The families the civilians shot dead by the security forces in Nagaland earlier this month have said that they will not accept compensation from the government until the officers involved in the killings are punished and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is repealed.
On the evening of December 4, Saturday, the Army’s 21 Para Special Force had opened fire at a pick-up van carrying coal miners from Tiru to Oting in Nagaland’s Mon district, killing six on board. They had apparently mistaken the group of workers for insurgents.
A crowd of protestors then set fire to vehicles belonging to the army. They opened fire again, killing seven more civilians.
The violence spilled over into Sunday afternoon after locals entered a camp of the Assam Rifles in the district headquarters of Mon. At least one more person was killed after security forces fired back at protestors.
After the civilian killings, political parties, Naga armed groups, civil society organisations and tribal bodies renewed an old demand for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
The Act gives the military sweeping powers to search, arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”. The Army personnel can 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.
On Sunday, the village council of Oting and families of the deceased persons also demanded that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act be repealed. Of the 14 civilians killed in Nagaland, 11 were from Oting village, one each from the nearby Jakphang and Chi villages and another one from Tiru.
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The Village Council of Oting said in a statement that on December 5, state minister Paiwang Konyak handed them an envelope containing Rs 18,30,000. The council said they assumed that the envelope was a gift from the minister, but later they came to know that the amount was an installment of the compensation that the state government had announced for the families of the deceased and those injured in the firing.
“The Village Council Oting and victim family will not receive [compensation] until and unless the culprit of 21 Para Commandos of the Indian Armed Force are brought to justice before the Civil code of law and Armed Forces Special Power Act [AFSPA] is repealed from the entire North Eastern region of India,” the council said.
As anger about the killings spread in Nagaland, the state government announced Rs 5 lakh as compensation and the Central government Rs 11 lakh as well as a government job to the family of each victim.
Last week, the government of Nagaland had said that it would appeal to the Centre to repeal AFSPA. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his Meghalayan counterpart Conrad Sangma have also individually called for scrapping of the law. They are both allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Nagaland government has formed a Special Investigation Team to look into the killings. A first information report filed in connection with the case accused the security forces of “blankly opening fire” on civilians with an intention to murder and injure them.