KOLKATA: The Army will try the Special Forces (SF) personnel allegedly involved in the killing of 13 villagers in Nagaland's Mon district on December 4, 2021, as per the report of its own Court of Inquiry (CoI), a source revealed.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT), set up by the Nagaland government, has already indicted 30 personnel, including an officer, of the 21 Para SF for the encounter that went wrong. Based on the SIT report, charge sheets have already been filed against the paratroopers under Sections 302, 307, 326, 120B and others of the IPC.
While Section 302 deals with murder, Section 307 relates to an attempt to murder. Section 326 involves 'causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons and means', and Section 120B relates to criminal conspiracy.
"If one were to go by the SIT's charge sheet, it would seem like a group of renegade soldiers went to the spot to kill innocent villagers. This is far from the truth. All the accused are highly-trained personnel of the Indian Army who was on a mission to neutralise a group of militants, including some of the top leadership of the NSCN (K-YA).
"It is unfortunate that the van carrying residents of Oting arrived at the spot exactly at the time when the militants were about to get there. The militants were close by and got away, thanks to the confusion," a senior officer in the Eastern Command said.
According to another officer, the NSCN (K-YA) is a banned outfit that is against the peace process in Nagaland. This outfit has been active in the neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh over the last few months, carrying out abductions and extortions. The Assam Rifles has been busy in Arunachal Pradesh, dealing with the NSCN (K-YA). The local population in that state are up in arms against this organisation.
"The NSCN (K-YA) has cadres from Myanmar and Nagaland. The outfit is involved in drug smuggling. Its leaders would love to see our SF personnel facing trial at a civil court. The region where the deaths occurred is close to the India-Myanmar border and villages on the Indian side have been known to shelter cadres and provide safe passage to militants. The intelligence inputs ought to have been updated based on real-time movement. But that doesn't mean that our soldiers were involved in murder," he said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a retired officer of Lieutenant General rank said how allowing a civil court to try the SF personnel would amount to "throwing them to the wolves". This would affect the morale of the troops who would be reluctant to obey orders, he said.
"However painful, such things happen during operations. Do remember that outfits like the NSCN (K-YA) kill innocents simply to scare others into providing them shelter and other support. Unfortunately, our governments are not so active in pressing charges against them. The SIT has no idea of how things operate in the Army. Otherwise, why would all the personnel be charged with murder? A soldier follows the order of his officer. He is not to be blamed if an innocent is killed by his bullets," the retired officer said.
Another important point he made is how quick the state governments are in accusing the Army of excesses.
"The Army is not keen to get involved in such 'firefighting' operations. The states create a mess and then seek our support. We are not your fall guys. Let the states handle their security issues," he added.
The Army has the option to try the personnel involved in the incident through court-martial proceedings and it will resort to it. This will ensure a fair trial for the accused, based on the findings of the Court of Inquiry. (IANS)