'Mistaken identity': Amit Shah says Centre regrets Nagaland civilian deaths
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday told the Parliament the central government regrets the killings of over a dozen civilians during a botched Army operation in Nagaland. He termed it a case of "mistaken identity," adding a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed to probe the incident. An investigation report will be submitted within a month. Here are more details on this.
Why does it matter?
- Shah has assured action in the case, which has flared up tensions in northeast India after a period of relative peace.
- Fourteen civilians and one Indian Army soldier died in the operation.
- Meanwhile, the government is once again under fire to repeal the controversial AFSPA law which allows security forces to carry out operations anywhere with exemption from punishment.
'Situation is tense but under control'
"The Government of India expresses regret over the incident and condolences to those killed," Shah said in the Parliament. "An SIT has been formed and has been directed to complete investigation in a month," the Minister informed. "The situation is tense but under control," he stated, adding, "All agencies have to ensure such incidents do not happen in future."
What else did Shah say?
Explaining the sequence of events, Shah said the Army had signaled a truck to stop but it tried to flee. Security forces suspected the presence of extremists in the vehicle and fired at it. Six of the eight occupants died and the others were taken to a health center. Local residents then surrounded the Army unit triggering further violence in the area, he said.
Opposition MPs staged a walkout
As Shah read out his statement in both the Parliament Houses, Opposition leaders raised slogans and demanded the scrapping of AFSPA or the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. In the Lok Sabha or the Lower House, Members of Parliament from the Congress party, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam staged a walkout.
PM Modi held meet on incident
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a meeting with Shah and other Cabinet Ministers to discuss the security situation in Nagaland. They also reportedly talked about the Centre's response to the incident.
The Army operation that went wrong
On Saturday evening, the Indian Army had launched what it called a counter-insurgency operation in Nagaland's Mon district. However, soldiers ended up killing 14 civilians and losing one of their colleagues in the operation and the ensuing violence. Officials maintain they were acting on "credible intelligence." The Army later expressed regret for the "unfortunate loss of lives" and said it would investigate the matter.
Army unit faces murder charges
The Nagaland Police has filed a First Information Report (FIR) alleging murder by the 21 Para Special Forces of the Army. "It is obvious that the intention of security forces is to murder and injure civilians," the state police said in its complaint. Separately, public gatherings have been banned and internet services snapped in the Mon area to prevent further unrest.
Nagaland CM calls for AFSPA repeal
Meanwhile, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has criticized the Centre and demanded the repeal of AFSPA. "Nagaland and Naga people have always opposed AFSPA. It should be repealed," he said in a tweet. His government announced an ex gratia compensation of Rs. 5 lakh each for the families of the deceased civilians. AFSPA has notably been in force in Nagaland for nearly six decades.