REPORTING FROM THE WAR FRONT- A once in a life time experience

  • By: K.V.Nurumi, Sr.Correspondent, Nagaland Post

     Day 1- December 28 : The sight of volunteers in thousands gathered at Zunheboto Local Ground send chills down my spine and it was a hair raising moment as they boarded whatever available transportation that would take them to Mukalimi village unaware of what they would encounter. Women and children lined up the street and roof tops waving and cheering. In the evening, when the thousands of Sumi Volunteers reached Mukalimi Village armed with guns, spears, daos, sticks and whatever available tools they had in the hundreds of vehicles of different kind, my journalist instinct inside me kept on telling me that all’s not going to be well. The dust that was lifted by the hundreds of vehicles all throughout the Zbto-Mukalimi road perhaps have not settled down as yet. It was incredible and awesome. Volunteers who boarded mini-trucks and trucks were unrecognisable. A road block was encountered as the road was dug up but was filled with stones and tree trunks within no time. Late in the evening at around 6 P.M, the sound of war cries from hundreds of volunteers was greeted with the sound of the automatic guns from AK47s and SLRs. Barely 15 minutes after the first exchange of fire,the first casualty was brought in followed by two others. They had been hit on the hand, leg and the fingers.
    Then within a span of 45 minutes or so, the first victim’s body was brought. He was hit on the head and a scarf had to conceal his wounds. This group though had done maximum damage as they cut off the main pipeline, the water source for the camp which eventually could have also demoralized the cadres within the camp(Just my thought though). Another water source which is located below the camp was also believed to have been damaged but it was not to be. The firing continued for sometime even as leaders from the Sumi community tried their best to convince the volunteers from going to the camp late in the night. The plan was to make proper war strategy and strike at the first light of the dawn. It was around 8 p.m that I started filing my story from my lap top inside my vehicle. In between, I was also making several attempts to connect to the internet which turned out to be unsuccessful despite making many an attempt. With story done and network down, I decided to head to Zbto and come back early next morning. It was nearly midnight by the time I reached Zbto and the first thing I did before having my late dinner was to send the story. Within few minutes it was done and then only I realised that I was hungry…had dinner and dozed off.
    Day 2,December 29: Started from Zbto at around 8 A.M and reached at around 10:30. I was told that the volunteers has overtaken the bunkers and were engaged in the battle at the closest range. Till noon there were no casualties. I headed for the front mustering all the strength of the heart. From the road, I could see 12 or more volunteers taking shelter near the turning portion of the road. The rest of the volunteers were engaged in battle above this road. These volunteers were making all efforts to destroy the water source that was located below the camp. But from a bunker above the water source, I could see 2 cadres firing from SLRs at the 12 odd volunteers. At the bunker, volunteers cheered as bullets wheezed past above us. I could only lie flat on the ground wondering what guts the volunteers at the front had by facing the experienced and trained NSCN (IM) cadres with just bore guns, .22, and 303 rifles. The volunteers at the back were carrying spears, daos and sticks.

    Shouting and yelling of abusive words were exchanged intermittently (in Sumi language) between the cadres inside the camp and the volunteers. Then one of the volunteer who came from the front searching for extra ammunition told the crowd there that one NSCN (IM) cadre had been shot and has not come out from the bunker from where he was firing. He told us that the cadre was firing from an AK 47 rifle which probably was still inside that bunker. He informed that the both the volunteers and the cadres were trying to retrieve the body. I headed back towards the base camp (Mukali village) and even as I walked back several thousands of rounds of ammunition were being fired from the automatic guns (what a loss I thought) presuming that a bullet of AK47 might cost around Rs.300 or even more. Then at around 6 p.m, the first casualty of the day was brought in at a place near the village ground where medical personnel was stationed. He was identified as Ghukiye and he sustained grievous injury as the bullet pierced his abdomen and exited through the other side of the abdomen. Parts of the intestine protruded out at the exit wound. Doctor told me that it was grievous and the injured had to be shifted to Kohima immediately, which I heard later that they did. He unfortunately succumbed to his injury at NHAK Kohima on Dec 31 morning.

     

    Exchange of fire continued till late evening and from the village ground, I could see a bright light outside the camp. I was later informed that the light was from a “Chinese emergency light” placed by cadres to protect the bunker from where one of its was reportedly shot at. The volunteers were in return, trying their best to retrieve the gun that the cadre was using to fire at them. I returned to may camp (my vehicle) and started to narrate the incidents from my cell phone to my colleagues who noted down the events. My mom (My Dad is the vice president of Sumi Kukami Hoho so she had to accompany my Dad, thanks to her and God Bless her) called me out for dinner from a make shift open kitchen behind a hut which turned out to be a shop which the public had looted on Day 1. After dinner, I strolled around the village even as intermittent sounds of gunfire were heard. I saw every house occupied by volunteers and there was utter chaos as vehicles tried to find any available place to park and volunteers loitering around the village nowhere to go and find shelter. Slept for the night cramped at the back seat of my Bolero but couldn’t really figure out how many hours I could sleep because of the cramps and the chilling cold.

    Day 3 (December 30): Woke up with the news that the NSCN (IM) was willing to vacate the camp if provided with a safe passage. This did not go well with the public as casualty in the form of death and injury was involved during the “flush out mission.” By 8 in the morning a team from the Western Sumi frontal organisation accompanied by a Commissioner & Secretary had arrived at Mukalimi. I also heard that the leaders from the Sumi frontal organisations were camped at Ghathashi Church Guest House. So taking the opportunity, I boarded the vehicle belonging to the bureaucrat to whom I related the entire sequence of events.(Firing had began at around 8:30 AM). At the meeting with Hoho leaders at Ghathashi, the visiting delegates were briefed about the entire episode and how the idea of providing safe passage was not acceptable to the volunteers. Had lunch there at the Church Guest House and on the way, a high ranking official from police department told the bureaucrat and the visiting delegates that the idea of providing safe passage to the cadres would be disastrous. By the time we reached base camp, I initiated a press briefing for Guwahati based TV channel, DY365 with the leaders of the Sumi frontal organisations.

    It was during the course of this interview that people started rejoicing over the news that the volunteers had broken the barricades of the well-fortified and entrenched NSCN (IM) camp and that the volunteers had surged ahead. I headed towards the camp and from the road I could see smoke coming out from the camp. It was exactly 11:32 A.M . Every step I took towards the camp, I could see more smoke billowing out from various locations inside the camp. Gunfire were continuous but that subsided making way for huge shouts of victory. From the road, I could see 6-7 vehicles parked beyond the camp, below Pughoboto Town and when the first smoke emerged, I could see these vehicles move down towards the river below the camp. Near the bunkers, I could see barks of trees being shredded apart by the bullets, at the ground, make shift bunkers dug up by volunteers, water bottles strewn everywhere and left overs of food in paper crates (cartons) were seen near the bunkers. The lone electric post providing power to the camp was bent mid-half and the wires were cut by the volunteers. The main gate was already burnt down and volunteers were seen felling trees inside the camp. The concrete water tank was broken down by some volunteers with hammers and axes.

     

    Volunteers in thousands were at work doing all the damage that they could within the camp. All the huts and settlements were set on fire except the Church were spared. Inside the church, volunteers found two Holy books, one belonged to a Sumi and the other to a Tangkhul. (These were submitted to the Sumi frontal organisation leaders later). Smoke filled the air and it difficult to breathe. Shouts of “Alhou She” (Praise the Lord in Sumi dialect) rung the air and shots of guns continued over jubilation. Inside the camp, I saw a commotion and headed towards that spot.

    Here I saw some volunteers digging up some earth sensing that some cadres could have been buried. However, good Christian sense prevailed and the volunteers were stopped from digging the earth. Having witnessed the entire sequence that unfolded, I headed back towards the village where I found that representatives from Naga Mothers’Association, Chakesang Baptish Church Association (CBCA) and Nagaland Tribes Council had come to express solidarity with the Sumi frontal organizations. After interacting with the visiting delegates I thought should head back. Announcements were being made that all the volunteers would leave the place together but that fell into deaf ears as vehicles carrying volunteers started to exit the village. I told my brother and my parents that we should move along and this we did. The ride back to Zunheboto was emotional and heart breaking as women and children greeted the volunteers at Satakha and Zunheboto. Women in traditional Sumi dress and children with flags and placards cheered and waved flags at every incoming vehicle at various points at Zunheboto. The volunteers were greeted with shouts of joy and jubilation and celebration even as gunshots and burst of crackers rang the air in the evening. Placards reading “Congrats-Sumi Warriors,” “Welcome home brave Sumi warriors,” “We are proud of our Sumi warriors” and “Sumis, the Naga legendary warriors,” were displayed. The volunteers gathered at Zunheboto local ground where a brief thanksgiving programme was held. Fire crackers lit the night and the jubilation continued for hours into the night. Having witnessed the victory celebration, I headed for my parents home where I began to work on my story. The story that appeared on December 31 edition of Nagaland Post. I thank Vinoka K.Zhimo for the pictures.

    Note: The sequence of events that led to the confrontation at Mukalimi Village was covered by me and they appeared in “Nagaland Post” in their previous editions. I thank the editor and publisher “Nagaland Post” for reposing trust in me and above all I thank God for the opportunity to be part of this historic mission and for protecting me all throughout the 3 day siege. There are lots to write but this I hope and believe would suffice for the moment.

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