Views & Reviews
On the Tragic Indian Soldier’s War Memorial at Mokokchung
On first seeing the caption in the papers that a war memorial was going to be built at Mokokchung for the over 300 martyrs killed in the war, and assuming that the Aos were building that memorial for their dead in the Indo Naga war, I was scandalised. I was thinking that the Aos were making a blunder with the numbers of their dead because I knew that Ao casualty in the Indo-Naga war was way beyond 300 souls. But I was all the more scandalised when I read on, and realised that it was not the Aos but the Indian foreign troops who were going to build that memorial at Mokokchung.
My immediate reaction was: “How can these Indian soldiers insult the deaths of their own other thousands of comrades who have died in Nagaland by mentioning only 357 names?”
As a Naga historian, I know from my travels and interviews with thousands of Naga villagers and Naga soldiers that thousands of Indian soldiers, Paramilitary forces, and both armed as well as unarmed Indian Police personnel have died in the killing fields of Nagaland. Also, as I read that article, at the back of my mind was Major General Cardozo’s mournful words when he wrote about the 17,000 Indian soldiers who have died in the North East battles. Cardozo had written in the context of the Kargil war and had stated: “Where were you, my friends before Kargil, when my dead comrades came in anonymous crates from …the North East…when the army mourned its dead alone, and it was only the Regimental family that comforted weeping widows and sobbing children.” (For details of Cardozo’s write up, read Nagaland and India, the blood and the tears…p 360). In the light of all these facts, how can the Assam Rifles in Mokokchung just forget all the other thousand of dead Indian soldiers by inscribing the names of only just 357 soldiers?
As for Nagas, we never forget our dead-especially those who have died in defense of our lands. In the late 1950s, when the dispersed villagers were able to come back to their burnt out villages, after rebuilding temporary shelters, they went back to bring the bones of their loved ones who had died beyond their tribal territories. They brought back all their bones to bury them in their own villages. (The holocaust in the mid 1950s had forced many villagers to cross their own territories both to hide as well as scrounge for food in other tribe’s territories). And there was a lot of weeping and mourning as these bones were brought back and buried in the village cemeteries. Then there too have been the many cases, where villagers had gone back into the jungles of Burma and other foreign lands, to bring back the bones of their fallen heroes who have died in foreign lands fighting for Nagaland’s freedom. Whether it was in Thevophitsiima village in the Chakhesang region or Mokokchung in the Ao region, the bones of these heroes have been buried with honour and deep respect.
This is how we treasure the memories of war victims in Naga custom and culture. On our part, we Nagas also respect the deaths of the Indian soldiers who have died in our lands. But we also know that these Indian soldiers have died tragic deaths for the Indian politician’s lie, that Nagaland is Indian Territory and that Nagas are Indians. The facts of anthropology, history, geography, culture etc. all show that such a political lie can only be the height of human mythology and imagination. But whatever the case may be, even if some Indian soldiers still want to go on believing their politician’s lies, at least erect the memorials of your dead comrades in your own lands in India and not in a foreign land called Mokokchung in Nagaland. As for us Nagas, what we Nagas would appreciate from you is a memorial with words of apology from your side, than a memorial of your dead in our lands.
Kaka D Iralu