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New Delhi: The findings of the special investigation team (SIT) set up to probe the killing of at least 15 civilians by the Indian Army in December last year in Nagaland can be made public once the Union government gives permission to prosecute the culprits, chief minister Neiphiu Rio said on Wednesday.
Following the killings in the Oting area of Mon district in a botched operation and its aftermath, the state government set up the SIT and asked it to submit its report within 30 days that ended on January 5. Demands have been raised from various quarters to make the probe report public.
The state government has received the report of the investigation team, the chief minister said on the sidelines of an official programme in Kohima.
The SIT will now file a case for prosecution of the accused persons in the incident. It will require the permission of the Government of India and once it is done, the investigation report will be in the public domain, Rio said.
At least 15 civilians, including seven coal mine workers, were killed on December 4 and 5 in consecutive episodes of firing by security forces. The police had said that it was investigating whether the incident was a case of “mistaken identity”.
On December 4, a contingent of the army’s counter-insurgency unit, 21 Para Special Forces, killed six civilians and injured two others – all residents of Oting village in the state’s Mon district bordering Myanmar – while they were returning home in a pick-up van after working at a coal mine. The security forces apparently ‘mistook’ them for militants.
On the same day, seven other civilians died after they were shot by that unit at Oting a little after the first incident. On December 5, two persons succumbed to their injuries from that shooting.
The aftermath of the December 4 killings and injuries to civilians had led to violent clashes in Mon on December 5, resulting in two more death of civilians. During the clashes, in which a 1,000-strong angry group set on fire a portion of the Assam Rifles camp in Mon, and also vandalised the Konyak Union office located nearby, several civilians were injured in firing by security forces in that incident too. Eight others, including an army man, were killed in subsequent clashes between the force and villagers.
Union home minister Amit Shah had told the Lok Sabha that the incident was a case of “mistaken identity”. He had said that the army had received information on the movement of insurgents in Mon and ’21 Para Commando’ unit had laid an ambush. A vehicle was signalled to stop but it tried to speed away. Suspecting the presence of insurgents in the vehicle, the security personnel opened fire, leading to the death of six of its eight occupants, Shah said.
He had said that the security forces fired in self-defence.
Nagaland is under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – AFSPA – which gives considerable immunity to security forces conducting operations against insurgents. The incident led to a growing demand from politicians and several civil society groups to immediately remove AFSPA from northeastern states.
(With inputs from PTI)