Namtola.” People prefer to grab a quick bite here because there aren’t many food stalls once you cross the border,” said Sanjay Sharma, who runs a small hotel with his wife here.
“There isn’t a Christmas rush this year.” But because of this unfortunate incident, some extra money is coming in,” Sharma, who left Bihar three decades ago, added.
“Since the lockdown, business has been really down,” said Bipin Baruah, who sells tea and breakfast to the morning crowd in nearby Sonari town. We’ve had a few extra customers in the last few days.” “There are about seven-ten hotels with accommodation facilities,” said a local youth activist, sipping tea at Baruah’s stall. And they’ve all been full for the past few days.” “We’ve lost our brothers on the other side of the border.” Nothing can make that pain go away. However, such tragedies bring attention and business to the local community anywhere in the world,” he added. PTI SSG JRC JRC