The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland's Mon district in December 2021 has charged 30 Indian Army special forces personnel and has said they did not follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) and rules of engagement.
The personnel booked include one officer of the rank of major and two junior commissioned officers of the rank of subedar, 27 other ranks —eight havildars, four naik, six lance naik and nine paratroopers— of the Indian Army's 21 Para SF unit, according to Nagaland Director General of Police TJ Longkumer.
DGP Longkumer said the investigation has been completed and the chargesheet has been submitted to Mon District and Sessions Court. He added that the state government had sought sanction for prosecution of the accused from the Department of Military Affairs in April. A reminder was sent in May but the sanction is still awaited, said the DGP.
The investigation revealed that Alpha team of Army's 21 Para SF consisting of 31 personnel led by a Major-rank officer launched an operation in Oting Tiru Area on December 3, 2021, based on the intelligence input about presence of a group of National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (Yung Aung) and United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) cadres in the area.
The next day, on December 4, at around 4:20 pm, the Army team that had laid an ambush based on intelligence opened fire at a White Bolero pick up vehicle which was carrying eight civilians belonging to Oting Village, most of whom were working as labourers in the coal mines at Tiru.
DGP longkumer said the Army opened fire without ensuring positive identification of the vehicle's occupants or challenging them.
He said that investigation has revealed that when the villagers of Oting and Tiru reached the site of killings in search of missing villagers around 8 pm, they turned violent on discovering the corpses and a scuffle ensued between the villagers and Army personnel.
He added that one Armyman succumbed to injuries and 14 Army personnel were injured. This led the Army Major to order firing at around 10 pm and the Army started to break contact. In this second incident, seven of the villagers were gunned down by the Indian Army.
A separate FIR was registered by Tiru Police Station on December 11 under sections 326, 435, 302, 307 and 34 of IPC and under section 25(1A) of Arms Act against unknown persons for the death of one Armyman, assault of other Army personnel, and loss of government property based on complaint filed by the Army, according to DGP Longkumer.
The incident led to a major law and order situation in Mon town the next day with an angry mob resorting to vandalising public places and also attacking an Assam Rifles post, with a civilian being killed in retaliatory firing.
It also gave rise to demand for removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Nagaland with civil societies conducting several protest rallies across the State in December.
Of the invstigation, DGP Longkumer said, "A professional and thorough investigation was carried out by the SIT."
Detailing the invstigation, he said various evidences including relevant important documents from various authorities and sources, scientific opinions from Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) Guwahati, Hyderabad, and Chandigarh, and technical evidences from National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology were collected during the course of investigation.
(With PTI inputs)