Mon’s Oting Incident: Death toll rises; High-level SIT to investigate

A black flag flies above the Konyak Naga morung at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama in solidarity with the civilians who were killed in Oting on December 4. (Morung Photo)

A black flag flies above the Konyak Naga morung at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama in solidarity with the civilians who were killed in Oting on December 4. (Morung Photo)

 Morung Express News 
Dimapur | December 5 

The death toll of civilians rose to 15 on Sunday as two more reportedly succumbed to their injuries after alleged firing by security forces during an ‘operation’ in Oting under Tizit sub-division of Mon district on December 4.  Nagaland State Government, however, put the figure at 13 in a statement issued late Sunday evening. 

A statement from the PRO Defence Kohima said that “security forces have suffered severe injuries in the incident including one soldier who succumbed to the injuries.”

Violent clashes in the aftermath of the shooting incident on Sunday reportedly resulted in the death of one civilian and several injuries at Mon headquarter, according to sources.

Earlier, the district administration stated that the situation was 'peaceful' after the incident, but things took a violent turn in the afternoon when the Assam Rifles camp situated behind the SP office in Mon was burnt down by the agitated public, who also vandalised the Konyak Union office.

While the  district's Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police could not be reached for further comments, an official of the Konyak Students Union confirmed that the AR camp had been burnt by the public and that the situation was 'very volatile'.

A prohibitory order (CrPC 144) was imposed by the district administration in the evening which among others, restricted gathering of more than five persons and non-essential vehicular movements. 

At the time of filing the report, CSOs in Mon were reportedly in an emergency meeting convened soon after the situation deteriorated.

Four of injured were flown to Dimapur for further treatment while two taken to Dibugrah. The funeral for the departed civilians is reportedly scheduled at 10:00 am tomorrow. 

Incident investigated at the highest level: PRO Defence 
According to the PTI news agency, the first firing which killed six civilians, occurred when army personnel mistook coal mine workers returning home in a pick-up van on Saturday evening, to be insurgents belonging to the Yung Aung faction of proscribed outfit NSCN (K), about whose movements they had been tipped off.

As workers failed to reach their homes, local youth and villagers went in search of them and surrounded the army vehicles. In the ensuing melee one soldier was killed and army vehicles burnt down. Soldiers who fired in self-defence killed another seven civilians, PTI reported quoting police officials.

Meanwhile, the PRO Defence Kohima in the statement informed that “based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted in the area of Tiru, Mon District, Nagaland.”

“The incident and its aftermath is deeply regretted. 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,” it said.

No stone will be left unturned: State Govt
Meanwhile, in a statement issued late Sunday evening, the State government condemned the incident in Oting village area of Mon district resulting in the death of 13 civilians. 

The Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has also strongly condemned the incident, it said.  Describing the incident as ‘highly condemnable,’ Rio in a tweet in the morning also informed that a “High-level SIT will investigate & justice delivered as per the law of the land” and further appealed for peace.

The statement issued by State Chief Secretary Alam further that “no stone will be left unturned to ensure that justice prevails and appropriate actions as per the law of the land are taken.” 

The State Government has announced an Ex-gratia relief of 5 Lakh to the next of kin of the deceased as well as Ex-gratia for the injured persons and all the injured persons are being extended medical care, it added. 

Meanwhile, a team of senior officers including DGP and Commissioner Nagaland led by Minister of Transport, Civil Aviation & Railways, Land Resources P Paiwang Konyak reached Oting village today.

The team is camping in Mon district to monitor the situation.

“The two State Government helicopters were immediately pressed into service for emergency relief operations and four casualties was airlifted from Mon to Dimapur for further medical treatment,” the statement said. 

Health & Family Welfare S Pangnyu Phom also visited the casualties at the Referral Hospital, Dimapur along with members of the Eastern Nagaland Legislators' Union.

The Deputy Chief Minister Y Patton who was in New Delhi has rushed back to Mon directly from Guwahati, while Chief Minister Nephiu Rio will be visiting Mon tomorrow morning accompanied by cabinet colleagues and senior Government officers to take an on the spot assessment of the situation and pay respects to the deceased. 

A High Level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary was held in Kohima on Sunday morning, while another review meeting of the situation is scheduled on Monday morning, the statement said. 

The Addl. Secretary NE, Government of India is also rushing to Kohima tomorrow morning to take part in the meeting. 

The State Government is taking all possible steps to maintain law & order and ensure peace and harmony, it added. 

It further expressed appreciation the maturity of the statement issued by the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) and appealed to all sections of the people to remain calm and maintain peace. 

SIT given one month to complete investigation
Nagaland Chief Secretary J Alam issued an order on Sunday informing that the investigation has been transferred to the State Crime Police Station (SCPS) to facilitate free and fair investigation of the case, and looking at the complexity of the case which may involve investigation at multiple jurisdictions. A Special Investigation team (SIT) comprising of five members has been set up with members including IGP (R), CIO Limsunep Jamir, DIG (CID) Roopa M, IPS, SP (Crime) Manoj Kumar, SP Kilang Walling, and Deputy Commandant, 15 NAP IR Relo Aye. 

The SIT may co-opt any other members in the Police Department as deemed fit, and will conduct the investigation under overall supervision of ADGP (Law and Order) Sandeep M Tamgadge, the order stated.

The order further stated that the SIT shall immediately take over the case and visit the scene of crime and collect the evidence, and the investigation should be completed within one month from the date of registration, it added.

Meanwhile, Nagaland Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi stated in a communiqué that the SIT would investigate the incident from all angles. He said that a court of inquiry has been instituted against the army personnel involved. Conveying condolences to the bereaved families and wishing the injured a speedy recovery, the Governor also appealed all to maintain peace.