Nagaland: Violence after India forces ‘mistakenly’ kill civilians

A protester has been killed in Mon district of Nagaland state after Indian security forces fired at people demonstrating against the killing of 13 civilians a day earlier in the northeastern state.

Fresh violence erupted on Sunday after a big crowd of people marched to a security forces camp in Mon town and started damaging and burning buildings, a state government official said.

The killings of the civilians allegedly by security forces in what the officials described a “botched-up” operation has caused widespread outrage in Nagaland, which has witnessed decades of armed rebellion against Indian rule. The region has been relatively quiet in recent years, as armed groups started negotiations with the Indian government.

“The people are very angry,” said Honang Konyak, the vice president of the Konyak Union, the apex body of the Konyak Tribe which dominates Mon district located on the Indo-Myanmar border.

“The security forces, who were supposed to be guardians, have killed innocents,” he said.

At least six people were killed after security forces fired at a truck carrying coal-mine workers, who were mistaken for “militants”. Seven more civilians were killed after local residents clashed with the security forces later on Saturday evening.

Nagaland government rushed top police and government officials and clamped prohibitory orders in Mon town. Earlier, it banned mobile internet and SMS services in the entire district citing “apprehension of grave law and order problems”.

The ban was lifted on Sunday evening, but Sandeep M Tamgadge, the additional director general of police in Nagaland, confirmed that the situation remained tense.

Investigation ordered

A special investigations team comprising of five police officials has been formed under Tamgadge’s supervision. “It has been tasked to investigate the case within one month,” said.

The Spear Corps of the Indian Army said it regretted the incident and its aftermath.

“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,” the statement said.

At least one soldier was killed in the incident, the statement from the Spear Corps said. Another 11 civilians were injured in the incident, Indian authorities said.

“Four of the injured personnel were evacuated to Dimapur (the capital of Nagaland). Five of them are at the civil hospital in Mon while two are being treated at Dibrugarh (in neighbouring Assam),” said Abhijeet Sinha, the home secretary of Nagaland.

According to local accounts, the incident happened on Saturday evening when security forces allegedly opened fire on a pick-up truck carrying workers returning to Oting from the coal mines in lower Tiru, less than 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away.

Mon district falls on the route frequented by various rebel groups operating in the area, as per police officials.

“Based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned in the area of Tiru,” Spear Corps said.

“It’s a complete failure of intelligence,” Honang Konyak, the vice president of the Konyak Union, said.

According to a senior Nagaland government official who spoke on condition of anonymity the state officials were not aware of the inputs.

“We had no information about their (security forces’) movement,” the official said. “We don’t know yet how they mistook the daily wagers to be insurgents.”

‘They opened fire at us’

Kheatwang Konyak, a resident from Oting said people heard gunshots. “A couple of hours later, when the boys did not come back home, we set out to look for them,” he told Al Jazeera.

A short distance away from the village, the residents claim they found the dead bodies in a pick-up truck belonging to the security forces. “The army personnel were about to take them away,” Kheatwang Konyak alleged.

As emotions ran high, a crowd of people torched three vehicles. Locals allege the security forces personnel opened fire again amid the clashes.

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