The “intention” of the security forces was “to murder and injure civilians”, said a suo motu FIR filed on Sunday by the officer in-charge of the Tizit police station in Mon district, where six civilians were killed in an ambush on Saturday evening.
The incident triggered violence in the area Saturday night and late Sunday afternoon, in which eight more civilians were killed after security forces allegedly opened fire. A soldier succumbed to injuries sustained in the Saturday violence.
Security establishment officials confirmed that the “ambush” was an independent operation carried out by the Army’s elite 21 Para Special Forces, though the Assam Rifles were informed about it.
According to the FIR filed by Ubi Posehu Kezo, the officer in charge of the Tizit police station, against “21st Para Military Force”, on December 4, coal mine labourers from Oting village were returning home from Tiru in a Bolero pick-up vehicle when, “on reaching Longkhao, between Upper Tiru and Oting villages, security forces blankly open fired at the vehicle without any provocation, resulting in the killing of many Oting villagers and seriously injuring many others”.
The FIR stated that at the time of the incident, there was no police guide and neither did security forces “make requisition to police station to provide police guide for their operation. Hence it is obvious that that the intention of the security forces is to murder and injure civilians.”
Meanwhile, the Court of Inquiry announced by the Army to investigate the killing of the six civilians on Saturday evening will be headed by a Major General-rank officer.
Two senior state officials, Nagaland Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor and Director General of Police T John Longkumer, have also prepared reports on the killings of civilians on December 4 and the subsequent violence at the Assam Rifles base on December 5.
On Saturday’s incident, the report by the two senior officials said that around 4.10 pm on Saturday, eight coal mine workers, who were returning home to Oting village from Tiru “were ambushed by security forces (reportedly 21 Para Special Force based in Assam) at random, apparently without any attempt for identification”. It stated that they were all “unarmed civilians” and possessed “no arms travelling in an open Mahindra Pickup Truck in broad daylight but were fired upon and six of them were killed on the spot and two were critically injured”.
It noted that “on hearing gunshots, the villagers went to the spot being apprehensive that the individuals did not return home from work” and “found the pickup truck and Special Forces Personnel trying to hide the dead bodies of the six villagers by wrapping and loading them in another pickup truck (Tata Mobile) apparently with the intention of taking the dead bodies to their base camp”.
“On finding the dead bodies in the Tata Mobile, under a tarpaulin, violence broke out between the villagers and the security personnel. As a result, the irate villagers burnt three vehicles belonging to the Special Forces Personnel. In the melee the security personnel again opened fire against the villagers which led to the death of seven more villagers and eyewitnesses have confirmed that the Special Forces Personnel opened fire indiscriminately as they fled from the scene towards Assam side even firing in the Coal mine hutments on the way”.
Apart from the 13 civilians who died on Saturday, the report says 14 others were seriously injured, while eight people suffered minor injuries.
Sources in the security establishment said that immediately after realising that they had killed the wrong people, the personnel of 21 Para Forces informed the authorities about the incident, and were putting the bodies in a second pick-up truck to be taken to the police station. However, before the police could come, said the sources, the villagers had reached the spot and attacked the security personnel.
The sources asserted that the security personnel took the two people who were injured during the initial ambush for medical treatment — in Parliament, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “The two persons who sustained injuries were evacuated to the medical facilities by the Army personnel.”
On the subsequent violence on Sunday, in which one civilian died, the report by the two senior state officials mentioned that the Konyak Union had announced a mass funeral service at the helipad in Mon town for the 13 who died Saturday. But the union moved the funeral service to Monday without any “clear announcement” on why it had been postponed, the report added.
The confusion led to an agitated crowd vandalising the Konyak Union’s office, after which they moved to the Assam Rifles camp at Thamnan. When the crowd reached its “periphery”, they got “violent, throwing stones, vandalising properties and setting fire to three buildings” within the base. “The Assam Rifle personnel resorted to blank firing which agitated the mob further,” the report said.
The report said that though the district and police officials tried to reason with the mob, which had by then swollen to 600-700 people who carried sticks, flammable fluids, machetes and Daos (Naga swords), “after almost an hour, a second round of continuous firing by the Assam Rifles resulted in the mob running for safety and protection”.
One person died in the firing, and six others received bullet injuries, the report said.
Piyush Goyal, Additional Secretary in charge of the Northeast in the Union Home Ministry held a meeting with the stakeholders, including the state’s chief secretary and the security forces, in Kohima on Monday.