SEPTEMBER 13:THE BLACKEST DAY By:Donn Morgan Kipgen


In every armed conflict innocent civillians
are always the worst casualties as much
as truth and human rights are.
Defenseless civilians have to bear the
brunt of deadly forces unleashed by
armed elements. This is exactly what had happened to innocent Kuki villagers
during the bloody Kuki-Naga war
(1992-95) which started as a result of the
gruesome ethnic cleansing operations carried out by the NSCN (IM) and the
Naga Limguard. Of course, Nagas were
also killed by the provisional Kuki militia
in retaliatory strikes. From May 1992 to
November 1995, more than 575 innocent
Kuki civilians were shot or hacked to death by Naga militants in Manipur
alone, whereas about 121 Kukis were
liquidated in Nagaland, without counting
the heads (non pun intended) of missing
persons. Altogether 230 Kuki hamlets
and villages were burnt down and scores of Kuki villages were deserted out of
sheer terror, taking the number of Kuki
refugees to over 50,000. It was during
this period that compassion, honor,
human rights and the teachings of
Christianity took the backstage and the finer points of psycho-terror and
unbridled brutalities ruled the roast.
Unfortunately, the details of these tales
of death and destruction were eagerly
followed with much relish by some
sections of the society. Never had a human life been so cheap and so
inconsequential as it was then. Kukis
paying homage to Sept. 13, 1993
martyrs. One of the saddest facts was
that most of the victims who had already
been unlucky in life could not be given proper burial ceremonies. Amidst those
sordid tales of horror and gory incidents
there stood out one most gruesome massacre which
makes the other bloody incidents like a
‘Humpty Dumpty’s story. On 13th Sept,
1993, in one of the worst genocides in
the history of modern India, innocent
Kukis, including one woman, of Joupi Village (Tamenglong dist) were
butchered or hacked to death at a spot
not far from Tamei police station by the
NSCN (IM) backed Naga Limguardsmen.
To say that these 88 people were killed
would be an understatement. Not even a single victim was lucky enough to be
shot dead; all and every one of them had
their throats cut, tribal execution style.
To add to that most despicable act of
madness and primeval savagery, another
20 innocent Kukis were also exterminated in separate
‘incidents’ on that most tragically fateful
day of September 13, 1993, – 13 villagers
from Gelnel (Senapati district), 4 from Santing (Senapati district) and 3 from
Nungthut (Tamenglong district), pushing
the day’s heads’ count to 108 victims.
The sheer magnitude of these well-
planned and methodic savageries
shocked the whole country and the news hit news agencies and other wire-
services all around the world. The BBC World reported them
as ethnic cleansing by Naga separatists’,
the CNN called the Joupi Massacre as
‘genocide’ and the other world media
called it as ‘bloody ethnic cleansing’. That particular
day, i.e. 13th September, 1993, will be
live in infamy forever, as much as the 9/11 shall
be. In all fitness of things, the 13th September is observed as a ‘Black Day’ by
the Kukis in remembrance of those 700 most unfortunate victims who had no
business to die at all in the first place. The Black Day is not about angry protest; it is
all about honoring the memory of those innocent Kukis who had perished so
cruelly. Not to honor and remember
those due to reconciliatory politics would be a great
injustice. The cold-blooded massacre of
88 villagers of Joupi and Zanglenphai deserves to be
told. It was a tale of horror, deception
and sheer hatred. Joupi village had around 70
houses whereas the neighboring
Zanglenphai had 18 houses and had
shared one Kuki Baptist Convention
church in Joupi. On the 5th September,
1993, 40 armed NSCN (IM) cadres, including 7 females, swooped down
upon Joupi village. They herded all the men folk into the
village community hall and detained the
women and children inside the church (how
many times do we hear about SF
personnel desecrating the sanctity of the church? It
should also be noted that 5 Haipi
villagers were shot death inside the church during
the New Year’s night service on 1/1/95
by Naga militants). After locking up all
the Joupi villagers, the NSCN (IM) cadres
went on rampage, entering each and
every house and destroying all boxes, almirahs, and tools like knives, machetes,
swords, spades, axes, etc… Thereafter,
they slaughtered livestock like pigs,
chicken and merrily feasted till late
evening. As they left Joupi just before
night, the Naga militants forcibly took along the village chief Lenkhopai Haokip
‘to drop them off’ as a dutiful host, only
to bury him dead along Barak riverbank
about 2 km away from the village. Five
days later, on September 10, the NSCN
(IM) served a ‘quit notice’ to Joupi- Zanglenphai villagers ordering them to
leave/vacate on or before September 15.
As a matter of necessity, one Semkholam
Hangshing was elected as an acting-chief
and they held a fare-well feast and paid
homage to the departed soul of their deceased chief on September 11. The
next morning they held their last
communion and prayer service in the
church. Thereafter, under the supervision
of their new chief, all men, women and
children of Joupi-Zanglenphai villages tearfully left their earthly homes en mass
on the September 12, taking among their modest
belongings, livestock and other necessary
items. It must have been a very moving
scene. These hapless villagers wearily
trudged along thinking they were
already out of harm’s way; little did they know that they, especially the men folk,
had an appointment with destiny not so far ahead.
Unbeknownst to them, their fate had
already been decided. The weary
villagers managed to reach Bolkot area,
about 28 km from Joupi and about 2 km
from Tamei, by late afternoon. The horror story started there and then, the
September 15 ‘deadline’ was not to be
honored by the NSCN (IM) and the Naga
Limguardsmen. There at Bolkot, all the
men were separated from women and
all their belongings and properties were ransacked, looted or destroyed. The
inhuman torturing started amidst the
wailing and crying. Realizing their
intention, the younger brother of the
deceased chief shouted, ‘Let’s all run! It’s
every man for himself!’ However new chief of Joupi shot down that proposal,
saying that if the men folk ran away
then all women and infant would be
butchered as a punishment and that it
was the duty of the headman and village
elders to die first if needed. All the villagers were marched into Tamei just
before nightfall and closed the gate. The
Naga militants hid the women and
infants in a secluded area while all the
men had their hands tied behind their
backs. According to eyewitnesses account and 5 survivors, they were
marched towards the outskirts of Tamei,
actually a stone’s throw away from
Tamei Police station, and the hacking of
necks started from the night itself. As a
true Christian, the Naga militants asked them to say their last prayers. Butchering
of fellow human beings is actually not a
regular part of Christian tradition, less so
against fellow Christians. Those of Kuki
villagers who lagged behind were duly
‘welcomed’ on September 13 and were given the same treatment-all the men
folk were beheaded. In all 87 innocent
Joupi-Zanglenphai villagers were
mercilessly laid low without any fault of
their own. One housewife was among
the victims because she stoutly refused to leave behind her husband and son-
what a dedication! As in all massacres,
there were 5 known survivors. One
Haosem Doungel was hacked at the back
of the neck and thrown into a river; he
survived. Three others managed to escape with serious injuries. One Kuki
policeman posted at the Tamei police
station had to be hidden by his
colleagues by locking him inside a cell for
his safety in case the Naga militants
came in for ‘inspection’. Most of the 700 plus innocent Kuki villagers who
perished during that ethnic cleansing
were murdered in the same manner. It is
most unfortunate that most of these
victim’s families have never been given
ex-gratia payment by the Govt. It is a shame that so far no one has ever been
charged or indicted by the not-so-long
arm of the law. Instead of booking the
person for crime against humanity, the
NSCN (IM) is now being dated and
pampered by the Govt of India. If Slobodon Milosevic, Ratko Mladic and
Radovon Karadzic could be booked for
crime against humanity, why not the
persons responsible for the Kuki
massacre? Are not the Kukis human
being? But then, it is not the Govt, the police or the Court who can give real
justice, it is only the Almighty God who
can give real and fitting justice in every
sense of the word. And it is not for us
mere mortal beings to judge the wrong
doings of other persons; it is the divine duty of the God to pass the judgment
over the crimes of this great magnitude
in his soul of these unfortunate victims
rest in peace.

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