Nagaland: One Year After Mon Tragedy, Villagers Plan to Build a Memorial on the Massacre Site
Image Courtesy: Twitter
On December 4, 2021, a botched army operation led to the deaths of 14 people in the Mon district of Nagaland due to mistaken identity.
However, a year after the incident, the villagers remember the havoc when the security forces gunned down six coal miners returning from work. The incident happened in Oting village of the district. Seven others were gunned down by the forces when they scuffled with the forces after discovering the bodies of their fellow villagers. The 14th person to die in the incident was security personnel.
"We have moved on in some ways, but the pain and feelings of suffering are still there. In Nagaland, we know to forgive, but we can't forget this tragedy," Kheatwang Konyak, a community leader of Oting, told PTI.
While the villagers cleared the grass, which had the blood stains of the victims, the memories of that fateful day continued to pervade.
"We have cleaned up the massacre site and burnt the old grass and other plants. We are trying to construct a monolith there. We are holding a memorial at the local ground here. We will be flying black flags and banners," Konyak further said.
Survivors of the incident say they continue to face physical, mental, and financial problems despite surficial normalcy. One survivor said that the government did not offer financial help other than paying for initial treatment expenses.
Chongmei Konyak, a former Army Supply Corps personnel and one of the survivors, said, "...most of us are unable to return to our jobs as before, and we are facing a lot of financial problems now." He was hit by a bullet on his foot when he reached the site after the first instance of firing by the armed personnel.
Kheatwang Konyak added that while the next of kin of the deceased received jobs and ex-gratia, nothing was provided to those injured in the incident.
The incident intensified an existing movement to remove the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the entire Naga-inhabited area.
As per AFSPA, security forces can "conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant." The Act also protects security personnel from arrest and prosecution if they shoot someone dead.
Siipuni Ng Philo, general secretary, Nagaland Students' Federation (NSF), said that the 'indefinite non-cooperation' against the security forces would continue until the victims receive justice.
"We will be holding a symbolic observation across the Naga homeland to commemorate the incident. Our stand on the non-cooperation towards the armed forces and para-military forces still stands," Philo said.
The commemoration of the incident also puts a spotlight on the government inquiry that was launched at the time. A Special Investigation Team (SIT), constituted by the state government, had charged 30 personnel of the operations team of 21 Para Special Forces of the Army. At the same time, a Court of Inquiry (CoI) also conducted an investigation. Both are being analysed by the Army.
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