Villagers in Nagaland’s Oting, which is the home of 12 of the 14 civilians killed in incidents of firing by security forces over the weekend, on Wednesday called the “heroic reports” about the operation false and fabricated.
Oting Citizens’ Office, an organisation representing the people of Oting village, in a statement, accessed by NDTV, claimed that the security personnel attempted to present the killed civilians as militants by placing weapons near them and dressing them in camouflage outfits and boots.
On Saturday evening, the security forces opened fire at a pick-up van carrying coal miners from the Tiru area to their village Oting in Nagaland’s Mon district, killing six on board. They mistook the group of workers for insurgents.
After the ambush, residents set vehicles of the security forces on fire. As the soldiers fled, they shot dead more civilians, alleged Nyawang Konyak, the president of the Mon district unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In the chaos, seven more civilians and one soldier died.
The citizens’ office has also said that Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament backing the security forces on the civilian killings was unwarranted.
On Monday, Shah had said that the security forces had laid an ambush in the area based on information received on the “movement of extremists” in Oting village. “A vehicle reached there, it was signalled to stop but it tried to flee,” he had said. “On suspicion of the vehicle carrying extremists, it was fired upon. Six of the eight people in the vehicle died.”
Meanwhile, Oting Citizens’ Office said that Indian armed forces will not be allowed to enter the Oting village’s jurisdiction indefinitely. It added that villagers will not be responsible for “whatever happens” if the security forces do not follow the directive.
The citizens’ office has also said that there were varying reports on the killing of the 14 civilians. It requested media houses to not “twist the issue with misinterpretations”.
The organisation then recounted its version of the killings.
It said that a pick-up truck with eight coal miners was ambushed at 4.30 pm on Saturday by security forces. At 8 pm, villagers found their empty pick-up truck with a “bullet mark piercing through the windshield exactly at the driver’s position, bloodstains covered with dust and mud, and the boys missing from the vehicle”.
Subsequently, the villagers allegedly chased the vehicles used by the security forces on motorcycles. “Though security men denied any knowledge of the missing boys, a search found six of the missing miners under a tarpaulin,” the Oting Citizens’ Office said in the statement. “These boys were half-dressed and lying dead.”
The villagers and the members of security entered into an argument, the statement read. It was allegedly followed by indiscriminate firing from the security forces.
Following the incident on Saturday, the 3 Corps of the Indian Army had stated that an operation in the Tiru area of Nagaland’s Mon district had been planned, based on “credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents”.
“The incident and its aftermath is deeply regretted,” it had added. “The cause of the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level and appropriate action will be taken as per the course of law.”
One soldier also died in the operation and the security forces have suffered severe injuries, the Army said. The Indian Army has ordered a Court of Inquiry into the killings.