The Special Investigation Team set up by the Nagaland government to look into the killing of 14 civilians during an operation in Mon district will get access to the soldiers involved in the ambush from Thursday, The Indian Express reported.
It is not clear who all will be called for questioning at the Rainforest Research Institute in Assam’s Jorhat and if the soldiers will be interrogated by the Special Investigation Team or if they will submit prepared statements.
An Army team headed by an officer of the Major General rank on Wednesday also visited the site of the ambush as part of the Court of Inquiry into the killings, The Times of India reported.
“The CoI team also took along witnesses for better understanding of the situation and the sequence of events that took place,” an officer said. “Subsequently, the team was also present at Tizit police station for one-and-a-half hours to meet a cross-section of the society to obtain valuable information pertaining to the incident.”
The statement of Nyawang Konyak, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mon district unit, was also recorded along with another witness. Konyak had told Scroll.in that Army personnel fired at him and killed one of his companions as they were on they way to the site.
In a statement, the Army on Wednesday said it had requested residents twice through public notices to cooperate with the inquiry and share information. The Army reiterated that the Court of Inquiry was progressing expeditiously and efforts were underway conclude it at the earliest.
On the evening of December 4, the Army’s 21 Para Special Force had opened fire at a pick-up van carrying coal miners from Tiru to Oting village in 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 the afternoon of December 5 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 the protestors.
The botched operation has renewed an old demand for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The law gives army personnel sweeping powers to search, arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”.
On December 26, the Nagaland government formed a committee to decide on withdrawing the AFSPA. The state said the decision to form the panel was taken during a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah. Apart from Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, his Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma also took part in the discussions.