Nagaland SIT Mon
Coffins of the civilians killed on Saturday evening brought to Konyak Union office at Mon

The killing of 15 villagers of Oting village in Mon district has caused widespread anger and outrage among the people in the state even as the Nagaland government has constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the incident.

Thirteen villagers were killed on the spot in an ambush by the Assam Rifles at a place between Tiru and Oting village under Tizit sub-division of Mon district on Saturday evening. Another person succumbed to his injuries later. More than 20 others were also reportedly injured in the incident.

Mon deputy commissioner Thavaseelan K confirmed to this correspondent the death of the people in the incident. Terming the incident as unfortunate, he refused to comment further.

As the news of the firing spread, hundreds of angry protesters attacked the Assam Rifles camp in the area and set fire to the areas around it on Sunday. They also burnt Assam Rifles vehicles, sources said adding the Assam Rifles personnel retaliated by resorting to firing.

The Nagaland government on Sunday cut off internet and SMS services in the entire district owing to the prevailing situation following the killings.

Home commissioner Abhijit Sinha, in a notification, said in order to prevent misuse of social media services such as SMS, Whatsapp, Facebook and other social media platforms in whipping up tension and breach of public peace and tranquility and for maintaining law and order, mobile internet, data service and bulk SMS of all the service providers have been prohibited in the district with immediate effect until further notice.

According to reports, the Assam Rifles personnel, who reportedly launched an operation in the area after receiving information about the movement of Yung Aung-led NSCN (K) cadres, fired upon a pick-up truck carrying labourers who were returning to Oting village from Lower Tiru village after the day’s work at a coal mine, leading to the killing of the civilians.

The security personnel reportedly mistook the civilians as insurgents.

Assam and Nagaland Governor Prof. Jagdish Mukhi strongly condemned the incident. He has appealed to all to maintain peace.

In a communiqué, Mukhi said the government has already constituted an SIT for an immediate investigation of the incident for delivery of Justice.

He said the SIT will investigate the incident from all angles. He also said a court of inquiry has been instituted against the army personnel involved.

The Governor also conveyed deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wished speedy recovery of the injured.

Chief minister Neiphiu Rio rushed back to the state from New Delhi on Sunday following the incident. Sources said he is likely to hold an emergency cabinet meeting tonight.

He appealed to all sections of people for peace. He said a high-level SIT will investigate the incident and justice will be delivered as per the law of the land.

“The unfortunate incident leading to killing of civilians at Oting, Mon is highly condemnable,” Rio tweeted.

He expressed condolences to the bereaved families and wished speedy recovery of the injured.

The Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) expressed deep regret and vehemently condemned the incident.

The ENPO, which represents the six tribes of eastern Nagaland, declared hours of mourning on Sunday.

The ENPO clarified that its directive is not against the state government. “This is to show resentment against the security forces who have committed this heinous crime, and to show solidarity with the six tribes,” it said.

The Konyak community has decided not to further participate in the ongoing Hornbill Festival in protest against the killings.

The Sumi Hoho also asked all Sumi individuals and groups to skip the festival to show solidarity to the victims’ families, community and ENPO people until further notice.

Various political parties and civil society organisations including the ruling NDPP and NPF, Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee, Rising People’s Party, Lotha Hoho, Chakhroma Public Organisation, Confederation of Chang Students Union, Tangkhul Katamnao Long Delhi, Kuki Khanglai Lawmpi, Ao Senden, Konyak Union Tobu, Tobu Area Students Union, Guwahati Eastern Nagaland Students Union, etc. condemned the killings in strongest terms. The NSCN (IM) and Niki Sumi-led NSCN (K) also strongly condemned the incident.

As per the directive of the Eastern Naga Students Union, the Konyak Union Dimapur and the Konyak Students Union Dimapur held a candlelight service at City Tower in Dimapur today evening to pay respect and mourn the death of the villagers.

To express solidarity with the victims, all the tribal stalls and morungs in and around Kisama Heritage Village will observe two minutes of silence at 10 am every day till the culmination of the Hornbill Festival, Nagaland tourism director Ajanuo Belho said in a circular.

Meanwhile, a defence release on Sunday said the cause of the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level and appropriate action will be taken as per the law.

The incident and its aftermath are deeply regretted, the release said.

It claimed the security forces have suffered severe injuries in the incident. One soldier succumbed to the injuries in the incident, it added.

The release added that a specific operation was planned to be conducted in Tiru area of Mon district following credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents.

Bhadra Gogoi

Bhadra Gogoi is Northeast Now Correspondent in Nagaland. He can be reached at: bhadragogoi@yahoo.com