NEW DELHI: The Indian government on Sunday ordered a special investigation into the killing of at least 14 civilians by paramilitary forces who mistook them for insurgents in the northeastern state of Nagaland bordering Myanmar.
The Indian army has been battling separatist militants in Nagaland for years.
On Saturday night, an Assam Rifles patrol in Oting village, Mon district, opened fire on a group of miners returning home after work, killing six. Local police told reporters eight more civilians and a soldier died when angry villagers confronted troops.
The army said in a statement on Sunday it acted “based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents” and that it “deeply regretted” the incident.
The central and local government immediately ordered a probe.
India’s Home Minister Amit Shah said in a tweet that a “high-level” special investigation team “will thoroughly probe this incident to ensure justice to the bereaved families.”
The Nagaland chief minister appealed for calm and tweeted that justice will be “delivered as per the law of the land.”
Local media reported that telephone and internet services have been suspended in Mon district as the incident has fueled anger among members of the Konyak tribe, which constitutes a majority in the region.
“I spoke to my relatives in Mon. There is tension in the area and people are angry about the incident,” Langphong Konyak, a civil society leader based in Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland, told Arab News.
“The people killed are miners working in a coal mine,” he said. “Locals confirm that 14 people were killed in the army firing, with seven injured. You cannot solve the Naga problem by killing innocent people.”
There are dozens of ethnic insurgent groups in India’s remote, predominantly tribal northeast. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland, the main nationalist separatist group in Nagaland, signed a ceasefire agreement with the Indian government in 1997.
But its splinter group, formed under the late Burmese insurgent leader Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang, remains active in Mon district, aiming to establish a sovereign state out of all Naga-inhabited areas of Myanmar and India.