A Bharatiya Janata Party leader in Nagaland has alleged that Indian Army personnel fired at him and killed one of his companions on Saturday, while they were on the way to the area where the security forces had killed coal miners returning from work.
On Saturday evening, soldiers ambushed a vehicle in Mon district, killing six workers returning to their village from a coal mine in a nearby forest. In a statement expressing regret for the “unfortunate loss of lives”, the Army said its personnel had launched the security operation based on “credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents”.
When he heard that six people from his village Oting had been killed by the armed forces, Nyawang Konyak, the president of the BJP’s Mon district unit, said he rushed towards the spot. There had been reports of retaliatory attacks on the Army by local residents and Konyak said he “wanted to go make peace”.
The BJP leader was accompanied by his driver, his nephew and a neighbour. They stopped at a “rest camp” – a cluster of sheds and small shops catering to coal miners – to make enquiries. As they were speaking, Konyak said, soldiers charged at them and opened fire indiscriminately.
“Khushi khushi maar raha tha,” he alleged. “They were joyously firing at us.”
All three men accompanying him were wounded in the firing, and one of them, his neighbour, eventually succumbed to the bullet injuries, Konyak said. Another civilian was also killed in this round of firing, he added.
The security personnel, Konyak said, were fleeing towards Assam after local residents, angered by the ambush, had attacked them.
He expressed disappointment that the soldiers continued to fire at him and his companions despite his vehicle’s bonnet bearing the BJP flag. “They should have at least seen that, but instead they punctured my car’s tyres,” he said. “How will the world run if the Hindustani Army kills civilians like this?”
The Indian Army spokesperson did not respond to queries about Konyak’s allegations, but confirmed that 13 civilians had died in the ambush and its aftermath on Saturday. In the statement released earlier, the Army said, “The security forces have suffered severe injuries in the incident including one soldier who succumbed to the injuries.”
The state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party condemned the firing and said it was time to exercise caution and patience to maintain peace in the region.
In a statement, the party’s state unit chief Temjen Imna Along, who is also the minister of tribal affairs in Nagaland, pointed out that unarmed civilians were killed in the incident.
“It is therefore tantamount to war crimes during peace time and amounts to summary execution as well as genocide,” he said. “This cannot be tolerated by anyone at any cost and simply putting the blame on intelligence failure is the lamest excuse.”