On the first anniversary of the Oting massacre, which claimed 14 civilian lives last year in a botched operation by the the security forces, several organisations led by the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) held black flag protests in six districts of Nagaland.
The organisations, including Oting Village Council (OVC), Oting Citizens’ Forum (OCF) and Oting Students’ Union (OSU) along with the the ENPO, hoisted black flags at many places, including homes and important installations, on Sunday and Monday.
The ENPO has also boycotted the ongoing 10-day Hornbill Festival, which began at the Naga heritage village Kisama on December 1.
The black flag protests were held in Mon, Kiphire, Longleng, Noklak, Shamator and Tuensang districts in eastern Nagaland.
In the massacre, due to mistaken identity, 13 civilians were killed on December 4 last year at Oting in Mon district, while another person was killed in Mon town on the next day in the aftermath of the Oting incident, leading to widespread protests for many weeks in the northeastern state.
In memory of the victims, the Konyak Union has announced to build a ‘Martyrs’ Park’.
The Nagaland government had constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by ADGP (Law and Order) Sandeep M. Tamgadge to probe the incident, while the Army set up a court of inquiry.
The SIT had submitted its charge-sheets to the Mon district and sessions court on May 30, naming 30 Army men, including a Major.
Oting Students’ Union President Keapwang expressed anguish over the alleged “lackadaisical attitude” of the Central and state governments in ensuring punishment for the accused even as the investigation has been completed.
He claimed that the state government had not taken cognisance of the injured persons by compensating them as per the severity of their injury even after the Oting Citizens’ Forum submitted a representation to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio through local MLA P. Paiwang Konyak.
Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita, the Army’s Eastern Command Chief, recently said in Guwahati that “it was a case of mistaken identity”.
“The court of inquiry report is being examined along with the SIT report. Necessary action for the lapses would be taken as per the Army Act and provisions, and necessary action would be taken for delinquency,” Kalita had said.
Referring to the CID report on the Oting incident, the SIT also made various observations with regard to the manner in which the operation was carried out and pointed out the need to address those issues as it requested the appropriate authority for taking necessary action.
An official report had said earlier that the security force consisting of 31 personnel led by a Major-rank officer launched an operation in the Oting area on December 3 last year based on intelligence inputs about the presence of a group of militants there belonging to NSCN K-YA and ULFA.
On December 4, the operation team, which had laid an ambush at Longkhao between Upper Tiru and Oting village, opened fire at a white Bolero which was carrying eight civilians belonging to Oting village, most of whom were working as labourers in a coal mine at Tiru, without ensuring the specific identification of the victims.
Six civilians were killed and two were critically injured in the firing.
When the villagers of Oting and Tiru reached the spot in search of the missing villagers and the pick-up vehicle, they turned violent on discovering the dead bodies and a scuffle ensued between the villagers and the security personnel.
“One armyman personnel succumbed to his injuries while 14 personnel from the operation team sustained injuries in the scuffle, leading to the Major to order for opening fire, in which seven more villagers were killed,” the report had said.
A family member of an armyman had moved the Supreme Court in June asking for a stay on the charge-sheet citing non-sanction of prosecution. The apex court stayed the proceeding.
The Supreme Court heard the matter on November 1 this year and asked the Nagaland police to file a counter-affidavit.
The next hearing is listed for December 27.