Tuesday, Dec 07, 2021 07:30 [IST]

Last Update: Tuesday, Dec 07, 2021 01:55 [IST]

Keep the peace

The Mon district of Nagaland is on the edge after an incident in which 13 civilians were killed in firing by the Indian Army on Saturday last week. The incident took place between Oting and Tiru villages when some daily-wage labourers were returning home in a pick-up van from a coal mine on Saturday evening. The soldiers mistook the civilians as militants, according to the police. The 13 civilians, all innocent, were killed in what security forces say was a botched-up counter insurgency operation. According to reports, the incident was the result of an Army operation in which the victims may have been mistaken for insurgents from the Yung Aung faction of the banned National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang). The Assam Rifles, which undertook the operation, has officially expressed regret and has ordered an inquiry. Assam Rifles and the Army’s Dimapur-based 3rd Corps said in identical statements Sunday that “based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted in the area of Tiru, Mon District, Nagaland”. Without providing details, the statement said that “the incident and its aftermath is deeply regretted”. “The cause of the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated by a Court of Inquiry at the highest level and appropriate action will be taken as per the course of law,” it said.
 This wanton act of killing has evoked widespread condemnation. Understandably, there is sadness and anger across Nagaland — and elsewhere in the country. Reports of violence as a response are disturbing and all groups, political parties and community leaders, and the security forces, too, must get together to calm tempers. The government’s immediate task is to reach out to the families of the bereaved and act fast to address the breach of trust between the local population and state agencies. The other major concern is that the incident may have an impact on the Naga peace talks, with reports saying that the groups negotiating with the Centre may be under pressure to hold back to reflect public anger over the killing. Reports said the incident will force even pro-India groups to articulate public sentiments over the issue. In a statement issued on Sunday, the NSCN-IM called it a “black day” for all Nagas and termed the incident “unprecedented in recent history”. In a strong statement, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), which comprises seven Nagaland-based insurgent groups who has so far supported the peace talks process, rescinding many of its earlier demands such as separate flag, blamed the continued implementation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1956 for such incidents.
This incident will give credence to the longstanding narrative of India versus Naga people. It goes on to strengthen the hands of insurgent groups, even if temporarily. It will require rather deft handling from the Centre. The immediate task is to quell the violence, hold to account those responsible for this tragedy — avoid any move to brush it away as a mere blunder — and keep the peace. A free and fair investigation should be held to get to the bottom of the matter and identify where and how the operation went wrong.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi