Army orders probe after 11 civilians gunned down by security forces
In protest against the incident, the ENPO has urged the six tribes of the region to withdraw participation from the ongoing Hornbill Festival, which is the state’s biggest tourism extravaganza
Situation in Nagaland’s Mon district remained tensed after at least 11 civilians were gunned down by Assam Rifles in the district. This triggered a clash between locals and security forces that left one soldier dead and several injured. Police are currently investigating whether the incident was a case of mistaken identity as the security forces were in the area on an operation against Yung Aung insurgents.
The Mon area is the stronghold of Naga group NSCN(K) and even ULFA and the incident comes ahead of the state’s signature “Hornbill festival”, which will be attended by several diplomats who are already in the area.
Meanwhile, the army has ordered a Court of Inquiry into the incident. It said that the incident and its aftermath is “deeply regretted” and the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level.
The exact number of fatalities, however, is yet to be ascertained as 11 people died on the spot, and several others succumbed to their injuries in hospitals in neighbouring Assam, a police officer said.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has promised a high-level probe into the incident and appealed to all sections of the society to maintain peace.
The incident took place between Oting and Tiru villages when some daily-wage labourers were returning home in a pick-up van from a coal mine on Saturday evening, the police officer said.
The vehicle was allegedly fired upon by army personnel, who were conducting an operation in the area after receiving inputs on the movement of militants of Yung Aung faction of proscribed outfit NSCN (K), he said.
According to an Indian Express report, the incident triggered alarm in villages nearby and locals surrounded the security personnel. Around 7.30 pm, an official claimed that the security personnel came under attack from the villagers, some of whom snatched guns from the soldiers. Some security vehicles were also set on fire as well. While the security personnel initially fired in the air to warn the villagers, it was followed by firing from both sides which resulted in the death of one soldier and more civilians.
Mon shares a porous international border with Myanmar, where the Yung Aung faction of NSCN (K) is based. The situation is under control and police is conducting spot verification, he said.
Official sources said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Army Chief General M M Naravane have been briefed about the incident.
“Based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted in the area of Tiru, Mon district, Nagaland. The incident and its aftermath are deeply regretted. The cause of the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level and appropriate action will be taken as per the course of law,” a statement issued by the headquarters of the Army’s 3 Corps said.
“The security forces have suffered severe injuries in the incident including one soldier who succumbed to the injuries,” it added.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio condemned the incident and assured that it will be investigated. He tweeted:
The unfortunate incident leading to killing of civilians at Oting, Mon is highly condemnable.Condolences to the bereaved families & speedy recovery of those injured. High level SIT will investigate & justice delivered as per the law of the land.Appeal for peace from all sections
— Neiphiu Rio (@Neiphiu_Rio) December 5, 2021
Union Home Minister Amit Shah too has expressed his anguish over the reported killings. He tweeted:
Anguished over an unfortunate incident in Nagaland’s Oting, Mon. I express my deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives. A high-level SIT constituted by the State govt will thoroughly probe this incident to ensure justice to the bereaved families.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 5, 2021
Deputy Chief Minister Yanthungo Patton has promised that justice will be delivered. He tweeted:
Oting’s (Mon) disturbing and tragic incident in which civilians were killed will be thoroughly investigated and justice will be served. Condolences to the bereaved families and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured. In the wake of the tragedy, I urge peace from everyone!
— Yanthungo Patton (@YanthungoPatton) December 5, 2021
In protest against the incident, the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisaiton (ENPO) urged the six tribes of the region to withdraw participation from the ongoing Hornbill Festival, which is the state’s biggest tourism extravaganza.
“While expressing deep sorrow and sadness over the indiscriminate firing by Indian security force where more than 10 daily wage labourers from Oting village were blatantly killed, the ENPO vehemently condemn the barbaric act of the security force,” a release issued by the organisation said.
The ENPO asked the six tribes to hoist black flags in their respective Morungs at Hornbill Festival venue Naga Heritage Village in Kisama near the state capital against the incident.
“It has to be understood by all concerned that this order/move is not against the state government but to show resentment against the security forces who have committed this heinous crime, and to show solidarity of the six tribes,” it said.
Abu Mehta, advisor to the chief minister, said that a two-minute silence will be observed and prayers will be held at Kisama for those killed in the incident.
Meanwhile, Nagaland Police and the army will conduct a joint press briefing in Kohima later on Sunday on the incident.
With input from agencies