A survivor recounts his ordeal during the Oting firing incident

DIMAPUR, 6 Dec: “The justice we are asking for is to revoke the AFSPA, lest another incident happens, not just in Nagaland but anywhere in India. Everyone is under the law and the offenders should be arrested and judged according to the law,” said Manlei, whose younger brother was killed along with five others in the 4 December Oting incident.

“Ex gratia is a must, since they were the breadwinners of the family and now they are no more. However, compensation alone shouldn’t be the justice. That is not the kind of justice we are asking for,” he maintained.

47-year-old Manlei was shot in the leg by security forces during the clash in the aftermath of the first shooting incident on 4 December. His brother was among the eight youths going home from coal mining work at Tiru in a pickup truck in the evening, when the patrolling security forces reportedly started firing at them, killing six on the spot.

Speaking to The Morung Express on Tuesday, Manlei who is currently admitted at the Christian Institute of Health Sciences & Research (CIHSR) in Dimapur, said that his younger brother Shomaang, the youth president of Oting Village Baptist Church, was driving the truck and was killed on the spot.

As per his statement, he was also travelling to Tiru at that time when he heard news of a firing incident, so he made a u-turn and returned back to Oting village instead.

Upon reaching the village, his uncle informed them that the young boys had not returned home, whereas they had already left Tiru. A call was made to gather all the youths from the village and they went in search of the young boys who had not returned home, he said.

Manlei, who was also part of the search party, stated that the pickup truck was found “filled with blood with no bodies of the fallen youths.” As they continued searching, they finally found the dead bodies, allegedly hidden in the truck of the Indian Army.

The enraged youths put to fire two of the army vehicles while some began to take down bodies from the truck. When the youth had taken down two of the bodies from the truck, the security forces starting firing and they laid on the floor for safety, he said. The firing stopped for a while, and as Manlei got up and walked ahead, he was stopped by an army jawan. “I stopped and turned towards him when he directly shot me,” he stated.

The incident happened near the Safrai river, and the army personnel got on their bikes and started shooting from there till the outskirts of Tiru, he said, adding that they were also not aware of how or when the security personnel had taken the two injured persons.

“It was much later when we received news that they were in Dibrugarh,” he said.

As for Manlei, he was picked up by friends and taken to Mon. “I did not even go home. From Mon, four of us were flown to Dimapur last evening,” he said.

Family members of some of the injured youths were also present at the CIHSR. They told The Morung Express that the number of civilians that were injured will account to almost 70 percent of the youths in the village since almost all the men in the village went in search of the youths.

“The bodies of the youths (from the search party) were found at different locations in the jungle as they ran for their lives and eventually succumbed to injuries,” one of them said.

While two of the injured are admitted in the ICU, two of them, including Manlei, were released from the ICU and are still under supervision of doctors. “We are still waiting for the doctors’ reports on what step to take next,” they said.

The brother of a youth who is in the ICU said that he was first hit by a bullet that ricocheted off a bulldozer. The youth reportedly fell down and was shot at again twice. He got up and ran for his life, and the soldier shot him for the fourth time, hitting his chest, he said.

“The situation is still very tense and we are really hurt. The government must revoke the AFSPA if the security forces are really for the public, and not against them. What can be done now is to take things sensibly and let the ‘high-level SIT’ investigate and deliver justice at the earliest,” he added.

“The dead are gone, and what we want now is justice for our brothers,” one of them said, adding that the government should listen to the voices of the people.

They also acknowledged the solidarity of the entire Nagas. Manlei thanked everyone who has helped them and asked the people to continue praying for them. (Courtesy: Morung Express News)