The recent arrest and detention of more than 40 youths from Nagaland at Punjab is just one instance out of numerous such instances which have gone either unnoticed or have been totally ignored by everyone, including the State Government. This particular incident would also have gone unnoticed or ignored had it not been for the Helping Hands volunteer, Mr. Neeraj Punj, who had revealed about the youths lodged in Punjab jails on non-bailable offences after they were arrested on 14th and 15th of May 2024 when the Punjab Police busted two fake call centres.

Such incidences of the past and present reveal several inadequacies of our governance, administration and the larger civil society of Nagaland. Firstly, there is an acute shortage of job opportunities for the Naga youths within the state and there is no proper mechanism of the State Government in generating gainful employment for the youth. Due to this, many Naga youths are migrating to other states, especially the metros, in search of lucrative job opportunities without proper verification. Most of these youngsters belong to rural areas and from economically deprived families which makes them all the more desperate for any sort of employment.

Secondly, there is no proper mechanism at the disposal of the State Government and its departments to keep a track of the Naga youths who venture out each year in search of lucrative job opportunities. The least that is being done is only through the initiatives of various NGOs and Student Bodies who are doing yeoman service for their brothers and sisters in times of their needs. Till date, there is no government agency which is genuinely maintaining a database or record of Naga students and youths studying or working in various towns and cities of India and abroad also.

Thirdly, when such incidences are brought to light, the follow up is done by the State Government and its departments only after the matter becomes viral or they are pressurized by the NGOs. Most parents and guardians, in such cases, cannot afford the legal fees and they simply give up. It is surprising that, despite there being a State Legal Service Authority for the State and DLSAs in almost all the districts of Nagaland, no genuine steps are being taken for reaching out and helping our own people who are in dire need of legal aid and remedies.

The question here is not whether the youths who have been arrested are guilty or innocent, the question is whether steps have been taken to give them or their families any kind of legal support or relief by the State Government or not. We should not forget that despite being accused of a crime, they are not criminals unless and until it is proven with facts and evidences in the court of law and therefore we should not abandon them or let them rot in prisons just because they are not from affluent and well to do families.

It is a matter of great shame that despite the call for Nagas to unite as one, there is no unity seen in such matters and we tend to wash our hands off such matters which do not concern our own children or relatives. Where then is the unity? Will we wait for such incidences to happen with our own children or near and dear ones? Till when shall we keep on waiting for good souls from outside like Neeraj Punj to take the right steps on our behalf when it should have been our own people who should have been doing that? Here we can take the example of the founder of Helping Hands Society, Mr. Robin Hibu, IPS, who has been very proactive in reaching out and helping the people of north east in their times of distress whenever the need arises despite his own professional schedule and busy life as a police officer.

The very fact that such incidences have been happening over a period of many years proves that we have not taken the right steps. The government machineries including the police should properly educate the masses especially the youngsters about such job scams and should set up an independent mechanism or agency dedicated for the sole purpose of keeping a track of the movement of such youths who have gone out of the state for education or job and to keep them informed and to assist them in times of dire crises. Over and above, the general populace of the state should also assist the police and administration during such times by coming together as one. Moreover, the people of other states living in our state must also make efforts to help the citizens of Nagaland who may be in dire consequences. This will boost the inter-state relationship and also help in fostering brotherly ties among people of diverse communities. It is certain that with each other’s help and timely intervention such incidences, like the one which recently took place, can be mitigated and many precious lives can be saved. We also call upon the State Government and its agencies to immediately intervene in the matter and help in rescuing our Naga youths who are still languishing in the Punjab jails on a priority basis.

Helping Hands, Nagaland

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