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Army at fault

There is nothing surprising in the Nagaland Government’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) report on the Mon district incident

Army at fault

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  13 Jun 2022 3:11 AM GMT

There is nothing surprising in the Nagaland Government's Special Investigation Team (SIT) report on the Mon district incident of December 2021 in which 14 innocent persons were brutally killed by the Army. The SIT, in the charge sheet submitted to the District and Sessions Court of Mon district, named 30 Army personnel, including a Major, in the cold-blooded massacre. As has been already mentioned in the media on Sunday, the 30 Army personnel also include names of two Subedars, 8 Havildars, 4 Naiks, 6 Lance-Naiks and 9 paratroopers, all belonging to the 21 Para Special Force. The Mon incident is not the first or only incident in which Army personnel deployed for conducting counter-insurgency operations in the North-eastern Region have been named in official reports for misusing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. There have been numerous incidents across the region of Army highhandedness since the AFSPA and Disturbed Areas Act were enacted and enforced way back in the 1950s. While the Army always initially denies allegations of misuse of their powers, in the Mon district incident, there has been no concrete evidence put forward by the Army to prove innocence. It is now widely accepted that on December 4, at around 4:20 pm, the operation team, which had laid an ambush at Longkhao between Upper Tiru and Oting villages, opened fire on a Bolero pick-up vehicle which was carrying eight civilians belonging to Oting village, most of whom were working as labourers in a coal mine at Tiru, without ensuring positive identification and failing to carry out challenge procedure. While six occupants of the vehicle were killed on the spot, eight more persons were killed when angry local villagers who had rushed to the spot were fired upon. It is important to note that Nagaland Police, in a statement has said that the investigation has also revealed that the Army operation team had not followed the standard operating procedures and the rules of engagement, and had resorted to indiscriminate and disproportionate firing. It is now for the Government of India to ensure that sanction for prosecution is granted so that the erring Army personnel are brought to book and punished. This incident brings to mind an incident of February 1994 in which army personnel had picked up nine men from different areas of the Tinsukia district in Assam on February 18, 1994, on suspicion that they were involved in the killing of a tea garden executive, and five of them were taken inside a reserve forest and killed in cold blood. The deceased persons turned out to be AASU members who had nothing to do with ULFA. Twenty-four years later, in 2018, seven Army personnel – an ex-Major General, two Colonels, and four soldiers – were sentenced to life imprisonment by a Summary General Court Martial of the Indian Army. They were ex-Major General AK Lal, Colonel Thomas Mathew, Colonel RS Sibiren, Captain Dilip Singh, Captain Jagdeo Singh, Naik Albindar Singh and Naik Shivendar Singh. The culprits of Mon must be also tried in the manner the Summary General Court Martial of the Indian Army had tried the Tinsukia killers of 1994. Controlling insurgency is one thing, killing innocent civilians is another. There should be no mercy for the second.

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