Sunday, November 16, 2014

Put Away – Zualteii Poonte

(For Zokunga [Pu Muma], 1925 – 1966)

The dreaded rapping on the door after dark
Just a little talk with him outside we want
The wanted gets up, steps out the house
Be back soon, you all go to sleep
But he never does.
Sometimes if they're lucky
they find the body a short distance down the road.
More often deep in the jungle they find it
in a shallow grave
sometimes marked, sometimes not.

My mother's brother's body was never found,
He disappeared without trace,
wiped off the face of the earth,
not a limb, not a nail, not a hair left to claim.
Almost half a century on,
still no one to come forward and say
Here, those are pearls that were his eyes

Nothing for the left behind,
parents, brothers, sisters, wife,
his brood of nine young children.
Just the incomprehensible, unceasing uncertainty
of questions never answered.


The title is a literal translation of the MNF terminology “dah tha/ dah that,” an insidious euphemism meaning killed/murdered/exterminated.

¹There were unverified reports later that my uncle had been shot dead at Tlawng river by insurgents who were later killed in turn by soldiers of the Indian Army.

Since one of my original intentions for this blog was to provide material for research scholars, I add here a short bio of my uncle written by a cousin who happens to be the son of my mother's other brother. I also believe it's time Zokunga's story was told for all the world to know.

: My grandfather Zalawra married my grandmother Lalnemi at 3 in the evening on May the 14th, 1923 at Aijal Chapel or what is now called Mission Veng Church.

Their first child, Zokunga was born on the 19th February, 1925 at Mission Veng.  Like other children, he attended school and went on to matriculate. After serving in a clerical position at the Assam Rifles for some time, he started work at the District Council office and reached the position of UDC. At the District Council, he worked for a considerable period of time with Pu Laldenga with whom he was good friends.  They formed the Liars’ Club where they would amuse themselves by telling good, clean jokes.  Around this time, irregularities with the Council money were discovered and Zokunga was suspended from work.  By the time the Insurgency started however, he had already been reinstated at work.

When the Insurgency movement started in March 1966, people in general were equally afraid of the Indian army soldiers and MNF volunteers.  Under curfew restrictions, people lived in fear  as living conditions became more difficult and the repressive mood of the Insurgency grew stronger. On the 10th of July, 1966, Zokunga went to South Hlimen to pay his condolences to someone who had died, and he never returned.  He was abducted on the way by insurgents who believed him to be an informer. On hearing the news, his wife Lianchhungi set out to look for her husband but word apparently spread quickly:  “His wife is also coming this way, make sure she’s kidnapped too.”  From Mel thum, she fled back home.  Zokunga was never seen again, and on April the 16th, 1967, it was confirmed that he had been “dah that.” On the same day, close friends and family had a thlan thut (memorial service) in his name at his own house.

Also around this time, my mother’s younger sister Lallianpuii’s husband Lalsailova Sailo, previously employed by the Royal Air Force and Indian Air Force, and later at an oil company in Calcutta, would regularly visit his wife and children in Aizawl. While staying at his mother-in-law’s house at Dinthar Veng, he was summoned out of the house  by MNF volunteers who accused him of being a spy for the Indian government. He too was “dah that” and his body never recovered to this day. 

Translated from the article “Ka Pu Lungkham” by Zokailiana Khiangte published in the book Thih Hnua Thusawi: Zalawra leh Lalnemi, Hriatrengna Lungphun, 2013.