Violent protests followed a botched Indian counterinsurgency operation in the restive Nagaland state in which Indian Army commandos “mistakenly” killed at least 13 civilians. The uprising in Nagaland has some similarities to Occupied Kashmir, with separatist groups demanding independence, while other opponents of the government want increased autonomy. Even though Nagaland is internationally recognised as part of India, unlike Kashmir, Saturday’s events showed that the brutality of Indian security forces is universal.
The Indian troops were supposedly planning to attack an insurgent convoy in Mon District, along the Myanmar border. However, they ended up shooting a truck carrying coal miners from a nearby village, killing six of them on the spot, while two more died en route to a hospital. We must also note that the troops had apparently been camped out in the area for a week, meaning that the killings cannot be blamed on lack of time to prepare the operation.
Several villagers reached the spot after learning of the incident and were also attacked by the troops, this time in “self-defence”. The second round of violence saw five villagers killed and six injured, while one soldier was also killed. In the evening, protesters attacked the Assam rifles camp in Mon, attempting to set it on fire. One protester was killed, while an unknown number of people were injured. The army put out a statement in which they made no attempt to admit fault or punish the people responsible for the bloodbath, instead doubling down on their “credible evidence” and only saying they “deeply regretted” the incident. The state government later imposed a curfew, banned public gatherings, and suspended all cell phone services in the area.
Interestingly, after imposing these restrictions on the victims, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and Indian Home Minister Amit Shah promised to ensure justice through a “high level” special investigation team. But even though they condemned the incident, they were careful not to condemn the attackers.
It is also worth noting that the BJP, which has upped the use of violence against dissent in its decade of rule in New Delhi and several states, is the minority partner in the ruling coalition.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2021.