Indian army kills 14 civilians in botched counterinsurgency operation . . .
Last weekend, Indian Army para-commandos killed 14 civilians during what has been called a counterinsurgency operation gone wrong in Nagaland, a state in India’s Northeast bordering Myanmar. The operation was allegedly targeted at a faction of a separatist group as part of a decades-long conflict between the Indian government and insurgents in the state. Six of the victims, reportedly coal miners, were killed in their vehicle after being stopped by soldiers. The remaining eight civilian deaths, and the death of a soldier, occurred after villagers allegedly mobbed security personnel and an army base in outrage, and soldiers reportedly opened fire. The state’s chief minister and insurgent groups condemned the killings. A Special Investigation Team comprising national and local police officials will deliver a report within the next month.
Nagaland reiterates call for repeal of army immunity . . .
The Nagaland state government has prematurely ended the Hornbill Festival, a major event marking Nagaland’s statehood. The district where the killings took place declared a week-long mourning period and went on strike on Tuesday in protest. Both state and local officials have called for action against the soldiers responsible and reiterated a decades-old demand to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Forces) Act, or AFSPA, imposed on Nagaland and other northeastern states since 1958. The AFSPA allows the armed forces to use deadly force against any individual deemed in contravention of the law and arrest and search without warrants, while providing legal immunity to soldiers that can only be annulled by the national government. Critics of the AFSPA, including successive Nagaland ministers, claim the law fosters a culture of impunity among security personnel.
Ruling party in hot seat amid conflicting reports, condemnation . . .
The killings in Nagaland will undoubtedly add fuel to the fire under India’s national ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), during an already contentious parliamentary session and after the death of top military leaders in a helicopter crash yesterday. Home Minister Amit Shah characterized the killings in Parliament as “a case of mistaken identity,” a claim criticized by opposition politicians as contradicting witness statements and news reports. Local BJP leadership in Nagaland reportedly also condemned Shah’s remarksand expressed concern over the impact of the BJP’s handling of the incident. The killings may set back the Nagaland peace process, which has seen much success in recent decades, as insurgency groups have roundly condemned the incident as “belittl[ing] the commitments” made by the Indian government.