By Sabina Y. Rahman with inputs from Arefa Sultana Hussain
First seen as a spy and an Indian agent, Natwarbhai Thakkar was not easily welcomed by the Nagas. That was when the secessionist movement was at its peak and the Naga rebels and Indian army were constantly at war and anyone from the mainland was considered an outsider, a threat or an intruder.
Yet despite continuous threats from militants, and indeed real danger to his life, Thakkar refused to back out and made Chuchuyimlang his home. This was the courage and determination that the village community saw and respected, and this is the spirit that they adopted as one of their own. Now, six decades later, this Ao community fondly remembered him on his first death anniversary on the 7th of October, 2019.
Family members, Ashram volunteers, staff and students had cleared up and prepared the memorial area on the previous day for the gathering. A ritual of testimonies and prayers led by the Associate Pastor of the local Church took place on the morning of the death anniversary. Family and friends gathered around his final resting place to offer condolences and prayers. Dr Aotoshi, son and managing trustee of the Nagaland Gandhi Ashram addressed the gathering. He said that the Memorial built at an area of two acres donated by the Village Council and will be developed into a park where people can come and seek solace and wisdom. The entire service was conducted in Ao for the benefit of the larger community though Thakkar’s relatives from the Gujarati side of his family, and friends and sympathisers from Maharashtra were also present at the anniversary.
The gathering prayed for the family, the ongoing projects at the Ashram, and for the peace of his resting soul. For the community members too it was an opportunity to cherish the memory of the deceased, their own Gandhi.