The Army made no attempt to ascertain the identity of the civilians returning from work on a pick-up truck before shooting them in Nagaland's Mon district on Saturday, a joint report by the state's Director General of Police T John Longkumer and Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor has said.
Quoting eyewitnesses, the two top officials have said villagers found the Army's special forces trying to "hide" the bodies of six people by wrapping and loading them on a pick-up van with the intention of taking them to their base camp.
"On the evening of 4th December around 1610 hours, when eight villagers were returning home from coal mining work at Tiru in a pick-up truck, were ambushed and killed by Security Forces (reportedly, 21st Para Special Force based in Assam) at random, apparently without any attempt for identification," the report, submitted to the state government on Sunday, said.
The officials said the victims were all unarmed civilians working in coal mines. Of them, six were killed on the spot and two critically injured.
On hearing the gunshots, the villagers went to the spot. "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 pick-up truck (Tata Mobile) apparently with the intention of taking the dead bodies to their base camp,” the officials have said in the report.
Violence broke out between the villagers and security forces when they discovered the bodies covered with tarpaulin sheets. Angry people then set on fire three vehicles of the security forces, the report said.
“In the melee, the security personnel again opened fire against the villagers which led to the death of seven more villagers and eyewitnesses have confirmed that the special forces personnel opened fire indiscriminately as they fled from the scene towards Assam side, even firing in the coal mine hutments on the way,” they said.
Acknowledging that the first incident was a "case of mistaken identity", Union Home Minister Amit Shah had told Parliament on Monday, "The Government of India sincerely regrets this unfortunate incident in Nagaland and offers its deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives."
The report said altogether, 13 civilians were killed on Saturday while 14 were seriously injured and eight suffered minor injuries.
Two of the seriously injured persons were taken to Assam by the security forces themselves and are admitted in the ICU at Dibrugarh Medical College Hospital, it said.
About the Sunday incident in Mon Town, the DGP and Commissioner's report stated that the Konyak Union had announced a mass funeral service for the 13 deceased civilians at the helipad, after their mortal remains were brought from Oting village, where they were killed.
However, the event was postponed to Monday at 10 am but no clear announcement was made about the deferment, the report said.
The confusion led to the crowd getting agitated, and a section of the public started marching towards the district hospital and Konyak Union office. All the deceased belonged to the Konyak tribe.
The angry crowd vandalised the Konyak Union office, before proceeding towards the 27 Assam Rifles post located at Thamnan Ward.
The violent crowd threw stones, vandalised property and set fire to three buildings within the post. Assam Rifles personnel fired in the air which agitated the mob further, the report said.
The civil administration and police officials tried to reason and pacify the mob but were outnumbered. Around 600-700 people armed with sticks, pipes, flammable fluids and some of them carrying machetes or daos, a sharp edged weapon used by the locals, had gathered there, the officials said in the report.
After almost an hour into the melee, the second round of continuous firing by the Assam Rifles resulted in the mob running for safety. After the firing ceased, a protester from Chi village was confirmed dead on the spot and six others sustained bullet injuries, including an India Reserve Battalion personnel, who were shifted to the district hospital.
Prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144 were clamped in Mon town to control the situation but it continues to be tense and volatile, the report added.
The Nagaland police on its own filed an FIR against the 21st Para Special Force of the Army on Monday. The case was registered under Sections 302/307/34 of the IPC, relating to murder, attempt to murder and criminal act committed by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all.
"Hence, it is obvious that the intention of security forces is to murder and injure civilians,’ the FIR added, urging authorities to take necessary action against the culprits.