A civilian died on the spot while several others sustained minor injuries after Indian Army allegedly fired upon them at Pumao village in Arunachal Pradesh’s Longding district on Saturday.
The deceased has been identified as Lamdaan Lukham (around 60 years old).
Longding superintendent of police B R Reddy said “the commotion broke up during a meeting held at the house of Pumao village chief between the locals and representatives of the Indian Army to discuss an incident which has occurred a day ago.”
The SP said the army had apprehended one of the youths of the village for anti-insurgency interrogation on Friday.
During the interrogation process the youth was beaten up because of which the meeting was called.
“The meeting, however, did not go well and the villagers started pelting stones at the army personnel and in response they fired back during which one civilian received a bullet injury in his head and another in his leg,” Reddy said.
It was later known that some army personnel also sustained injuries following the stone pelting by the villagers.
SP Reddy said a judicial enquiry has been initiated and the magistrate has taken cognizance of the case.
An official from the Longding district administration, who did not want to be named, said that the deputy commissioner has released an interim relief of Rs 50000 for the family of the deceased and Rs 20000 for those injured.
Pongngoi Joham, the president of Wancho Students’ Union (WSU) while condemning the incident demanded strict punishment for the perpetrators.
“This is nothing new for us and the public here. We have been bearing the brunt of such atrocities since the time the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) came into effect and was imposed in the district in 1958. Misusing the power given to them under AFSPA, the army has been harassing the locals for decades. The barge into our houses at night, they torture our youths for days by taking them to their camps in the name of interrogation,” said Joham.
Joham said that the WSU along with the Wancho Council, the apex body of the Wancho community, would visit Pumao village on Sunday and take a call on the incident and put forth certain demands in front of the government.
The North East Humans Right Organization (NEHRO) has filed two complaints before the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) against the Indian Army.
The organizationn in its first complaint said, Jimpo Wangow, the youth taken for interrogation was beaten up for no reason by the army personnel.
“The victim was on his way home from church at around 8 pm when he met a group of soldiers who took him to their base camp and started beating him black and blue causing severe injuries on his body. He was allowed to go home from the base camp at around 12 am,” the NEHRO wrote in its complaint condemning such alleged atrocities on a civilian.
In its second complaint on Saturday, the NEHRO said the army personnel of the 19th battalion Sikh Regiment who had insufficient explanation in their defense tried to move out from the village amidst the meeting which angered the villagers and they started pelting stones.
“In retaliation the Indian Army fired back at the crowd killing one civilian while several others were reportedly injured in the incident,” the organization said while appealing the NHRC to issue necessary directions to the Home Ministry in regards to the incident.
The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has also condemned the incident.
“This is unbecoming of the Indian Army which claims to be one of the most disciplined forces in the world. When the law keepers start terrorizing its own people and start taking innocent lives in a democracy, it negates the very purpose for what they have been assigned in this part of the country,” AAPU general secretary Tobom Dai said in a statement.
“The random killing of innocent people from time to time by both army personnel and underground elements with impunity active in the TLC region have choked the free spirited life of our people.
“The recent incident has once again brought forth the pathetic situation our people are subjected to and the deafening silence maintained by the elected representatives of the region,” Dai said.
The Indian Army in a statement said that the firing took place in retaliation during a search operation after it had intelligence inputs regarding movement and activities of NSCN (IM) cadres in the district.
“Based on the specific input regarding presence of insurgents in Pumao village, the troops of Indian Army launched a search operation in the area. There was a gathering of villagers which started protesting against security forces and resorted to stone pelting. Troops identified suspicious movement and started moving towards a house which drew two to three bursts of fire on the Indian Army party,” defence PRO Lt Col P Khongsai said in a statement.
Civilians were told to disperse and to safeguard lives and property, controlled retaliation was resorted by firing eight single shots. During this melee insurgents managed to escape, however, in the cross fire it is believed a few villagers have got hurt and one villager has expired,” Khongsai said.
Many soldiers of the Indian Army also got injured due to stone pelting by supporters of NSCN (IM), Khongsai said while extending the army’s condolences to family of the deceased.