Last year, during an anti-insurgency operation in India’s northeastern province of Nagaland, 30 army soldiers were mistaken for militants and killed six tribal laborers.

“Investigations indicated that the operation team did not follow the standard operating procedure and the rules of engagement,” Nagaland police chief T.J. Longkumer told reporters in Dimapur, adding that army officers had used “disproportionate firing.”

After defense troops stationed in the border state mistaken the group of laborers for militants arriving from Myanmar and opened fire, 13 members of the region’s primarily Konyak tribe and one security trooper were killed in December last year.

At Oting in Nagaland’s Mon district, six coal miners returning from work were killed. Seven more were killed as villagers struggled with soldiers after discovering the bullet-riddled remains of the laborers on an army vehicle.
During the fighting, one security man was also killed.

“The sanction for prosecution is still pending,” Longkumer said, adding that a chargesheet for the 30 accused army men has been filed.

The Indian army’s spokeswoman could not be reached for comment right away. The issue has been referred to Indian courts for a final decision, according to a defense ministry official in New Delhi.

Thousands of army personnel are stationed in the country’s northeast, which is home to a complicated web of tribal communities. Many of these groups have launched insurgencies and separatist activities, accusing New Delhi of stealing resources and doing little to improve their lives.
Soon after the executions, demonstrations erupted over the Armed Forces Authority Act (AFSPA), which grants the military broad powers to search, arrest, and shoot in “disturbed regions” if necessary.
In Mon, the Act is still in effect.

AFSPA requires the notification of “disturbed zones” in several parts of seven northeastern states.
Beginning in 2015, the federal government repealed AFSPA in Tripura and Meghalaya, as well as in parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur.

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