This article was written on December 6 by the author.
By the time I finish writing this article, the funeral service of the 14 innocent lives killed in the senseless hands of the Indian armed forces under the guise of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Mon town would be over.
People attending the funeral would return home with chatter of utter disgust against the perpetrators who, without mercy, fired upon civilians, butchering seven more civilians, for confronting the killing of six villagers on the fateful night of December 4, a tragedy upon tragedy, some would say.
The dark memory of such episode of cold-blooded killing, as in the past, would fade away hurriedly, but it will not be forgotten. The Nagas have long memory. The SIT probe instituted by the government, as usual, will die its natural death in the process to find justice for the 14 innocent souls lost. It is, as Maria Resse would put it, “A Thousand Cuts” in the scheme of conflict against ruthless powers thereof in the living memory of thousands of Naga civilians killed in the seven-decade old Indo-Naga conflict.
The trail of scars and cuts the Indian armed forces is leaving behind in the minds of the young Nagas under the sponsorship of AFSPA act in the far-flung Naga towns and villages of Northeast India will not only bring shame to anyone who value human dignity and human life, but will, without restrain, reignite a new generation of Nagas who will abhor the proud Indian army – Largely those kids who grew up post 1997 ceasefire agreements.
Terrorised by the brutality of Indian army’s aggression against Naga civilians before India and NSCN-IM signed ceasefire in 1997, effectively bringing calm in the much volatile Naga hills, vast majority of Nagas who have seen and experienced the worst of army atrocities before 1997 first hand, today, live with severe or mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The PTSD for most is a direct result of witness against war waged on civilians by security forces in countless unwarranted arrest, torture of innocent villagers, extra judicial killings, the humiliation with which Naga women were raped, in some cases inside a church, maimed and handicapped, bereft of human dignity, as they pillaged villages upon villages and townships upon townships in the pretext of rooting out Naga insurgency in the Naga inhabited areas of Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh outrighly negates any sense of rule of law. Nagas still remember operation Bluebird (Oinam massacre), Mokokchung massacre, the chronicle list goes on.
The December 4 incident of the security forces barbaric killing of 13 civilians in Mon district spilling over to December 5, killing another civilian is a classic example of how PTSD for many Nagas who fight for their right, asking for that crumb of dignity proves the case in point.
In one of the Naga hill districts of Manipur in the years gone by, the scar of Indian army’s uncountable brutality still lingers in my family. The entire population of Ukhrul town of around 5000 families during the 90s went into hiding under their home furniture to take shelter from bullets and mortar tubes, only meant for use in war. The Assam Rifles fired indiscriminately for hours that evening after an officer was killed by NSCN-IM just outside the 27 Assam Rifles gate in Wino Bazaar. Since our house was wooden made, my family jumped into our small water tank to hide as the army broke into houses one after another, as we heard the sound of scream and cries, thrashing all the men in the house with rifle butts, without any warrant. To be men seemed like a crime. Luckily, our house was spared with some heavenly intervention, I think to this day. The next morning, as my family inspected our house, at least 5 bullets were found to have passed through the wooden blanks. One bullet was found stuck in a pillar. In such uncountable incidents that took place while I was growing up in Ukhrul town, our family would often take shelter at a neighbour’s concrete houses and sleep over.
The government of today, besides quelling violence in Nagaland must address the core problem behind the unaccounted atrocities perpetrated by the security forces against the Nagas – the vile AFSPA. This would also mean to hold accountable those responsible for the killings in an area between Tiru and Oting village in Nagaland. The central government must address the issue with sincerity and not sweep it under the carpet. The statement made by the union home minister Amit Shah, on Monday, it seems, have chosen to pivot to defensive narrative, amplified by few national media, rather than trying to earn back the trust deficit, when already, the Nagaland government itself has condemned the barbaric killings of December 4 and 5, including that of the DGP and Commissioner Nagaland report of the Oting incident clearly indicating that it was a botched operation.
To earn the trust of the Nagas in Northeast India, one must first of all acknowledge the wrongs of history and certainly of today’s, which could help in ushering new understanding and trust. Doing so will certainly, by and large, be at the best interest of the central government.
The author Ron.thing is a survivor of PTSD and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org