In Nagaland’s Oting, villagers sang Christmas songs to the dead
On top of a mountain where a village has lost many of its young men, there are no Christmas stars and festivities this year. In the landscape here of mountains that appear blue and rival the shadow of the night sky, red Christmas stars do not puncture the darkness. They are not hung in the misty mountains like road signs. There is a cemetery with fresh graves. They belong to poor men who had Christmas plans.
On December 4, six coal miners were ambushed by security forces as they returned from the Tiru coal mines where they worked from October to May. Villagers said they were singing Christmas carols as the van drove towards the village. In the second round of fire seven more people were killed that night and many more injured.
Among them were the twins Thapwang and Langwang, who sang in the local church choir. Both worked in the coal mines and had dropped out of school. Their mother Awan Konyak said she didn’t know how to let go. She had tried to give the things that belonged to the twins but couldn’t let go of the guitar. The guitar rests on their bed as a reminder of days gone by.The village cemetery has 12 fresh graves in memory of the “brothers” and on December 23, the villagers went to the cemetery and lit candles and sang songs for the dead. They sat by the graves all night.
“It was a sad and sleepless night for the whole village,” a villager said over the phone.
He also shared an old video of the twins where they entered a singing competition at the Konyak Youth Convention in October 2021.
This is how a village remembers its dead. With songs and candles. In the village of around 200 families, moving is a difficult proposition. They know that. They want to build a memorial when they have the money. For now, everything is a reminder. The guitar, the half-finished piece, the wedding costume.
“It’s a sad Christmas,” one reads Wangchaw’s post.