Amid unrest following the shooting of civilians in Nagaland's Mon district on Saturday, the government of Nagaland has decided to call off the ongoing Hornbill festival as a mark of protest against the killing. The state government has sought the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). Ther reports come amid an FIR filed by Nagaland Police against the security forces and a joint report by the DJP which found that the Army made no attempt to ascertain the identity of the civilians before opening fire on them. Meanwhile, the situation in Mon village in Nagaland remains tense.
What happened in the Mon district of Nagaland?
Fourteen villagers from Mon district were killed by Special Forces personnel after they indiscriminately opened fire on a truck carrying eight coalminers. Six persons died on the spot. Following unrest after the incident, seven more civilians were killed and at least 14 injured after security forces opened fire on agitating crowds that clashed with personnel after the discovery of six bodies. A Nagaland Police report has found the Army made no attempts to ascertain the identities of the people who were on the truck before opening fire on them.
1. Nagaland Govt cancels Hornbill
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio announced on Tuesday that the ongoing Hornbill festival will be suspended as a mark of protest against the killing of 14 civilians in indiscriminate firing by security forces. The Hornbill Festival is a 10-day extravaganza the state's largest tourism initiative held at Naga Heritage Village in Kisama near Kohima. This year, the festival was scheduled to end on December 10.
The announcement comes after the government cancelled the day's event at the venue on Monday. Several tribes from eastern Nagaland and other parts of the state had suspended all activities at their respective Morungs over the killing in Mon district.
2. FIR against Army
According to the report, prepared by the state's Director General of Police (DGP) T John Longkumer and Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor, the victims were all unarmed civilians who were returning home from work at a coal mine on a pick-up truck. The report further adds that the security forces "ambushed and killed" eight of the six civilians on the spot. The incident occurred at 4.10 pm on December 4. As per the report, the personnel may have been part of the 21st Para Special Force based in Assam and that they at random, apparently without any attempt for identification.
The report further adds that as per eyewitnesses and locals' accounts, the special forces tried to "hide" the bodies of six people by loading them onto a van and intending to take them away to base camp. The incident spiralled when villagers who had heard the gunshots arrived on the spot and found the security forces trying to load six bodies onto the van "apparently with the intention of taking the dead bodies to their base camp".
The incident led to clashes following which villagers set fire to three army vehicles. The clash ended in the killing of seven more civilians after the army personnel opened indiscriminate fire.
“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,” the officials said in the report.
3. Nagaland Govt demands repeal of AFSPA
The incident has led to growing calls for a repeal of the draconian AFSPA, which critics claim allow armed forces to act with impunity. Several cases of alleged human rights violations under AFSPA have previously been reported from "disturbed states" where the controversial law is in place. In wake of the recent violence, the Nagaland government has sought the repeal of AFSPA and is about to write to the Centre over it.
Nagaland CM Rio also attended the funeral of the 14 civilians in Mon town on Monday, had joined a growing chorus of demands seeking the repeal of AFSPA that gives special powers to security forces in "disturbed areas".
4. Tensions In Mon
Meanwhile, the situation in Mon town in Nagaland is tense after Prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 was imposed in the area to bring the situation under control.
As per the report, 13 civilians were killed by the Army firing and 14 were left seriously injured. The report noted a mass funeral service for the deceased civilians at the helipad after their mortal remains were brought from Oting village, where they were killed. Meanwhile, other media reports have put the number of deaths at 14.
This comes after Union Home Minister Amit Shah admitted on Sunday that the incident was the result of a "case of mistaken identity". Addressing the Parliament during the Winter Session on Monday, Shah said that the government "regretted" the violence in Nagaland.
5. Tribals call for Bandh
A day-long strike has been imposed by the Konyak Union (KU), the apex tribal body in Mon. The body has also announced a seven-day mourning period starting tomorrow.
The KU urged security forces to abstain from patrolling in the Konyak region during the seven-day mourning period, and warned that if the law enforcers do not abide by it, they will be responsible for "any untoward incident that might occur". On Monday, the body had written to President Ramnath Kovind, asking to set up an SIT probe into the killing. The body has also demanded the army personnel involved in the shooting be identified and their identities be made public
(With PTI inputs)