At least 14 civilians and one soldier were killed in a botched ambush and retaliatory violence in Nagaland’s Mon district on December 4 and December 5.
Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament on December 6 that it was a case of “mistaken identity.”
Following the incident, protests erupted across Nagaland.
Konyak Union, the apex tribal body in Nagaland’s Mon, imposed a day-long bandh in the district on December 7 to protest the killings and announced seven-day mourning from the next day.
What happened in Mon?
On December 4, six villagers returning from a coal mine were killed in an operation by para commandos in Nagaland’s Mon district.
Seven more were killed in Army firing after protests broke out.
Soon after the violence in Mon, Section 144 of the CrPC was imposed in the district to prevent gatherings and restricting the movement of vehicles barring those carrying essential items from December 5.
Also read: End the impunity: On Nagaland killing
The State government also suspended mobile Internet and data services and bulk SMS in the entire Mon district.
Nagaland and Naga-inhabited areas in neighbouring States saw a shutdown on December 6 with a strong demand to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA, which gives unbridled power to the armed forces to conduct operations.
What does the Army say?
Army officials said the operation in Mon district that borders Myanmar was carried out based on credible intelligence inputs about the likely movement of insurgents in the area.
In a statement, the Army said the cause of the “unfortunate” loss of lives is being investigated by the Court of Inquiry at the “highest level” and appropriate action will be taken as per the course of the law.
What is the Nagaland government's stand?
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio described the incident as “highly condemnable”.
The State Government called off a major ongoing festival as a mark of respect to the deceased.
The Government also decided to write to the Centre to immediately repeal AFSPA, from the State.
What is the AFSPA?
AFSPA gives armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.
They have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
If reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search a premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms.
Any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.
The Act came into force in the context of increasing violence in the Northeastern States decades ago, which the State governments found difficult to control.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and it was approved by the President on September 11, 1958.
It became known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
How has the Act been received by the people?
The Act remains in place in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, three districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of eight police stations of the State bordering Assam
The AFSPA has been a controversial Act, with human rights groups opposing it as being aggressive.
Manipur’s Irom Sharmila has been one if its staunchest opponents, going on a hunger strike in November 2000 and continuing her vigil till August 2016.
Post the December 4 incident, Chief Ministers — Conrad Sangma of Meghalaya and Neiphiu Rio of Nagaland — have immediately demanded its repeal.
Will the incident impact ongoing talks for "Greater Nagaland"?
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland or NSCN-IM, one of the largest Naga groups, was formed in 1980 to oppose the Shillong Accord signed by the then Naga National Council with the Central Government to bring peace in Nagaland.
It has been demanding ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim, an extension of Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in neighbouring Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and uniting 1.2 million Nagas.
The Centre has said there will be no disintegration of the States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur to merge Naga-inhabited areas with the existing State of Nagaland.
More than hundred rounds of talks spanning over 24 years have taken place so far.
Finally, a framework agreement was signed on August 3, 2015 to end the decades-old Naga strife.
In 2020, the NSCN(I-M) alleged that the original agreement was tweaked to mislead other Naga groups which resulted in a breakdown of talks.
The hushed negotiations have not been made public but it is understood that there is a stalemate on the organisation’s demand for a separate flag and constitution.
But the recent killing of civilians by the Armed forces in Nagaland has put the spotlight back on the stalemate between the NSCN-IM and seven National Political Groups with the Union of India.
The Isak-Muivah faction, the key player in the Naga peace talks, described the incident in Mon as a “black day” for Nagas.