Nagaland killings: Home minister Amit Shah expresses regret

“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,” Shah said while making a statement in both the Houses.
Union home minister Amit Shah speaks in Lok Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi. (ANI)
Union home minister Amit Shah speaks in Lok Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi. (ANI)
Updated on Dec 07, 2021 07:12 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday expressed regret over the killing of 14 civilians in Nagaland by security forces and informed Parliament that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted to probe the “unfortunate incident” that occurred on Saturday has been directed to complete the investigation within a month. He also said the firing was a consequence of “mistaken identity”.

“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,” Shah said while making a statement in both the Houses.

As a united Opposition mounted pressure on the government to make a statement about the incident that threatens to snowball into a political embarrassment for the government and cast a shadow on the ongoing Naga Peace Accord, Shah said the union government is keeping a close watch on the evolving situation and necessary measures are being taken as per requirement to ensure peace and tranquility in the region.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also chaired a meeting with senior cabinet ministers including Shah and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to assess the situation; National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval is also learnt to have briefed the PM in Parliament.

“The state authorities, as a precautionary measure, have promulgated prohibitory orders in the affected areas,” Shah said amid sloganeering by the opposition members in both Houses.

Giving details of the encounter, Shah said that based on inputs received by the Indian Army about movement of the insurgents near Tiru village in Tizit area of Mon district, a team of 21st Para (special forces) commandos of Indian Army laid an ambush in the evening of December 4. “…During the ambush, 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 killing of 6 out of 8 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 the medical facilities by the Army personnel,” he said.

Referring to how the casualties escalated, Shah said local villagers surrounded the Army team, burnt two vehicles and assaulted them resulting in death of one Security Force personnel and injuries to several others on hearing the news of the killing.

“For their own safety and to disperse the crowd, the security forces had to open fire which resulted in killing of 7 more civilians and injuring some others. The local administration and police have tried to defuse the situation, which remains tense but under control,” he said.

The Opposition, however, did not relent.

In the Lok Sabha, the opposition members wanted to a detailed discussion on the issue and also demanded that Prime Minister, Narendra Modi be present in the House. Congress MP Manickam Tagore said that the opposition was not satisfied with Shah’s statement and so staged a walkout.

“The home minister came and replied with a very short reply and when we were asking for clarification, we were not allowed…We were not satisfied with the reply of the home minister. Therefore the opposition- Congress and DMK and other alliance partners- walked out in protest against the reply of the home minister,” he said.

In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the Opposition, Mallkarjun Kharge described the incidents as “horrendous” and demanded a statement by the minister. “There has been a very serious and most tragic development in which six innocent civilians were killed on December, 4 by security forces in the area of Tiru, in Mon District of Nagaland, mistaking them for militants. This horrific war sight led to clashes with security forces resulting in reportedly death of eight more civilians and one security personnel,” he said.

Later when while Shah gave an account of the incident and the ensuing events in the Upper House the opposition was in the well of the house, sloganeering.

“…In the evening of December 5, a mob of approximately 250 tried to ransack the Company Operating Base (CoB) of Assam Rifles at Mon town. The mob burnt buildings of the CoB 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,” Shah said.

Oppositions MPs and chief ministers of Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio and Conrad Sangma of Sikkim also sought the removal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the state. While the government remained tight lipped on the issue, Shah informed Parliament that review meetings were held between top officials of the government and the security forces to ensure that normalcy is restored at the earliest. “It was decided that all agencies should ensure that no such unfortunate incident recurs in future while undertaking operations against insurgents,” he said.

Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi who will be part of the panel delegated by the Congress to report on Nagaland said, “The events create an atmosphere of distrust and it sets the Naga Peace negotiations back. It creates a divide between the people and the institutions of the government. In the past there have been clashes between police in Assam and Manipur and now Nagaland.”

The MP from Assam said since this is the first session after clashes in Manipur and Nagaland, the opposition wants the government to look at the events comprehensively. “We have a hostile neighbour in the East, we are aware of external influences so we expect a reply…” he said.

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