Delhi: Civil society groups of the Zeliangrong Naga tribe demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the March 22 attack at Lamhainamdi, a proposed village in Peren district in Nagaland, which left three people dead.

A joint candlelight vigil was organised and a memorial service held at the Nagaland House in the national capital by the Zeliangrong Students’ Union, Delhi (ZSUD) and Zeliangrong Welfare Association, Delhi (ZWAD) to protest the cold-blooded murders of the three young men Peramhialungbo, Sikamwangbo and Itingwangbe Haikam on late Tuesday evening.

Asking the state government to recommend an inquiry by the country’s top counter-terrorism task force, a prominent social worker from the community, Mathiupuang Gonmei, told EastMojo on Tuesday, “We want to request the Government of Nagaland to recommend a probe by the NIA so that the culprits are booked at the earliest to serve the cause of justice.”

Two cars were also torched in the incident in the disputed area of Lamhainamdi on the border of Peren and Dimapur districts. Although the assailants’ identity remains unknown, sources alleged that the crime was the handiwork of members of the Sümi Naga community.

“Some Naga organisations have come forward to claim that they weren’t involved. But if such elements are among them, we would like to appeal to the Naga political groups to rein them in to prevent recurrence of such incidents,” Gonmei added.

What sent shockwaves across the state was the fact that the bodies of the deceased were badly mutilated by the attackers.

Other than the heinous nature of the crime, what has caused further consternation among the locals is the fact that it wasn’t a one-off incident. Similar incidents involving acts of vandalisation of property, threatening of farmers and firing are regularly reported from the area. However, this was the first time that murders were committed in over a decade.

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Candlelight vigil in New Delhi

Addressing the gathering, Jeremiah Pame, assistant professor at the University of Delhi, said, “I’m questioning myself why such incidents keep on happening in the 21st century and how long can we continue like this?”

Hundreds of people, including members of the Zeliangrong community living in Delhi, representatives of other Naga tribes and human rights groups participated in the memorial service.

Strongly condemning the attack, a joint statement released by ZSUD and ZWAD said that it was pre-planned and completely negated the principle of the Naga National cause.

“When we hurt our own people, we give way to many baffling questions about the morality of the movement. Under the guise of ceasefire and peace talks, some militant groups are taking advantage of terrorising innocent civilians for vested interest. This should be stopped at all cost,” the statement read.

ZSUD and ZWAD will be submitting a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Home Affairs, Nagaland governor RN Ravi and chief minister Neiphiu Rio demanding prompt action in the matter.

In September 2019, nearly 50 unidentified miscreants entered Lamhainandi firing indiscriminately. In the ensuing arson, six makeshift tented dwellings were destroyed while a church was left partially burnt. Over 200 empty cartridges were subsequently recovered by the police from the location.

Ground reports from Lamhainandi indicate that far more sophisticated weapons were used in the March attack.

A narrative that has gained currency within the Zeliangrong community in the past few days is that since the respect and hospitality shown by them have been regularly misconstrued as a sign of meekness, and such acts won’t be tolerated in the future.

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