Manipur : 5 things you should know about Operation Bluebird and its horror story



5 things you should know about Operation Bluebird and its horror story

Oinam Hill is a medium size Poumai Naga village situated at some 40 km from Senapati district Headquarters and 20 km from NH-39/2 at Maram Town point and roughly 80 km from Kohima, Nagaland falling under Parul Subdivision in the present Manipur State. It is located in the heart of the Leopaona Naga area surrounded by Thingba Khullen and Khunou in the west, Purul in the East, Khongdai and Ngamju in the north and the beautiful Barak River in the south. Although it is a peaceful place, on July 9th 1987, the land came into turmoil between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the Assam Rifles. The horrifying events that took place in 1987 still haunt the Nagas even after three decades later.


On the 9th of July 1987, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)  raided a post of the Assam Rifles near the village Oinam in Manipur. In broad daylight, the troops killed 9 Jawans and strode out with large amount of ammunitions.

In an effort to retain the looted ammunition, the army launched Operation Bluebird.


Operation Bluebird, however, turned into a horror for the villagers as according to reports, they were kept outdoors in the rain and heat for weeks on end. The older villagers died from stress of exposure. More than hundred houses, churches and schools were burnt and dismantled. Innocent civilians were reportedly tortured by high ranking army officers up to the extent of burying alive after third degree torture.


According to reports, 5 women were sexually molested by the Jawans while 3 were even raped. 2 pregnant women were kicked and abused and were reportedly forced to give birth in front of the Jawans. Some village headmen were blindfolded and executed with their hands tied behind their backs. The number of deaths according to official figure was 15. However, Naga rights groups put the number of deaths at 27.


Operation Bluebird continued till October 1987 – four months of harsh torture towards the villagers. The villagers pleaded with the regional government for help while an outraged then chief minister of Manipur, Rishang Keishing, wrote to Union home minister Buta Singh detailing the killings and torture of villagers by the Assam Rifles and met Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to plead with him to end the brutalities. But this further enraged the Assam Rifles as its officers tried to implicate the chief minister, some ministers, MLAs and MPs in false cases by forcing villagers to sign statements stating that the politicians were in cahoots with rebels and indulging in 'anti-national' activities.


Later, in October, the victims filed petitions against men and officers of the Assam Rifles before the Gauhati High Court. This was perhaps the first time that victims of human rights abuse by security forces in India took their oppressors to court. However, because of large intimidation by the Assam Rifles towards the locals, only 22 locals turned out as witnesses. Till this date, the victims of 1987 are still awaiting for justice.