The NNC leadership, at one of its meetings held at Washelo in May 1960, had resolved to flush the Indian armed forces out of the Naga territory. To achieve this goal, the Naga Army attacked the 14th Assam Rifles outpost at Thuda (Phor Village) in Pochury area. The attack was undertaken by the Eastern Command 1st Brigade under the command of Major General Zuheto, along with the then 4th Battalion of Pochury Region under the command of Lt. Colonel Thorpa. It was peak monsoon season at that time and the major rivers like Tizu, Lanye and Thethsü were in full spate. The attack was launched on 14thAugust 1960 after destroying all the six bridges across the rivers leading to the besieged camp. This was done with the sole intention to cut off any possible reinforcement effort by the Indian Army.
As the attack continued unabated into the third day, ammunitions on both sides were running out and on several occasions the Indian Air Force tried to drop relief materials and ammunitions through its aircrafts but their ploy were daringly thwarted by the brave Naga Army. Amidst all the action between the Naga army and Indian forces, the Indian Air Force jet fighters continued to strafe the attacker’s position with bombs and machine guns.
An Indian transport plane bearing No. DC-3, HJ233 (Dakota) trying to drop relief materials and ammunitions to the besieged post was shot down by the Naga Army on the fourth day of the siege which crash landed at Zathsü, a paddy field of Meluri village. In fact, this was the first ever plane shot down by the Naga Army in the history of the Naga’s struggle against the Indian armed forces. The Naga Army captured four (4) of its pilots and five (5) crew members. The captured flight officers were Capt. Anand Sinha, Flight Officer R.E Raphael, and Sgt. J.C Chowdhury. This led to a heavy army operation in Pochury area by the Indian Army, who were on the mission to search and rescue the captured airmen. For the record, none of the captives was tortured but were later set free through the Indian Red Cross Society. In their desperate attempt to rescue the captured airmen, the Indian armed forces burnt down several villages and inflicted untold atrocities upon the helpless villagers. The atrocities committed by the Indian forces as a fall-out of the attack on the Thuda outpost and the subsequent capture of its men after shooting down the aircraft are chronicled as under:
On 1st September 1960, 6 (six) villagers from Phor village were tortured to death. Their names are as follows:
1. Lt. Türachu, Village chief; 2. Lt. Yutsüchu, Pastor; 3. Lt. Chup?chu, DB; 4. Lt. Yitüchu, GB; 5. Lt. Türüchu, GB; 6. Lt. Müghazu, GB
Again on September 3, 1960 another 3 (three) villagers from Yisi Village were beaten to death. Their names are as follows:
1. Lt. Mazu, GB; 2. Lt. Throchu; 3. Lt. Mazu, RP
Two villagers from Mokie Village were also beaten to death. They are:
1. Lt. Yichühu
2. Lt. Nyupuchu
In Laruri village, Lt. Lingsang was buried alive after severe beating.
Lt. Nyukhrüsüh and Lt. Rhorüpa of Meluri village were mercilessly tortured after which their heads were chopped off.
Two villages namely Tsiküzo and Küluopfü, were abandoned due to the constant torture and harassment meted out by the Indian army.
On 6th September 1960, the 16th Punjab regiment posted at Kanjang village reached Matikhrü village around 10 am. The entire village was encircled in three rings and all the villagers were then ordered to assemble at one place. Men-folks were separated from women and children.
All the men were then made to keep jumping and do sit-ups continuously for more than 5 hours in the scorching sun, naked. Any signs of tiredness were met with kicks and hits with the rifle butts. Then, just before sun-set, the blood thirsty Indian Army, not satisfied with the most barbaric treatment meted out on the villagers, bunched all the menfolk up inside the village chief’s house and were forced to sit head down like the poor lambs being led to the slaughter house.
Lt. Thah, the then village chief, knowing what was in store for them bravely volunteered to sacrifice. He stood bravely for the cause of the Nagas even in the face of death and these were his last words before he became a martyr himself: “IT’S A MAN’S PRIDE. NO SURRENDER, NO COMPROMISE FOR OUR BIRTH RIGHT, THIS SACRIFICE IS TO PROTECT OUR FREEDOM. I SHALL GLADLY LAY DOWN MY LIFE FOR THE NAGA FUTURE GENERATION.” Then, the Indian army jawans, holding a blunt dao chopped-off the head of Lt. Pogholo, who was next in the line to be massacred.
Witnessing the brutality and horror in front of their eyes and knowing that all of them were soon to meet the same fate, one of the villagers managed to escape the execution miraculously. Soon heads began to roll, one after another; heads separating from the bodies and within no time a total of nine lives had mercilessly been taken.
Their names are as follows:
1. Lt. Thah; 2. Lt. Pogholo; 3. Lt. Mezitso; 4. Lt. Pongoi; 5. Lt. Eyetshü; 6. Lt. Zasituo; 7. Lt. Thitu; 8. Lt. Kekhwezu; 9. Lt. Kezü Khwelo
The Indian army did not even allow the loved ones to perform the last rites and rituals on the dead bodies of their beloved. The corpses were dumped inside the village chief’s house and were then burnt down to ashes along with several other houses and granaries.
The women and children who had fled to the jungle to escape the horror and torture of Indian Army came back the next morning only to find the whole village being burnt down to ashes.
Lt. Thitu who had narrowly escaped from the execution was found by his wife Mrs. Rhütarüh with three cuts to the neck, stomach slashed and intestines thrown out. He quoted “LOVE, TELL MY BELOVED CHILDREN OF THE SACRIFICE I HAD BORNE FOR THEM. AND I AM WAITING TO DIE IN YOUR LAP WITH A CUP OF WATER.” After drinking those few drops of water from the hands of his wife, he breathed his last. Another victim Lt. Zasituo, traveling pastor, was also found almost dead with multiple injuries on the chest and neck. However, not long after he also succumbed to his injuries. The horrified women and children with hardly any option simply covered the dead bodies with mud and left for the jungles fearing that the Indian army might return any moment.
The entire populace abandoned the village and drifted to different directions in search of temporary shelter and safety. For almost 3 years, the survivors wandered in the deep jungle without proper food and shelter, their only source of sustenance being the wild berries and fruits of the jungle. Under such extreme conditions of hardship and difficulty, still many more precious lives were lost.
It was Lt. Dosü, the then Interim Body Member who sounded Lt. Leshimo, who was at that time the Angh of Patkai State, to immediately re-establish Matikhrü village and reclaim their ancestral land. Lt. Leshimo, in turn assigned this very special assignment to Lt. Rekhuotho Kajiry, the then Tatar with the full responsibility to immediately re-establish Matikhrü village by mobilizing the survivors who were scattered in different places. By the fall of 1962, the construction of houses was initiated under his personal supervision.
During the long dispersion and exodus, some of the survivors entered Burma and stayed with the Naga Army in their camp at Sathi where Gavin Young of the London Observer met with them in the later part of 1961. In his book “Indo-Naga War”, he has mentioned on page 29-30 that when he met the survivors they were only a pathetic thirty people who had spent their life in the wilderness for two and half years.
In 1963, Matikhrü village was re-established but life could never be normal again for many years thereafter after all the horrendous experience that the villager had gone through. Even today, the nightmare and the tragedy of the incident continue to haunt the minds of the survivors and the younger generations even though they themselves were not witness to the cruelty.
The people of Pochury, even to this day, observe 6th September as “BLACK DAY” every year in memory of all those who had suffered and laid down their lives for the greater cause and glory of the Nagas. It is a day of sadness and at the same also a day to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the martyrs for the Naga nation.
POCHURY STUDENTS’ UNION