An avid cook, Keditsu happened to be surveying a college exam. “Without a kitchen in sight [to let off steam], I turned to a piece of paper and wrote a recipe, ”she says. He listed “life” (“in the open air” or “whole”) as the main ingredient, substitutable with a “piece of coal”, “two minutes of silence” or “Rs 5 lakh in cash”. These could be cooked in an iron “AFSPAPot, simmered slowly, stirred gently, until “memory” was “reduced to the consistency of oblivion.”
Keditsu called it “Recipe for Peace,” and the 40-year-old poem has gone viral on social media. “One of the ways I handled my reaction to the Oting incident was to write poems,” she says.
Keditsu is not alone. Across Nagaland, in the wake of the Oting incident which claimed the lives of 14 civilians in all, there was a wave of grief through the written word. Since December 5, poems, stories and songs dot social media timelines, with Nagas of all age groups and tribes finding a common language to mourn a collective loss.
“There are many sensitively written poems that reflect our grief,” says Easterine Kire, Sahitya Akademi award-winning poet and author.
“We are in deep grief. We call the young people who were murdered our sons. We take death very seriously and when it concerns death by unjust measures, the national memory is marked and the elegies, poems, prose writings as well as paintings, sculptures of the incident become few- one of the channels for people to express their grief, ”Kire said.
For many in Nagaland, the incident brought back a bitter taste for living under the Special Powers of the Armed Forces Act (AFSPA).
Riathung Ngullie, 36, who grew up in Kohima, recalls in a Facebook post how a bursting tire on a road in 1995 prompted forces to open fire on Kohima in panic. “We packed our bags, utensils and rations to escape into the jungle. I was a child but I could feel and feel the fear that this feeling has never left me, ”he wrote.
Like Ngullie, various stories and memories of life under the shadow of AFSPA are told and shared. “But even as these memories of a palpable feeling of insecurity from my childhood awaken, I realize how much I have deliberately forgotten, to the point of denial – just to make life under AFSPA bearable.” , explains Keditsu, the professor.
The deliberate “normalization” is reflected in “Sometimes”, a poem by Emisenla Jamir, a 34-year-old woman who teaches literature in Kohima. She writes: “Sometimes when I walk past the faded greens with / guns in my hand, / I forget… that this land, shrouded / in festivals and songs / is still tied with / ribbons of barbed wire .
Looking back, Jamir says, “I wrote this poem when I was stuck in traffic, behind an army truck. It struck me how much we had normalized the presence of the military here. “
Others turned to writing on instinct. Kohima-based poet Beni Sumer Yanthan said she ‘impulsively’ posted a ‘bunch of phrases on Twitter’. His poem “Oting” has even been translated into Tamil. “When people started sharing it, I realized that so many people think like me,” she says.
The feeling of anger and discouragement is so overwhelming that Dreamz Unlimited, arguably Nagaland’s most famous YouTube channel known for its parodies on social and political issues, recorded its protest through a biting three-minute film on the life in a militarized society. YouTubers end with a message: “Repeal AFSPA. “
“What happened is no laughing matter and we weren’t in the mood for joking,” said Tiakumzuk Aier, a member of the group.
For the youngest still, sheltered from violence as relative peace had emerged in Nagaland, Oting is a stark reminder of the realities experienced by their parents and grandparents. Zacukho Tetseo (25) from Pfütsero in Phek district and H Kemya Yanlem (23) from Mon district, where Oting is located, had grandfathers involved in the Naga freedom movement.
Tetseo says he grew up hearing stories from his grandfather about the men who died and the homes they lost. This led him to write the lyrics for “Holding on”, a 12-hour tribute rap song. Kemya, on the other hand, never met his grandfather but had heard that he was an “unsung hero of his time”.
In fact, Kemya accompanied her parents to the funerals of the 14 who died and then wrote a poem about it. “I guess age doesn’t really matter here. We are all overwhelmed with grief and are all trying to find a way to let it go and be healed, ”she said.