The Nagaland police, in their preliminary report on the killings of civilians, hinted at a possible cover-up of the macabre action by the security forces. The police report says that the Special Forces were seen dressing up the victims in khaki clothes to cover-up the killings.
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Journalists managed to get access to a ‘brief report’ on the incident, presented by the Nagaland Commissioner and Director-General of police after speaking with local residents and eyewitnesses.
The police report received by the media follows a press release from BJP’s Mon district president Nyawang Konyak in which he states that members of the Special Forces stripped unarmed civilian victims at the scene of December 4 Oting firing and then went onto to try dressing them up in “khaki” clothing.
A ‘brief report’ submitted by Nagaland Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor and state director general of police T. John Longkumer after talking to eyewitnesses and local residents on December 5, says:
“On hearing the gunshots, villagers went to the spot, being apprehensive that the individuals did not return home from work. On reaching the spot, they found the pick-up truck and the Special Forces personnel trying to hide the dead bodies of the six villagers by wrapping and loading them in another pickup truck (Tata Mobile), apparently with the intention of taking the dead bodies to their base camp.”
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According to the report filed from Mon, the killings occurred around 4:10 pm on December 4, when eight villagers came home in a pickup truck after working at a coal mine in Tiru village.
“…[T]hey were ambushed and killed by security forces (reportedly, the 21 Para Special Force based in Assam) at random, apparently without any attempt of identification.”
Six of them were killed instantly and two more were seriously injured.
The report said that villagers went to the scene when they heard gunshots “found the dead bodies in the Tata Mobile, under a tarpaulin.” Given a possible attempt by security forces to hide the killings, “violence broke out between the villagers and the security personnel.”
“As a result, the irate villagers burnt three vehicles belonging to Special Forces personnel.”
“In the melee, the security personnel again opened fire on the villagers which led to the deaths of seven more villagers. Eyewitnesses have confirmed that the Special Forces personnel opened fire indiscriminately as they fled from the scene towards the Assam side, even firing in the coal mine hutments on the way.”
The two senior state officials said, “On the secured crime site, there were a total of five vehicles – the Mahindra pick-up in which the civilians were ambushed; one burnt Scorpio, a burnt Bolero, a burnt Tata Winger and a Tata Mobile (not burnt but damaged).”
“Altogether, 13 civilians were killed on that day, 14 civilians [were] seriously injured and eight civilians [sustained] minor injuries. Two of the seriously injured persons were taken to the Assam side by the Security Forces themselves and are now admitted in the ICU at Dibrugarh Medical College and Hospital.”
The details in the state government’s first report correspond to a statement made by the local BJP leader to Hornbill TV on the morning of December 6th. Konyak told local media that security forces opened fire on his car when he was trying to get information from a shed of a coal miner.
The three people who were with him were injured. One person later lost his life and he even witnessed several other villagers being shot. He survived the attack with a few other people at the scene. On December 5, Konyak spoke about security guards firing at his car.
Continuing the investigation, on December 6th, the state police finally took suo motu cognisance of the killings and formed an FIR against the 21 Para Special Forces at the Tizit police station. The FIR was filed because security forces had violated basic ground rules that required the reporting of a counter insurgency operation to the local police and keeping them in the know.
The FIR stated, “It is to be noted that at the time of the incident there was no police guide, nor did security forces make requisition to police station to provide police guide for their operation. Hence it is obvious that the intention of security forces is to murder and injure civilians. (sic)”
Describing the aftermath of the Assam Rifles’ subsequent gunfire in the town of Mon on December 5, state government reports said there was confusion over the Konyak Union arranging mass funerals for all those killed on the previous day.
Konyak Union adjourned the funeral to December 6, leading angry mobs to vandalize their office in Mon Town before heading to the nearby Assam Rifles camp to attack it. An angry mob including “600-700 people” were “armed with sticks, pipes, flammable fluids and few of them had matches or daos (swords).”
Mobs set fire to three buildings in the Assam Rifles camp. Although the district administration and local police tried to calm the crowd, the report claimed that they were “outnumbered”.
“After almost an hour into the melee, the second round of continuous firing by the Assam Rifles resulted in the mob running for safety and protection. After the firing ceased, one protestor by the name of Leong of Chi village was confirmed to be dead on the spot and six others sustained bullet wound injuries including one IR personnel of 11th IRB, Aboi, who were shifted to district hospital.”
According to a statement issued on December 5, the total number of civilians killed as a result of the incident and its destruction was 14, which has since been increased to 15.