In December 2022, we released a documentary with a rather provocative title: One year of Mon massacre: No one died in Oting? The response was overwhelmingly positive, and 50,000 views later, I can say that it was an apt title that showed to the readers the pain, the suffering, and the absolute loss of hope among those shattered by the massacre. 

Our headline was to indicate that given how the movement for justice had died completely and even the so-called leaders did not want to talk about it, it seemed as if the death of 14 innocent civilians was almost fake news. Some even called us insensitive for using such a title. 

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Also Read | Mon massacre: Nagaland police chargesheet 30 Indian Army soldiers

On April 13, it was proved once and for all that no one died in Oting. 

The Centre denied sanction to prosecute 30 Army men allegedly involved in the December 2021 killing of 13 civilians in a botched ambush at Oting in Nagaland’s Mon district. This was communicated by Nagaland police to the Mon district and sessions judge’s court, where the charge sheet has been filed, as required by law, IGP of CID, Nagaland, Roopa M. said in a statement.

Now, let me be clear: the Army had set up a ‘court of inquiry’ on the incident but the findings were made public. So I do not know if the so-called guilty personnel were punished, and what the nature of punishment was. If they were punished, that is. I do not know and if someone does, I am all ears. 

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But at least in the public domain, no one will be punished because, well, the laws say so. 

I wonder what BJP’s most famous leader from Nagaland, Temjen Imna Along, has to say now. Maybe he regrets the statement he made the day after the killings became public information. On December 5, 2021, he termed the killings a ‘genocide’ and ‘tantamount to war crimes’. 

I hope he issues a statement now, in light of the recent development, apologising for making such insinuating claims. Given that no one is likely to ever go to jail for killing innocents, it is clearer than ever that no one really died in Oting, and even if they did, it was not really a crime. 

I would also like to congratulate the leadership of various organisations: political, civil, and even some student bodies, for utilising the issue of the death of innocent civilians of Oting for maximum political gains. Others will do well to learn how to make the most of the deaths of some coal-mine workers. The elevation of Phangnon Konyak, from the same tribe as those killed in Oting, as a Rajya Sabha MP was no coincidence. 

Months before the 2023 Nagaland elections, we aired an episode of our Decoded series titled ‘Where has all the outrage for the Oting massacre gone?’ K Asungba Sangtam, Convener of the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation, got so angry when we mentioned the ‘O’ word that it seemed we had blasphemed. “Don’t mix issues,” he said, saying the demand for Frontier Nagaland had nothing to do with Oting. Even though Oting is in Mon district, which is a crucial part of Frontier Nagaland. “We are not here to play politics,” added the man who heads an organisation demanding a separate state for six eastern Nagaland districts. The demand for a separate state is not political, but justice for innocent victims is.

I will also not blame the Army here, or for that matter, the Central Government. The sanction by the Government of India is mandatory for initiating legal action against any personnel of the security forces for any action taken by them while discharging their duties under section 197(2) Cr.P.C and Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). 

The government is only following the law, you see. And people far more informed than me have, in detail, documented the misery this Act has brought to large parts of the Northeast. The law protects soldiers, and this is very crucial from a strategic point of view. 

The same cannot be said for those who died. 

Also Read | Neither dead nor alive: Life of one that ‘survived’ the Oting massacre

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