Why did they fire at us? Was one question the villagers at Wuzu, Phor and new Phor asked when the NSF and NPMHR team went for fact-finding at Wuzu village. A five member fact-finding team, consisting of Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), visited and talked to the eyewitnesses from July 17 to 19, 2015.
Sequence of events:
July 15: Firing starts at Avankhu (also known as Avankhung) area where two the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang faction) or NSCN-K cadres are killed by the Assam Rifles. The firing starts around 11 pm at night and lasted till 5 am in the morning of July 16.
July 16: The bodies of the two cadres were being taken to Meluri via Wuzu by the AR. Five AR vehicles convoy (three 407 truck, gypsy, and one Tata truck) passes through Wuzu village by 6 pm, according to eye witnesses in the village. The villagers having learned that one of the slain cadres, Captain Puhachu, belonged to Wuzu village decides to request the AR to hand over the body for proper burial in the village land as per Naga customs.
Firing inside Wuzu village
The village leaders of Wuzu and neighboring villages of Phor and New Phor stood by the side of the road and raise their hands when the Army convoys was passing through. The first three vehicles sped off without stopping; however, they stopped near the village community hall on seeing the Major stop his vehicle, which is a few metres away from where the villagers are standing.
The villagers did not force the military convoy to stop.
The fourth vehicle carrying Major Surinder Singh and the last vehicle stopped where the villagers stood. The village leaders requested the Major, who was well acquainted with them, if it were possible for the Major to handover the body to which the Major expressed his inability. So they requested the Major to at least take the coffin for the dead bodies to which the Major agreed.
The conversation lasted for about two minutes when they started hearing gunshots from the direction of the AR truck near the Community hall which was followed by indiscriminate firing from the vehicle of the Major and the last vehicle behind the Major’s vehicle.
Aso and Tiizali were killed from the bullets of the Jawans who fired from the Major’s vehicle, according to the eye witnesses. The villagers have also stated that the shots fired by the Jawans were not blank firing but aimed directly at the civilians. The firing lasted for about 20 minutes, we have been told.
Bullet marks are seen in the houses and trees in the whole stretch. The villagers have collected around 140 empty shells. Witnesses have claimed that there could be much more empty cases inside the AR vehicles as the maximum number of gunshots was fired inside the vehicle.
A civilian non-villager who happened to be at the site of the incident at that point in time witnessed the entire incident. He was by the site of the Community Hall next to the Army Maruti Gypsy vehicle where he witnessed the first gunshot being fired from the Assam Rifles Gypsy, he stated.
Accounts of Witnesses
Aso: Aso, 13, a class VII student of GHS Pholary, was the youngest child in her family. Aso is said to be a promising student. Her own grandfather was killed by the Indian Army in the 1960s during the battle of Thuda Phor. She was inside her relative’s house when the jawans fired. The bullet hit right below her armpit and came on the other side of her body.
Tüzali: Tiizali, 14 years and Class 7 student of GHS Pholary belonged to the neighboring village Phor, which is a walking distance from Wuzu village. Tiizali was with his three other friends right above the road when the shooting started. His friends escaped but he was shot in the chest and the skull.
Esther Jorror: The fact finding team visited Esther Jorror, 24 years old, on July 19 at the Community Health Centre of Meluri. Esther was shot in the right arm by the Assam Rifles. She was carrying her one year and five months old baby when she heard the firing. She ran inside the house of Yichiili for cover but was shot in the arm while running for cover. It is the same house where Aso was killed. Esther saw Aso being shot. Esther’s husband Ritu Jorror was also at the spot and is an eye witness to the firing by Assam Rifles.
The NSF and NPMHR fact-finding team has taken pictures of the bullet marks in each houses which were shot. The Assam Rifles has claimed that the NSCN K had shot from the hilltops but the bullet marks and eye witness evidences indicates that the Assam Rifles shot directly at the civilians and the houses.
The team called on Maj Surinder Singh of the 46 AR C Coy at his camp at Akhegwo Post. In course of the interaction, he admitted that he was not sure who shot the students in the village. He further told the team to contact his superiors, particularly the IG of AR, on the matter. The team also noticed a group of Para Commando personnel of the Indian Army with their strange looks and unusual uniform.
Maj Surinder Singh also revealed that the assault team comprised of personnel from the Para Commando personnel of the Indian Army along with the jawans from the Assam Rifles under his command. He also admitted that he had an Officer senior to him and some other Junior Commissioned Officers at the spot where the students were murdered.
On being queried how he could claim that the NSCN-K had killed the students, he responded that he was not sure and requested the team to contact the IG of AR (Nagaland). This is particularly interesting because it is ascertained that there was no presence of the cadres of the NSCN-K in the vicinity. If the Major himself who was present at the incident of July 16 is not sure, then how can the IG AR (Nagaland) be so sure in their press statements that the two students were killed by the NSCN-K?
*General Secretary, Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), **Vibi Yhokha, Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR)