In the clash that ensued between forces and villagers after the ambush, seven more villagers died, including 38-year-old Hokup, whose wedding the entire village, including the twins, had attended.
Neingam, mother of Hokup who was killed in the protests after the incident, in Mon Monday. (Express photo by Tora Agarwala)
The Monday after Langwang and Thapwang attended a wedding, the 25-year-old identical twins left Oting with their six friends to work in a coal mine about 6 km away.
Owned by a local resident, the mine has been functional for 15 years now and is the main source of income for many in this small village of Nagaland’s Mon district.
As they have been doing for the past three years, the friends worked through the week and, on Saturday, began their short journey back in a pick-up truck to make it in time for Sunday church service.
— Tora Agarwala (@toramatix) December 6, 2021
They never made it back home.https://images.indianexpress.com/2020/08/1×1.png
‘I have no feeling… justice not about money we get, punish Army officers responsible’
Six of them, including the twins, were killed in an ambush by the Army, with officials saying they were mistaken for insurgents. The two others in the vehicle were battling for life Monday in a hospital in Assam’s Dibrugarh.Read |A case of mistaken identity, says Amit Shah; grief, anger sweep Nagaland
In the clash that ensued between forces and villagers after the ambush, seven more villagers died, including 38-year-old Hokup, whose wedding the entire village, including the twins, had attended.Family member of a deceased breaks down after receiving his body. (Express Photo: Tora Agarwala)
“Today, he (Hokup) was buried in the same compound as he was married,” said T Nahwang, who lives in the village. “Imagine…who would have thought that after such a happy occasion, this would follow.”
On Monday evening, the bodies of the six miners, as well as the seven civilians who had died in the clashes, were brought to the village compound, Hahsahapang, just metres away from the cemetery where they were laid to rest later.Mon: Charred remains of vehicles of security personnel after they were put on fire by some miscreants over the death of 13 people in the Mon district. (PTI)
In a solemn ceremony, the villagers paid their last respects and sang hymns. At a distance, a fluttering banner read: “Welcome Back Home, Brothers. The Warriors.”
Two days after clashes with the forces, Oting is quiet. At the corner of the field in a small office room, women make black paper flags, signs of protest that villagers have fastened to their vehicles and bikes. However, a sense of palpable anger runs across the village, directed mostly at the Army.Read |Intention to murder, injure civilians: Nagaland Police FIR against Army unit
“We are not blaming the government, the police or the entire armed forces. For us, justice is not about the money we are offered. But we want the commander responsible, the major who led the operation, to be identified and punished,” said 56-year-old Chemwang Konyak whose son, Shomwang Konyak (33), a church youth leader, died in the ambush.
Shomwang was driving the pick-up truck that brought them back.Parents of Shomwang Konyak who was killed in the ambush. (Express photo by Tora Agarwala)
Chemwang’s niece, Minpang Wangshu, said that “people lived and people died, but no one deserved a death like this”. “Isn’t the job of the Army to provide security, to protect us? Instead they shot my brother dead,” she said. “Almost every home in our colony has lost someone,” Chemwang said.
Each knew the other, blood relatives, friends, neighbours. “Langwang and Thapwang were born together, minutes apart, and they died together, minutes apart,” said L Nenwang, their elder brother.Bodies of deceased reach their village. (Express Photo: Tora Agarwala)
Shomwang was their cousin, and another victim Yinjong (23) their neighbour. Just down the hill lived Thakwang (27) and Khawang (28), who left behind a two-month-old baby.
Thakwang’s father, Wanghen (54), says he feels “numb”. “There is no sadness, there is no feeling,” he said.
But there is a glimmer of hope. Saiwang, his younger son and Thakwang’s brother, is still alive in the hospital in Dibrugarh. “I am waiting for him,” Wanghen said.Parents of twins Langwang and Thapwang.
At the twins’ home, their parents remember them as the “best sons in the world” — hardworking and sole breadwinners in their family. Awa (66), their mother, says work at the mine was “extra pocket money” for winters. “Daily wages would otherwise be Rs 200, but at the mine, a day’s work would bring in between Rs 500 and 700,” she said.
The mines are located in the plains of Tiru valley in an area that is otherwise mostly hilly. “The area is quite large…in the plains of Tiru, which falls under Oting, there are multiple mines owned by villagers,” said N Konyak, a businessman who owns a mine in the village.
There are paddy fields and other farmland, too. “All belong to us but the coal is sold to middlemen who come from Assam and other places in the country,” he said.Explained |Naga talks: What has caused the stalemate so far, and what impact can killings have?
The mine owner hires villagers for daily wages. There are two routes to the mine — a longer zig-zag route, and a short cut the local residents had built recently.
On Saturday, one group took the longer route, the other the short cut.
The ambush happened on the short cut. “(They took the shorter route) so that they could reach home quickly…but they never reached home,” said Konyak.