Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Army to analyze CoI, SIT on Oting; Kalita assures justice

The Indian Army’s Eastern Command chief on Monday said that the force has completed the Court of Inquiry into the firing incident in Nagaland’s Mon district where soldiers gunned down 14 civilians in December last year.
Following the killings in Oting area of Mon district in a botched operation and its aftermath, the Army started a Court of Inquiry (CoI), while the state government set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the incident.
“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,” General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command, Lt Gen R P Kalita, said. If there is any lapse or fault by anyone, action will be taken irrespective of his rank, he said.
Lt Gen Kalita said Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which has been in force in the North-eastern state for decades, gives some operational support to the forces working in difficult terrains, but the law was not absolute.
“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 Army Commander said.
There have been protests and demands for the withdrawal of the AFSPA from Nagaland for its alleged “draconian” provisions, following the killings by the Army personnel in Oting.
The AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant besides giving immunity from arrest and prosecution to the security forces if they shoot someone dead.
The Act was withdrawn from 15 police station areas in 7 districts in Nagaland with effect from April 1.
On December 4 last year, six coal miners returning from work were killed in a botched ambush by the security forces at Oting, while seven others were gunned down when villagers, angry after discovering the bullet-riddled bodies of the labourers on an Army truck, clashed with the soldiers.
One security personnel was also killed in the melee. Another civilian was killed when a mob attacked an Assam Rifles camp at Mon town the next day.
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.
On May 9, Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande said the investigation into the December 4 firing incident in Mon district has been completed and the report is now undergoing legal scrutiny.
GNF seeks justice
NPN: Global Naga Forum (GNF) has backed the demands by Naga Club and Forum for Naga Reconciliation for justice to the victims and families of the Oting and Mon killings last December; truth from the state government and those tasked to probe including prosecution and fixing accountability on the “army establishment and government of India under whose laws the crimes were committed”.
GNF through its media cell also said it had undertaken a fact-finding mission in December, where its team met with families of victims those killed and injured and obtained a detailed report of the facts. Thereafter, with permission of the injured and families of deceased, GNF said it made a formal appeal for justice to the office of the United Nations Commission for Human Rights (UNCHR) and also the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). GNF also organised a two-day walkathon from on January 11 and 12 which culminated with submission of memorandum addressed to the prime minister of India.
GNF said while intervention of UNHRC is not certain due to India’s objection to UN intervention involving violations on Nagaland since the past 60 years.
GNF also said extra-judicial killings on Naga civilians by Indian armed forces continue despite outrage. It cited that after the Oting killings, some innocent Nagas were killed in separate incidents by armed forces at Chasa village in Arunachal Pradesh.
In this regard, GNF has reiterated its total agreement with FNR for repeal of Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act as Nagas have the right to live “in our homeland without being harassed and killed by the Indian army”.

A file photo of December 6, 2021 mass funeral service of the victims held in Mon.

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