On the evening of December 4 at Yatong near Oting Village under Mon district, security forces launched an ambush and killed six coal miners returning to the village from Tiru (Yangho), over a case of “mistaken identity”.
Tahwang, the Angh (village chief) of Oting, in a conversation with EastMojo at his residence, recounted how Oting, a village that gave up the old headhunting practice and advocated for peace over the decades, is now disturbed and tense after 13 were killed on the fateful evening.
Narrating how peace prevailed, the seventh-generation Angh, who is called ‘Raja’ (king) by the residents, recounted the works of Chingai Wangsha, a resident of Oting and the first gazetted officer among the Konyaks, who stopped the practice of headhunting and brought peace to the land of the Konyaks.
Wangsha joined the administrative service in 1922 and served till 1969. He was the pioneer of establishing the Mon headquarter and all administrative posts in the Mon district. After he passed away on January 21, 1984, the Konyak Students’ union had declared him as the “the Father of the Konyaks”.
Narrating the history of Oting village, the Angh shared how the Indian government and the British government had recognised and acknowledged the village’s efforts in maintaining peace.
Sitting next to a frame that read “Governor’s Commendation Certificate” -a certificate from the then Naga Hills Tuensang Area which was presented to the villagers of Oting in 1958 by the governor of Assam, Saiyid Fazl Ali, he said, “We were so happy with the accolades and the history. But all of a sudden, something that we cannot handle happened: the life of our innocent public was lost, which has left us in shock.”
Failing to express the horror, he said, “We don’t know what to say. Our words have stopped. When we wanted to know why they were killed, we were told the security forces carried out the operation based on intelligence. It seems to me that the blame is on their intelligent sources—the negligence of their intelligence.”
The Angh then narrated how the innocent public was often disturbed by security forces who carried out operations in the area based on their intelligence sources—even ‘kidnapping’ the people. He cited how the security forces would pick the public on their way to work or even pick them around midnight.
“Incidents like that were a daily affair that we faced. We deeply regret why we did not strongly fight back in the past when these incidents took place. Had we fought strongly, this tragedy may not have happened. All the incidents that happened here are the fault of the intelligence,” he said.
The Angh goes on to say that the recent incident has exposed how “weak” the intelligence of the Indian security forces is. “Not only the army who did the wrong thing, but we also really want to know the name of the intelligence source. Which intelligence gave the wrong information that led to this horrific incident? We want to know the name,” the Angh questioned. “I am shocked. The Intelligence of the Indian Army should be ranked as the worst,” he added.
If evaluations for such intelligence rankings are to be conducted, he said, the Northeast region must first be covered to record how the public in the region are tortured daily because of such “intelligence”.
As the locals refused compensation announced by the government, he said “The ex-gratia is not important. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) needs to be repealed. What has happened in Oting has happened, but the same incident should not be repeated in other parts of Nagaland or the North East”.
He then added, “This should be the last incident. If we do not stand today, we do not know if we will be able to stand next time”.
While the locals had also barred all Naga political groups and parties of various factions and the Indian armed forces from entering Oting Jurisdiction, including Tiru, the Angh said, “We don’t want to see them. We are hurt”.
Despite all incidents that took place in the past, he said that the villagers had a good relationship with security forces. “This incident has changed our relationship,” the Angh added.
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