Amit Shah
Amit Shah

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday termed the civilian killing by security forces in Nagaland a “case of mistaken identity” and said that a special investigation team (SIT) has been formed with direction to submit its report on the unfortunate incident within one month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held a meeting with top ministers in Parliament over the Nagaland incident and the government’s strategy in both Houses, sources said.

“Based on inputs received by the Indian Army about the movement of the insurgents near Tiru village in Tizit area of Mon district, a team of 21 para-commandos of Indian Army laid an ambush in the evening of December 4,” said Shah.

During the ambush, the Minister said “a vehicle approached the location and it was signalled to stop”. However, “the vehicle tried to flee, following which the vehicle suspected of carrying insurgents, was fired upon resulting in the killing of six out of eight persons travelling in the vehicle”.

“However, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The two persons who sustained injuries were evacuated to medical facilities by the Army personnel,” said the Union Home Minister. Upon receiving the news, Shah said, “local villagers surrounded the Army team, burnt two vehicles and assaulted them resulting in the death of one security force personnel and injuries to several others”. To disperse the crowd, Shah said “security forces opened fire which resulted in the killing of seven more civilians and injuring some others”. “The local administration and police have tried to defuse the situation, which remains tense but under control.”

Nagaland Director General of Police and Commissioner visited the spot on Sunday and an FIR was registered regarding the incident in Tizit police station, said the Union Minister.

Considering the complexity of the case, Shah said, “it has been transferred to the State Crime Police Station (SCPS) and a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted and directed to complete the investigation within one month”. Subsequently, on the evening of 5 December, “a mob of approximately 250 tried to ransack the Company Operating Base (CoB) of Assam Rifles at Mon town,” Shah said. “The mob burnt buildings of the company operating base following which troops had to open fire to disperse the mob. Resultantly, one civilian was killed while another was injured. More forces have been deployed in the area to prevent any further untoward incident,” said the Minister. “The HQ 3 Corps, Army has released a press statement wherein they have deeply regretted the incident and its aftermath which resulted in the unfortunate killing of innocent civilians and it further mentioned that the cause of the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level and appropriate action will be taken as per law,” added Shah. On receiving news of the incident, the Home Minister said, “I immediately got in touch with the Governor and the Chief Minister of the Nagaland.”

“The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also got in touch with the Chief Secretary and the DGP of Nagaland and monitored the situation throughout the day yesterday,” said the Minister, adding that “the MHA also deputed Additional Secretary, in-charge of Northeast to Kohima wherein he held a meeting with Chief Secretary and other senior officers of state government of Nagaland and senior officers of the para-military forces today morning”.

The situation was reviewed in detail to ensure that normalcy was restored at the earliest, the Minister said. “It was decided that all agencies should ensure that no such unfortunate incident recurs in future while undertaking operations against insurgents.”

Shah further said that the government is keeping a close watch on the evolving situation and necessary measures are being taken as per the requirement to ensure peace and tranquillity in the region.

“The state authorities, as precautionary measures, have promulgated prohibitory orders in the affected areas. The Government of India sincerely regrets this unfortunate incident in Nagaland and expresses its deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives.” A day after the reported civilian killings by security forces, the state government on Sunday prohibited all mobile internet, data services, bulk SMS of all providers in the entire area of Mon district with immediate effect.

The Indian Army has instituted a Court of Inquiry to probe the Nagaland civilian killings under a Major General-rank officer, sources said on Monday. Army sources said: “Indian Army has instituted a Court of Inquiry to probe the Nagaland civilian killings under a Major General-rank officer. The officer is posted in the northeast sector only.” Earlier, the Army, in a statement, expressed deep regret over the “unfortunate loss of lives” in a counter-insurgency that went awry, and added the incident is being investigated at the highest level as outrage over the killing continued.

Meanwhile, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Monday demanded the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the state stating that the law has tarnished the image of the country. “I have spoken to Union Home Minister, he is taking the matter very seriously. We have given financial assistance to the affected families. We are asking the Central government to remove AFSPA from Nagaland. This law has tarnished the image of our country,” Rio said after attending the funeral of civilians killed in the firing incident at Oting village in Nagaland’s Mon district. “The Centre has given an ex-gratia amount of Rs 11 lakh each and the state government has given Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the deceased,” the CM further said.

A report from Shillong, Meghalaya, said Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma on Monday also demanded the removal of the AFSPA from the northeast. “AFSPA should be repealed,” tweeted Sangma.