THIRTY Indian Army personnel, including a Major, have been named in a chargesheet filed by the Nagaland Police for the botched operation in which six civilians were killed in Mon district last December.
The personnel of the 21 Para Special Forces have been accused of “not following the Standard Operating Procedure and the Rules of Engagement” and resorting to “indiscriminate and disproportionate firing”.
On December 4 last year, security forces had, in a case of “mistaken identity”, fired at a pickup truck carrying eight miners in eastern Nagaland’s Oting village. While six died on the spot, two survived. Seven more civilians and a security personnel died in the retaliatory violence that followed.
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The Nagaland Police said in a statement on Saturday that the chargesheet – based on the findings of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the state government to probe the case – was filed at the district and sessions court in Mon on May 30.
The police said the 21 Para SF team, led by a Major rank officer, had launched an operation in the Oting-Tiru area based on an intelligence input about the presence of cadres of the banned NSCN K-YA and ULFA.
The SIT probe found that the Army team had, “without ensuring positive identification”, shot at the vehicle carrying the miners, said the statement. “Investigation has revealed that the Op team had not followed the Standard Operating Procedure and the Rules of Engagement and resorted to indiscriminate and disproportionate firing,” it said.
This led to the “immediate killing of the six occupants of the vehicle on the spot, and grievously injuring two persons,” said Nagaland DGP T John Longkumer at a press conference in Kohima on Saturday.
When the villagers reached the spot to search for those missing, “they turned violent on discovering the dead bodies and scuffle ensued between the villagers and the operation team members of 21 Para SF,” said the statement. “One Paratrooper succumbed to injuries and fourteen personnel from 21 Para SF team sustained injuries, This led the Major to order for opening firing at around 2200 hrs and the op team started to break contact,” said the police statement.
The Army personnel have been booked under various sections, including IPC Sections 302 (murder), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) and 201 (disappearance of evidence) among others.
Police said the prosecution sanction from the Department of Military Affairs was still awaited. The request for sanction was first sent in the first week of April, followed by a reminder in May.
A separate FIR has been registered at the Tizit police station, under which Oting village falls, to investigate the death of the paratrooper as well as the assault on other personnel of the 21 Para SF, and the loss of government property.
Following the incident, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said in Lok Sabha that the truck was signalled to stop and was fired upon after it tried to flee. However, the survivors had countered that there was no signal to stop. The incident led to outrage in Nagaland, and a renewed push to remove the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the state.
Apart from the SIT, a separate team, which is part of the army’s Court of Inquiry, is also probing the incident. At a press conference in Guwahati last month, the Army’s Eastern Commander, Lt Gen Rana Pratap Kalita, had said the Court of Inquiry was completed and the report was being examined. He said that if there was “any lapse or fault by anyone, action will be taken irrespective of his rank”.