War killed Meghazu in 1960. Fractured peace took his granddaughter’s life 55 years later.
Aso, a 13-year-old schoolgirl, was allegedly gunned down along with Tiizali, a 14-year-old boy, by the paramilitary Assam Rifles (AR) on July 15 at Wuzu village in Nagaland’s Phek district.
This followed an encounter in which the soldiers killed two members of the militant group National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) nearby.
AR officials said the rebels’ bullets might have killed the children they used as human shields.
Encounters with the armed forces and ambushes have returned to haunt the Northeast after the NSCN-K junked a 14-year-old ceasefire in March. The group has since then killed about 30 security personnel across Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
The official theory cut little ice with Wuzu residents, accustomed to civilians perishing at regular intervals since an insurgency erupted in the region in 1955.
One such victim was Meghazu during the battle of Thuda Phor between the Indian army and the rebels more than five decades ago.
The battle was infamous for the first Indian Air Force (IAF) plane shot down during an internal conflict.
Phor village adjoins Wuzu, both dominated by the Pochury tribe. A four-day war broke out in August 1960 after Naga fighters raided an Indian army camp at Thuda nearby. Locals say the soldiers torched houses, destroyed granaries and violated the women to inflict psychological scars.
“The killing of Aso has reopened old wounds that we thought would heal after the ceasefire (between New Delhi and NSCN-Isak Muivah in July 1997). How many more people will die for peace to reign?” Wuzu village chairman Pitu said.
Experts say children are increasingly falling victims to conflict between government forces and rebel groups in the Northeast.
In August last year, members of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S) killed 16-year-old Priya Basumatary in western Assam’s Chirang district as punishment for being an “informer”.
Four months later, the outfit gunned down 18 Adivasi children along with 48 adults in Kokrajhar and Sonitpur districts of Assam.
“This (the July 15) incident is yet another example of the misuse of Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 that gives soldiers the licence to kill,” Neingulo Krome of Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) told HT from Kohima. “It could have been avoided had New Delhi been serious about arriving at an honourable solution to the 18-year-old Naga peace process.”
The NPMHR and Naga Students’ Federation sent a fact-finding team last week to Wuzu to probe the July 15 firing.
The report indicated that AR personnel had overreacted after some Wuzu villagers sought the body of an NSCN-K “captain” killed in an encounter hours ago. Puhachu, the NSCN-K member, belonged to Wuzu.
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