Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
Voice Over: Athar Rather
Photo credits: Helika Sumi and Neikemhiezo Rupreo
One morning, I woke up to the news that a few of my countrymen living in Oting, Nagaland, lost their lives the night before, at the hands of the armed forces. The reports filled my heart with sympathy for their souls, but soon, that feeling was replaced by agony and anger.
Agony, because a few days before the incident, I had a conversation with a friend about the youth of Nagaland, their future, the development they were envisioning, and their efforts in getting there.
Incidents like these will once again polarise the youth, who have been seeking a better living.
Anger, because I have been hearing of such incidents since my childhood.
In these turbulent times, many countries, including India, are investing heavily in defence, surveillance, and information gathering. We have come a long way from those times when there wasn’t proper communication, especially in the northeastern states. Yet, here we are, witnessing the same atrocities over and over again.
All it would have taken to prevent the Oting incident may have been a moment of contemplation. What made that moment of questioning disappear?
This eclipse of consciousness was granted by the power of an Act, formally called the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA. Such Acts may have been part of decades bygone, but times have changed; the society and the world at large have evolved.
With these questions and concerns in mind, I wrote these lines in solidarity with my brothers and sisters of Nagaland.
There exists, a land far east of our sight
Over decades living distressfully with unaltered plight
All the sisters and brothers of the land
Forever they lived being ridiculed
Scenic beauty all over, covered with mountains and valleys
Painfully, what they hear is not chirping of birds
Agony and grief flow through those steeps
Sadly, none to notice and behold their tears
Alas, we live in the age of information
Yet, we act vigorously without a moment of thought and contemplation
Nagas, the people with ethics, we should respect
Oting and other siblings grievously perish by mere neglect
TO AFSPA SAY NO
We must refine the rules governing us, and we just can’t treat our fellow country women/men as subjects of threat and look at them through the lens of suspicion all year long.
There have been several protests and life-long hunger strikes demanding the repeal of AFSPA – one such by well-known social activist Irom Sharmila, who has been relentlessly fighting against the Act.
The plight of many hasn’t changed. The Oting killings remind us of our denial in refining our governance. The incident urges us to perceive the mental and emotional bondage that the people of Nagaland experience on a daily basis.
Oting should be a violent jolt in our silent minds. It should make us think about dignity and the freedom of living. There might be a daughter waiting for her father, a mother waiting for her son, and a leader in the departed souls, who could have led a village or a group of people towards a better future.
That future has been stolen by Acts like the AFSPA. We, as a society, have an ethical and moral obligation to provide a decent and humane life to every citizen of our country, and it is our duty to question any law or Act that denies it. To the souls that have been silenced in the misty valleys of Nagaland: I pray for your family and I hope they find solace. Society, I urge you to echo the demand: 'To AFSPA SAY NO'.
(The author is a researcher and writer from Andhra Pradesh working in Japan. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)