Monday, Jun 27, 2022

Indian Army Completes Court Of Inquiry Into Nagaland Civilians' Killings

The Court of Inquiry is being analysed along with the SIT report into the incident in which 14 civilians were killed.

Indian Army Completes Court Of Inquiry Into Nagaland Civilians' Killings
Representative image of Indian Army PTI photo

The Indian Army has completed the Court of Inquiry (CoI) into killings of civilians in December last year in Nagaland's Mon district, said Lieutenant General RP Kalita, the Army's Eastern Command chief, on Monday. 

The Army has also received the report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Nagaland government and the CoI is being examined and is being analysed along with the SIT report, said Lt Gen Kalita.

In December last year, in what Union Home Minister Amit Shah at the time called "a case of mistaken identity", 14 civilians were killed by Indian security forces in Oting area of Nagaland's Mon district. Following the killings, the Army started a CoI and the state government set up an SIT.

Lt Gen Kalita said on Monday, "It was a case of mistaken identity and error of judgement. The Army CoI is complete and it is being examined now. We also received the SIT report and both are being analysed."

He said if there is any lapse or fault by anyone, action will be taken irrespective of his rank.

Lt Gen Kalita said Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which has been in force in the Northeastern state for decades, gives some operational support to the forces working in difficult terrains, but the law was not absolute.

He said, "There are SOPs (standard operating procedures) to be followed. At times, deviations have taken place. Whenever there is deviation, strict actions were taken against the defaulters. In this case also, action will be taken as per the Army Act and requisite laws of the land."

The AFSPA empowers the security forces to carry out operations and detain anyone without a warrant. It also gives them immunity from arrest and prosecution for any killings. There have been demands for a long time to repeal the law as there are allegations of human rigths violations by security forces operating under the law.

Amid calls of its apeal, the Union government in March withdrew AFSPA from 15 police station areas in seven districts of Nagaland with effect from April 1. Besides Nagaland, areas under AFSPA were also reduced in Assam and Manipur.

On December 4 last year, a team of Indian Army's para commandos laid an ambush near Tiru village based on intelligence inputs of insurgents’ movement in the area. As per the government, a vehicle approached the site and it was signalled to stop but it tried to flee, following which the Army personnel opened fire as they suspected it to be belonging to insurgents that they were expecting. 

Six out of eight people in the vehicle were killed. All of them were civilians. 

Following the killings, locals attacked Army personnel and burnt their vehicles. Seven more civilians were killed as the Army opened fire at them. One soldier was also killed in the confrontation. 

On the next day, 5 December, a mob attacked an Assam Rifles base. One civilian was killed when security forces fired at the mob. In all, 14 civilians were killed by security forces.

The Nagaland government had expanded the five-member SIT to a 22-member probe team and divided it into seven groups. 

The Army's Court of Inquiry was headed by a Major General rank officer.

(With PTI inputs)