Remembering our heroic martyrs : The day never to be forgotten
Kuki Black Day(Sahnit-Ni)

Thangminlun Haokip *

 Kukis observed 25th anniversary of 'Sahnit', Kuki Black Day at Churachandpur :: 13 September 2018
Kukis observed 25th anniversary of 'Sahnit', Kuki Black Day at Churachandpur on 13 September 2018 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

This year, 13th September marks the 26th anniversary and commemoration of Kuki Black day or Sahnit-Ni. This day commemorates the gruesome massacre(also known as Joupi-Zanglenphai Massacre) of thousands of Kukis who lost their lives in the hands of the Naga militants of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland(Isak-Muivah), which is a secessionists underground movement, which aims to create a greater Nagalim and bring all Naga- inhabited areas in the North East under a single administrative unit.

The Kukis considered this inhumane act as a genocidal act, 'ethnical cleansing' in a stronger term, as thousands of Kukis including (pregnant)women and children lost their lives and thousands more were misplaced. Moreover, over 360 Kuki villages were uprooted in NSCN(I-M) attacks,turning as many as 1 lakh villagers refugees in their own 'ancestral land'.

Why Kuki Black Day Or Sahnit-ni?

It was on that fateful day, the 13th of September, 1993 that marks an indelible incident in the hearts of all the Kukis and many other patriotic being, which shall always lingers until justice is prevailed. Not only is it remembered for those who lay down their lives on that fateful day, but also in remembrance of all the Kuki victims killed during the ethnic clash between 1992 and 1997 with the so called NSCN(I-M).

The main reason behind all these inhumane act of ethnic clash taking thousands of lives was nothing more than for the cause of scramble for 'land', struggle for territorial recognition and identity, of which there cannot be a peaceful coexistence till this day. Since then, the enmity between the Nagas and the Kukis was ignited by the violence unleashed by the militants in 1990s resulting in bloodbath of many innocent Kukis.

For years, the Kuki community has been demanding justice for the victims. Still, the cry for justice is just a dream-like, which has been an unanswered-call by the state as well as the central government for the Kukis; nonetheless, various organizations including Kuki Inpi, Manipur's apex Kuki organisation has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recognising the Kuki identity, territory and political rights and various memorial stones had already been erected at Churachandpur district back in 2018, where three monoliths that contained the names of over 1000 Kuki victims who lost their life in the conflict.

The Kukis believe that the government is ignoring their sentiments in favour of the Nagas. The Kuki Black Day, therefore becomes an important stage or day for voicing grievances and hark back to that fateful day when thousands of their kind had been 'innocently' slaughtered or mercilessly butchered and shot. This being the cause for which the Kukis shall never fail to remember.

An account from one of the five survivors:

Haosem Doungel, one of the five survivors of the 1993 Joupi-Zanglenphai massacre told The News Lens what he remembers of that fateful day: "I used to live in Zanglenphai Kuki village of Tamenglong district in Manipur. In early September, 1993, the NSCN-IM backed Naga Lim Guard served the adjacent Kuki villages of Joupi and Zanglenphai a quit notice ordering the villages to leave the area before September 15,1993.

Fearing the worst, we abided by the NSCN-IM diktak and on September 12 we left the village en masse. En route to a place called Tamei, as dusk descended, we were intercepted by a group of NSCN-IM cadres. They let the women and the children flee and tied the menfolk. About 50 of us were taken to a cliff by a river, while about another 30 men were taken to another spot not very far.

They slit the throats of most of the men with machetes and some were also shot dead. While one of the NSCN-IM cadres held me from behind, another hacked me three times on the back of my neck. And then they pushed me to the river below. They also shot at me twice to make sure that I was dead but by God's will, I survived. Half-dead, I floated on the river and made it to the jungle where I hid myself.

The next day I walked to the village called Thenjang. From there the villagers took me to Assam Rifles medical facilities at Chalva station. I was treated there for over a month. My elder brother was among those butchered on that fateful night. Those violent scenes of bloodletting and wails and screams still haunt me. How can one forget these things?".

This is the corroboration, this explains everything. But many still argued that the 'Joupi-Zanglenphai massacre' was just a 'fabricated incident' covered up by the Kukis. But how could one utter all these pragmatic incidents, if it had not really happened, how could it be a 'fabricated story' when thousands of life had been lost and tens of thousands had been misplaced from their own land.

Indisputably, the Kuki Black Day(Sahnit-ni) has its motives and ambition. We pledge to uphold the cause of sacrifice made by thousands of Kukis and ensure justice to them. We vowed to secure our ancestral homeland, endanger peace, prevent bloodshed and genocide and promote progress, prosperity and peaceful coexistence.

The question of justice is still a far cry today. Why ?

Neither did the government took up prominent steps to ensure justice for the innocent people of the Kukis nor do the Nagas felt guilty for their inhumane act and proclaimed that they had been wrong all these years. So would the Kukis silence their voices and rest in peace till justice prevails. This, being the core reason, there cannot be a peaceful coexistence between the two till this day.

But evidently speaking, thousands of the Kukis had been mercilessly slaughtered and shot, which this could never be denied as false information or a fabricated story. While it would also be admissible that not more than a hundred Nagas were killed by the Kukis out of anger and an act of revenge.

So, the big question is 'Are the 1000 lives not worth more to those of not even a 100?". Moreover, a number of women have been even tortured and gang- raped before they were killed, which is just 'unimaginable'. This could never be accepted for one to treat his fellow being, the level of humanity for such people being zero.

The way forward:

Above all, we are human beings who knows what is morally good or agreeable and disagreeable . Therefore, a holistic solution would be the only way forward for a peaceful coexistence between the two. Also do we have to forgive and forget one who has done something wrong to us and the other should assent and make a clean breast of it that they had done wrong and plead for forgiveness because mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.

People hurt each other, it happens to everyone-intentionally, unintentionally, regretfully or not. It is a part of what we do as people. The beauty is that we have the ability to heal and forgive. As Lewis B. Smedes rightly said, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."

A memoriam ' Your Name Liveth Forever More' has been beautifully written down which shall always live in the hearts of the Kukis, which read 'You were born a legend in the land of Pu Galngam and Pu Hangshai. Born to live in peace with your neighbours. You make peace when others fight, you defended our fatherland from intruders. You fought the mighty British empire, you are the true son of the soil.

You wanted your freedom back when British left. You demanded a state in India but it felt on a deaf ear. When you raise arms for it, the coward monster felt threatened, shivered. You have been served Quit Notice in your fatherland. You brave dead when the monster called genocide. They chopped off your head to silent you. In the darkness of the forest, they left your body alone. But your voice was heard across the globe.

Your headless body covered the headlines. Your blood inked the front-pages of newspaper. You died a patriot, a gallant soldier. You died as Kuki, for the Kuki. Death is not the end of the journey because you sleep for the long night. We are awaken to see the daylight. As you sleep, the horizon of darkness will be broken.

The light of the dawn will shine in Zalengam before the monster consumed you, before you go to a long sleep. You said, 'Nangho aphat phatnan hung kihung taovin, keivang athi ding'a che kahitai.'

After 25 years, no justice prevailed in our land. After 25 years, no peace consoled our heart. Every dawn and dusk, we called you. From Mithikho you reminded us, you told us what to do. From heaven you weep for us. Nay, don't you repent for your sacrifice. The horizon of darkness will be broken. From asleep, we will rise to light.

Today, we raise Lumsong and Sithing to immortalise you. Like Lumsong and Sething, your name will be remembered forever. When you meet our ancestors in Mithikho, tell them of us that we are still fighting for our freedom.

We pledge to defend and secure our fatherland. We pledge to keep peace and justice with others. We pledge to prevent genocide and bloodshed in our fatherland. We pledge to promote peace, progress and prosperity. May your soul rest in peace!".

(The views expressed is the writer's own )

* Thangminlun Haokip wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on September 14 2020.

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