The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) on Wednesday said no peace talks were possible “under the shadow” of the AFSPA and termed Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament on the botched counter-insurgency operation as “irresponsible.”
This comes on the heels of a statement by Oting villagers where they claimed the army shot to kill villagers without ascertaining their identity and tried to dress them in fatigues in a bid to pass them off as militants after a botched-up ambush. ?No political talks will be meaningful under the shadow of AFSPA. Let human dignity take control and be made an integral part of the Naga political peace process,? the NSCN(IM) said in a statement here. The strongly worded statement by NSCN(IM), the principal negotiators in the Naga political dialogue with the Centre, also condemned the Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament on the killing of at least 13 coal mine labourers in Oting village of Mon district on December 4. The NSCN statement claimed “truth be told there was no signal to stop the pick-up van of the coal laborers as mentioned by Amit Shah in Parliament.” The statement quoted one of the survivors, Sheiwang who is undergoing treatment at the Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh, stating, ?they shot right at us, no signal to stop, we did not flee.? The NSCN statement, which political analysts feel has been issued to stay abreast of popular sentiments as well as a bargaining ploy in the ongoing negotiations said ?unfortunately, Oting’s killing has become a threat to the Nagas’ longing for Naga political solution.? Earlier in the day breaking their silence after four days of a shoot-out in which 13 of their village youth died in firing by Para commandos, the Oting Citizens Office, representing Oting villagers in Nagaland’s remote Mon district too rubbished official claims and asserted security forces had tried to hide the dead bodies and dress them in fatigues in a bid to pass them off as militants after a botched-up ambush. The citizen’s body also claimed the killings were in “cold blood” with the driver being among the first to be shot dead with a bullet which pierced the windshield. Attempts to contact the Army spokesperson in Kohima to cross-check the allegations have as yet remained unanswered. An official statement made by the Government on Monday had said that based on inputs received by the Indian Army about movement of the insurgents near Tiru village in Mon district, a team of para-commandos laid an ambush on Saturday. During the operation, the Government’s statement made by the home minister in Parliament said: “a vehicle approached the location and it was signaled to stop. However, the vehicle tried to flee, following which the vehicle, suspected of carrying insurgents, was fired upon resulting in killing of 6 out of 8 persons travelling in the vehicle. However, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.” The Oting villagers through their statement however contradicted this and claimed security forces ambushed a pick-up truck carrying 8 coal miners ?without ascertaining anything about the passengers.” The security forces then blocked the road for all traffic and diverted all vehicles to the less frequented old Pioneer road. The Oting Citizens Office alleged that around 8:00 PM, villagers went searching and found the empty pick-up truck , “with the bullet mark piercing through the windshield exactly at the driver’s position, blood stains covered with dust and mud, and the boys missing from the vehicle.” The villagers claimed they chased three fleeing vehicles used by the security forces on motorcycles and intercepted them. Though securitymen denied any knowledge of the missing boys, a search found six of the missing miners lying dead under a tarpaulin. The Oting Citizens accused the security forces of attempting “to brand the boys as militants by planting weapons and dressing them in camouflage uniforms and boots.” Soon after heated argument between security forces and villagers broke out and turned into physical scuffles. Armymen according to the villagers “started firing indiscriminately, abruptly killing and injuring few others on the spot.” NSCN (IM) lambasted the Union Government and said ?in a situation like this, Amit Shah was expected to show political maturity and practical statesmanship in order to cool down the socio-political upheavals. Ironically, he poured fuel to the burning issue by standing behind the Para Commandos,? the former rebel group said. They described this as “like rubbing salt and chili in the wounds of the Nagas”. NSCN(IM) claimed the AFSPA, which gives powers of arrest and detention to the armed forces, “has given the Indian security forces the license to shoot and kill anyone on mere suspicion.” ?The Nagas have had the bitter taste of this act on numerous occasions and it has spilled enough blood. Blood and political talks cannot go together,” the statement said. The NSCN(IM) has been engaged in negotiations with the Centre for a solution to the decades old Naga political issue since 1997 while the Framework Agreement was signed between them in August 2015. However, no solution has been achieved with the former remaining adamant on its demand for a separate flag and constitution of the Nagas, which central negotiators have been loath to grant. Meanwhile the condition of two survivors of Saturday’s shootings who were admitted to Dibrugarh’s Assam Medical College Hospital (AMCH) hospital on December 5 with bullet injuries in the scalp, eye orbit, chest and elbow is serious and one of them is likely to be shifted to another medical establishment with better facilities, an official said. The patients and their relatives who were earlier providing details of the ambush and subsequent incidents that led to the killing of 14 people, including an Army man, on December four, have become tightlipped now claiming that they have been asked not to talk to anybody including journalists about the incident by the Nagaland authorities. “Please do not ask us anything. We were told not to talk about it to anyone,” a relative of one of the two survivors urged media persons present at the AMCH.