On a mountain top where a village has lost many of its young men, there are no Christmas stars and festivities this year. In the landscape here that consists of mountains that look blue and compete with the shade of the night skies, red Christmas stars don’t puncture the darkness. They don’t hang in the misty mountains as signposts. There is a graveyard with fresh graves. They belong to poor men who had Christmas plans.
On December 4, six coal miners were shot dead by security forces in an ambush as they returned from the coal mines in Tiru where they worked from October to May. The villagers said they were singing Christmas carols as the pickup truck made its way to the village. In the second round of firing, seven more people were killed that night and many more injured.
Among them, were the twins Thapwang and Langwang, who used to sing in the choir in the local church. 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 donate the things that belonged to the twins but she couldn’t let go of the guitar. The guitar lies on their bed as a reminder of days gone by.The graveyard in the village has 12 fresh graves in the 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 near the graves through the 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 participated in a singing competition at the Konyak Youth Convention in October 2021.
That’s how a village remembers its dead. With songs and candles. In the village of around 200 families, moving on 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 room, the wedding suit.
“It is a sad Christmas,” the message from Wangchaw read.