Home Minister Amit Shah expressed the Centre's regret in the Parliament today over the death of 14 civilians in Nagaland who died on Saturday because of the army's botched anti-insurgency operation. Shah said a special investigation team (SIT) has been constituted to probe the incident and the report will be submitted in a month.
"Current situation is tense but under control. On December 05, the Nagaland DGP and Commissioner visited the site. An FIR has been registered and keeping the seriousness in mind, the probe has been handed over to State Crime Police Station," Shah told both the houses over the opposition's sloganeering.
Several opposition parties including the Congress, DMK SP, BSP, NCP walked out after Shah concluded reading out his prepared statement on the Nagaland incident.
On Saturday, at least 11 civilians were shot dead by the army following intelligence inputs that suggested that a Bolero car was ferrying insurgents. The Army planned an operation to ambush "certain elements" of the banned National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) faction, however, it landed up firing upon a 'similar' car which was carrying villagers.
The north-eastern state witnessed violent clashes between the civilians and the armed forces which led to the death of a soldier. The death tolls are conflicting with the police saying 14 died, whereas the Nagaland's apex tribal body said 17 people have died.
Nagaland civilian killing result of mistaken identity: Amit Shah to Parliament
On the fifth day of the Winter Session, union home minister Amit Shah told the Parliament that the Indian Army had received intel about the movement of militants in the Mon district of Nagaland. Based on this, a squad of 21 Para Commandos of the Army had imposed an ambush in the suspicious area on the evening of 4 December, Shah said.
"Meanwhile, a vehicle reached near the place, which was tried to stop, instead of stopping, the vehicle was trying to move fast from that area," the home minister said. "On apprehension that the vehicle was carrying suspected insurgents, shots were fired at the vehicle, killing 6 of the 8 people in the vehicle," he added.
"It was later found to be a case of mistaken identity. The 2 people who were injured were taken to the hospital by the army itself. After receiving this news, the villagers surrounded the army contingent, torched two vehicles, and attacked them resulting in a soldier's death.
"Security forces had to open fire in their own defense and to disperse the crowd, killing seven more civilians and injuring several others," Shah said reading out a prepared statement in Hindi.
Shah explained that looking at the seriousness of the situation, a special investigations team was constituted to probe the incident.
"It has been decided that all agencies should ensure that no such unfortunate incident recurs in future while carrying out operations against the insurgents. The government is closely monitoring the situation," Shah said concluding his statement.
Opposition state walk-out amid protest
Opposition leaders in both Houses protested against the incident in Nagaland and demanded answers from the Centre. The opposition has been demanding statements from Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's presence in the house.
Leader of Opposition (LoP) and Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge led the protests in the upper house. Briefly adjourning the house, Chairman and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu called for peace amid the din as he said, "This is a very serious issue, very unfortunate. It is also sensitive. Let us keep the sensitivity in mind."
In the lower house, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi said the incident was a "black day" in Nagaland's history.
In the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Manish Tiwari expressed his anguish over the incident and urged the government not to invoke the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958 to protect the guilty. Blaming "inaccurate intelligence", Gogoi asked: "The question on everyone's mind is that how come a group of unarmed civilians were not distinguished from hardcore militants," he said.
Nagaland MP Tokheho Yepthomi, leader of Naga political outfit NDPP, urged the Centre to augment the ₹5 lakh compensation announced by the state. Yepthomi critiqued the controversial AFSPA and said that it "...has not given powers to security forces to indiscriminately kill people."
Opposition MPs in both Houses further cautioned the Centre from leaving Nagaland in "uncertainty" and turmoil even as peace talks are ongoing with different hostile groups in the state.