The Konyak Union, a tribal body in Nagaland, on Saturday demanded an apology from Union Home Minister Amit Shah for his “misleading statement” in Parliament on the killing of civilians by security forces last week, reported PTI.
On December 4, security forces had 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 the 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. Another civilian was shot dead during an agitation the next day when protestors entered an army camp.
Shah on Monday had said that the security forces had signalled the vehicle to stop, but it had sped away. He had added that the soldiers fired upon the vehicle on the suspicion that it was carrying militants.
On Saturday, Konyak Union spokesperson T Yanlem called Shah’s statement “shameful”, and said the incident was not a case of “mistaken identity”. She demanded that the home minister retract his statement.
“The 21 Para commandos, an elite force, did a blunder without asserting anything,” said Yanlem. “They killed six young boys...they were innocent villagers returning home.”
The spokesperson added: “How can Union Home Minister Amit Shah give such a statement without checking the facts? How can he be so wrong?”
The group also held protests in Mon district and burned Shah’s effigy, reported NDTV.
“We are asking for justice... we don’t need sympathy,” said the tribal body’s Vice President Honang Konyak. “Twisting of truth is unfortunate. Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament [is] confusing the world with wrong information.”
“We will not rest until justice is delivered to those 14 Konyak youth who were killed,” the vice president added.
Yanlem also criticised the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, calling it a law of “torture, rape and killing”.
Several Naga groups as well as Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his Meghalayan counterpart Conrad Sangma have also demanded that AFSPA be repealed. The Nagaland government has also decided to write to the Centre demanding that the law be withdrawn.
The AFSPA gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest, to open fire if it is deemed necessary for “the maintenance of public order”, and to do so with a degree of immunity from prosecution.
The Act is currently in force in Nagaland, but it was lifted from Meghalaya in April 2018. It is also in effect in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and parts of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.