BLUE BIRD OPERATION IN 1987 (OINAM INCIDENT)

OINAM INCIDENT: In 1987 Oinam incident narrated by Ningreichon Tungshang Morung Express published it.

I do not want to forget because it was too painful: Tungshang Ningreichon

Ela (name changed) was about 38 years old when the army came and grouped them in the village ground. They gathered people from the neighbouring villages too and herded them in the ground like animals.

This is a story so common and we have heard it too many times. But we have never heard it enough. People from more than 30 villages were to be completely isolated from the rest of the world and made to face a life they wish never to remember, yet, never be able to forget. They were made to face the wrath of the Indian army for nearly 4 months. Their crops and fields, houses and barns, cattle and animals, fishes and fowls and all the simple economy that aided them to survive was to be badly destroyed. Men and boys were blindfolded and tortured while some of them were dragged to the nearby forest and shot dead. Women and children were kept separately and in the rain they were made to stay for days and weeks. While many of the children survived the ordeal a lot of the infants died due to hunger and diarrhoea. Yes, this is a story so common. This is a story we must not forget.

Ela narrates “when the army came my children started crying. They begged me to take them to their grandparents’ house at Charangho village (also known as Shajouba). My younger daughter was staying with them around that time. I am from Charangho village” she clarifies as we sit in a room that seems to listen to her story intensely. “I was helpless and did not know what to do. My husband died when my youngest child was barely 3 months old. I have been raising 4 kids on my own and in a time like that I was caught off guard. Some of the villagers started fleeing but I could not take the 3 children with me. I told them not to cry and assured them that God will not leave us. After much contemplation I told my daughter who was about 10 years old then to take her brother and go to Charangho. Her brother was about 6 years old. I knew they would be safer there. I had rupees 200 with me and I gave that to my daughter. She got worried and asked me ‘mother how you and younger brother will manage?’ I told her that we have enough paddy and she should not worry. With the 200 rupees and a prayer they set for my parents’ village, Charangho. As for me and my son we had to silently suffer with the rest” and she narrates a nightmare that sometimes are best left unrepeated.

When the human rights people came to Oinam many people at the risk of being brutalized again by the army gave affidavits which were to be used as a document powerful enough to take the case to the court. These people were terrorized and threatened by the army but they stood by the statement they gave. As for Ela the army came looking for her and she had to hide for a very long time. She chokes as she tells me 25 years later of the traumatic experience she went through when she struggled to stand for truth and face the brunt for doing so. “The hardest part was to think about the safety of my youngest son. I had to leave the village for the army was looking for me. I was lost and did not know what to do. My son was about 5 years old then and I could not leave him alone nor take him with me. Finally I left her with my sister in law. Clothed in old dress and carrying our daily basket we pretended we were going to the paddy field. One of my in laws walked me till the stream and from there I walked to Maram village. I was alone and very scared. I did not dare to take the road so I walked through the forest for 4 hours and reached Maram. I still get the creep when I think of the journey” she cringed!

I asked Ela if she sometimes regrets giving an affidavit and if she wished she had never spoken to the human rights people. She responds “No! Too many people have died and we suffered too much. Many people could never again lead a normal life. Many died as a consequence of the physical torture. I am glad I could share the truth about what happen to us”

On 9th of July Oinam and its neigbouring villages Khongdei, Ngamju, Thingba, Purul, Phuba, Sorbung and many more relived a memory that has haunted them for 25 years with no trace of justice whatsoever for the loss of lives of 27 people and for the mental and physical wounds and scars that some have taken to their graves while some have nursed this long.

Operation bluebird as infamously known will be etched in the history of people who yearn for justice for it attempted to wipe people and memory. I will however not write about the deaths for they are numbers I do not wish to count. I will not speak about those who died as a result of torture and physical brutality in the months and years that followed July 1987 for they become mere statistics. I will not talk about the rape and molestation of women for there is nothing we can do to undo what happened to the many women during the operation. I do not wish to write about the infants and children who died for I cannot bear to look at my 8 month old son with that story at the back of my mind. I will not write about the ordeal the people went through for we cannot heal them anymore.
Instead I salute the valiance and the resilience of these people who not only survived the brutality but who reminds us time and again that we were once a people with determination and if we remember not to forget these struggles we will once again be the people with hope. Yes hope never leaves us and this hope must live!

Source : (kharingyo shimrah) Morung Express

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