(A Report on how Manipuri people died at the hands of Indian Security Force)
Since Manipur was annexed by the Indian Union on 15th October 1949, numerous genocidal missions have been witness to wipe out the entire people of this state. There have been countless stories at which legends, history, culture and identity of the various ethnic people living in this part of the state are frequently attacked. However, the people remained helpless, as those shrewd policy makers at the mainland left no evidences of their dirty selfish minded work. As the old Manipuri saying goes; how long can you clothe the fire? Those same things hold the destiny of these unfortunate people. And it was during the middle and later part of 90s that many such aggressive genocidal missions against various ethnic communities of the state were conducted by the Indian Security force (or should I say the Indian occupational force) under the probable instructions of those shrewd mainland policy makers.
I have no fear to write the truth. The truth still shed tears to many parents and children of this state; though they had never committed any crimes.
This is about the story of how the Indian security force deployed in this trouble prone state, in the name of protecting the life the innocents’ people slaughtered nine civilians including a one year old baby besides beating black and blues to several others including women and children by cordoning a small Zaliangrong village at the crack of dawn on 15th of October 1997.
The heinous crime was committed by the Indian security personnel to the people of a small village called ‘Nungleiband’, which falls under Nungba constituency, a sub-division of Tamenglong District. It has a population of about 350 which lived in forty to fifty houses. The village is about 13 Kms from Bishempur Bazar. That was also the time when innocent civilians fall as victims at the outburst of factional clashed between one of the underground rebels belonging to Naga and the armed Kuki militants.
The peace loving villagers of Nungleiband were not aware of what destiny would hold them at the crack of dawn on 15th October, 1997. When the people of this state mourned in frustration as the merger of this independent nation to the Indian Union falls on this date, the policy makers seem to have instructed the security forces deployed in the region to show their strength.
Factional clash which caused tremendous suffering to the innocent people of both the so called Naga and Kukis was just about to settle with efforts from various civil societies’ organization during the year 1997. At the same time the other faction was busy trying to enter peace deal with the Indian government. However, to the fears of any unwanted incidents, those villages scattered at the lofty hills of Manipur had to guard themselves with every kinds of ammunitions that they have as the government authority turns deaf ear to their cried for security (maybe the authorities have reason to remain deaf ear to their plea).
The sun was just to set, and the tireless village guards at Nungleiband entry seem relief as they watch the time, until one of them spotted some persons in combat dress holding automatic weapons advanced toward the village after breaking the gate at Leimatak Bridge constructed by the local men. On seeing them the guard shouted to them to identify themselves as to whether they were Kukis or Nagas or Indian Army. However, the guard received no reply from them. Instead, they continued to march towards the village by targeting their guns toward them. In no seconds delayed, the approaching group started firing at him as well as towards the village. On hearing the sound of the fires, the natives ran helter-skelter to protect themselves by gathering their young ones at their back in haste. The attack was so brutal and inhuman that all the bullets released from their firearms killed and injured many innocent lives including children.
After indiscriminate firing for not less than four hours, one villager detected a person speaking in Hindi amongst the attackers. And having learnt that they were not Kukis, she stood up shouting to them to stop firing and she affirmed in the negative that, they were all innocent villagers. Amid the attack, she also kept shouting to he villagers to come out as the attackers were all Indian Army. At this moment, one personnel from amongst the attackers cried in a low voice in Manipuri insisting her to stop shouting and duped her that they were none other than Kukis and not the Indian Army. But she carried on her “Blare” as before even though she was threatened to be shot dead by that personnel. (When the attack was on, one villager puts it that even domestic animals were not spared. The rustlings of leaves were fired upon mistaking it to be the sound produced by the fleeing villagers. Most belongings kept in the house were all looted including those dried meat preserved for daily meals. But the Army maintained that none of them took those things as they were all Hindus).
A moment later, some locals came out and the firing also ceased. Then after rounding up and holding the villagers in, Army personnel ran sacked the entire village and took away many valuable things including money (cash). The surviving villagers were subjected to inhuman torturers and were also forced to collect the dead and the injured to load them in Army trucks. Instead of giving prompt medical aids to the injured, the Army personnel subjected them to tortures by pulling them down in pretence to taking photos. Unable to bear those sufferings, a middle aged woman and a seven years old girl succumbed to their injuries before any medical aid was administered to them. Four male members of the village were also taken to the army camp at Bishnupur, along with six dead bodies including the two. The two males were tied, blindfolded all the time. They were identified as K. Makuduanpou (40) s/o K. Mathiuripou and Th. Gaishingpou (20) s/o Th. Adai. Both are from Nungleiband Kabui village. On reaching the army camp the two blindfolded persons were made to put on army uniforms and was captured on film in that dress. On the same day, 15 Oct.’97, at about 8 p.m., the four of them along with seven lifeless bodies were made over to the Bishnupur police. While handing over the four injured and all the dead bodies to the police, the security personnel collected the uniforms which were given to those two persons and returned the clothes to them.
Autopsy of those dead bodies were done at Bishnupur Mortuary on the next day (16 October, ’97). But their relatives refused to take the bodies back. Irate people numbering 400, demonstrated before Bishnupur Police Station against the killings. With tears on their eyes, the angry women, mostly relatives to the deceased manhandled and slapped several army officials, including a colonel just in front of police. However following a negotiations with the Minister of State (Home), M. Oken, the family welfare Minister D.P. Panmei, the DIG (Hills range) A. Romenkumar and Gaikhangam Kabui, political Advisor to the chief minister of that time, the dead bodies were at last, taken in with tears by the near and dear ones.
Another dead body with three injured persons was also discovered from nearby jungles. Those slaughtered by the bullets of the Indian Army in this tragic incident are Master Pintubui (13) s/o Thailungpou, a student of class VII, Mr. Lungthoupou (40) s/o Meilunglung, the pastor of the village( at the time he was survived by his wife and 8 children aged between 17 years and 1 year), Mr. Pouluanthui (20) s/o Mathujokpou (at the time he was survived by his wife and a child (3 months old) male), Miss Jianthuiliu (15) d/o Lanjailung a tender girl of class VIII, Mrs. Regina Kabidonliu (30) an anganwadi worker of the village w/o Nambina (at the time she was survied by her husband and 5 minor children ranging from 12 years to 1 year), Mrs. Sadana (25) w/o Sachungam (at the time she was survived by her husband and a boy of 3 years and a twin (one boy and one girl) of 5 months), Baby Gaichuipuiliu 7 years d/o Peishunlung, one year old Baby Meijianthuiliu, d/o Chaikhinlung. And those injured were Smt. Zengailiu, (28), w/o Chaikhinlung, she undergoes month long treatment because of severe bullet injury on the chest. Another person who sustained bullet injury on the buttock was Mr. Poujokdai (36), s/o Guidinlung. Jangthailung, s/o Thailungpou, of the same village sustained severe bullet injury on the hands. There were also a number of injured villagers who were not given proper medical treatments.
After negotiation was brought between the villagers and the government authorities the dead bodies were then accompanied by the DC and SP, Tamenglong, SDPO Bishnupur and CO. of 7th MR till Nungleiband village on the following day. The mass funeral was held on the evening of 17 October,1997.
Regarding the incident Bishnupur Police registered FIR No.84 (10) 97, BPR-PS U/S 121/121-A/307/341 PC, 25(1-8) A. Act. And R-3 UAP Act, lodged by the Army as well as FIR No. 85(10)97BPR-PS U/S 302/307/326/386/327/34 IPC and 27 A. Act lodged by the people in respect of the inhuman crime.
Unfortunately, the Army blindly charged that 5 of the dead were underground personnel and that the firing was between the underground and the Army. The raid was conducted following some specific information there. Four 12 bore rifles, some ammunition, explosives, uniforms, diaries, letters and photographs were recovered from the spot. According to defense release, the army mourned the death of innocents and conveyed their condolences to the bereaved families. On the other hand, the villagers charged that the army personnel made many false allegations to substantiate and cover up their illegal, inhuman acts. They further claimed that, they have seriously violated the right to life and liberty of the villager guaranteed under the constitution of India and have committed unpardonable crimes against the State as well as the Union of India, It is quite interesting to learn from reliable source that the 4 (Four) personnel who work for the army and might probably involved in the crime were kept in the custody of G.O.C. 57 Mountain Division, and since then their where about were not let known to anybody.
Before any legal action was carried out against the army, what kept surprising was that the defense personnel says that Col. Anil Gairola, CO, of the army unit who was involved in killing and torturing of the innocent civilians of the Nungleiband Village was reported to have died when his weapon went of suddenly and his vehicle fell into a ditch while negotiating a gradient on the way to Nungleiband. But local residence of the area said that on the sad day, no one had heard any gun shots or any kind of army vehicles caught in accident on the reported spot.