India army chief terms civilian killings in Nagaland regrettable

Vehicles belonging to armed forces personnel set on fire by angry residents after 14 civilians were gunned down by Indian army’s Assam Rifles in Nagaland on Dec 4, 2021. [File Photo]

‘Appropriate action will be taken based on inquiry report’

New Delhi: Army Chief General MM Naravane said on Wednesday said that the civilian killings in Nagaland by the Indian army will be thoroughly probed. However, the overall security situation, according to the Chief, remains under control in the northeast.

“The regrettable incident that occurred in Oting, Nagaland on December 4 is being thoroughly investigated. We remain committed to the security of our countrymen, even during the conduct of operations,” the Chief told reporters on Wednesday.

He also assured an appropriate action based on the report of the inquiry into the matter.

At least 14 civilians were killed by the Indian army’s Assam rifles on December 4, 2021, in Oting village of Nagaland’s Mon district. The villagers had said that the “attempt was made to pass dead off as militants”.

An official statement made by the Government of India later said that “based on inputs received by the Indian Army about the movement of the insurgents near Tiru village in Mon district, a team of para-commandos laid an ambush on Saturday, during which, a vehicle approached the location and it was signaled to stop.”

“However, the vehicle tried to flee, following which the vehicle, suspected of carrying insurgents, was fired upon resulting in the killing of 6 out of 8 persons traveling in the vehicle. However, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.”

The Oting villagers through a statement related that “on the fateful evening of 4th December 2021, around 3:30 PM, one pick-up truck loaded with 8 Coal miners were returning from (a) mining site as next day was Sunday, which we the Christians consider a day of rest. Around 4:30 pm, the armed forces ambushed that very pick-up truck without ascertaining anything about the passengers.”

The Indian armed forces then “blocked the road for all traffic and diverted all vehicles to the less frequented old Pioneer road. Meanwhile, villagers were anxiously waiting for the pick-up truck to reach the village, for they learned that there was a shootout” on that stretch, reports said quoting the Oting Citizens’ body.

The Oting Citizens Office claimed that around 8:00 PM, the villagers went searching and found the empty pick-up truck, “with the bullet mark piercing through the windshield exactly at the driver’s position, bloodstains covered with dust and mud, and the boys missing from the vehicle.

“The pierced windshield in the front by bullets clearly indicates that they first shot the driver of the pick-up truck to (bring it to a ) halt and ambushed the remaining point-blank,” the statement said.

The villagers claimed they chased three fleeing vehicles used by the armed forces on motorcycles and intercepted them.

Though armed forces denied any knowledge of the missing boys, a search found six of the missing minors under a tarpaulin. These boys were half-dressed and lying dead, the report said further.

The Oting Citizens accused the armed forces of India of attempting “to brand the boys as militants by planting weapons and dressing them in camouflage uniforms and boots.”

Soon after the heated argument between armed forces and villagers broke out and turned into physical scuffles.

The armed forces, according to the villagers, “started firing indiscriminately, abruptly killing and injuring few others on the spot.”

“We may be small and tiny in area and population, yet we are ready to compromise with the situation to lose our heads and take the enemy’s heads. For we are warriors by blood and origin, and no force can intimidate us,” the official statement said.


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