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Nagaland Killings: Police file case against 30 security personnel

The personnel belonging to the 21 Para (Special Forces) had opened fire upon miners belonging to the Konyak tribe in December

Sabrangindia 13 Jun 2022

Nagaland
Image: The Telegraph

The Nagaland police have now filed a chargesheet against 30 personnel of the 21 Para (Special Forces), allegedly involved in the killing of miners and protesters in December 2021. Police had also initiated a procedure to seek sanction for prosecution, which is still awaited.

According to Nagaland DGP T. John Longkumer, the chargesheet was filed in the Mon District and Sessions Court on May 30, and a sanction for prosecution was filed in the last week of April, reported The Telegraph.

Readers would recall that police had registered a case under sections 302 (murder), 304 (attempted murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in the case that was then handed over to a Special Investigation Team (SIT).

According to a report in the Arunachal Times, those chargesheeted include at least one officer of the rank of Major, as well as two subedars, eight havildars, four naiks, six lance naiks and nine paratroopers. The publication quoted Longkumer as saying, “Investigation has revealed that the special force operation team had not followed the standard operating procedure and the rules of engagement and resorted to indiscriminate and disproportionate firing, leading to immediate killing of the six occupants of the vehicle on the spot and grievously injuring two persons.”

He further said, “A professional and thorough investigation was carried out by the SIT,” and that, “Various pieces of evidence, including relevant important documents from various authorities and sources, scientific opinions from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Chandigarh, and technical evidence from the National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology were collected during the course of investigation.”

Brief background of the case

Readers would recall that on the evening of Saturday December 4, 2021, eight miners were on their way back home from work, when personnel of the 21 Para Special Force opened fire on them at a stretch of the road between Tiru and Oting villages in Mon district, just about 100 kilometers from India’s international border with Myanmar. While six died on the spot, two survived and were treated for their injuries at a hospital in Assam, across the state border.

But what enraged people even more was how seven more people, who were members of a search party that had gone looking for the miners when they did not come back home on time, were also shot dead by security forces. A joint report by the Nagaland Director General of Police (DGP) and Commissioners says the security forces were caught in the act of “hiding the bodies” of miners in a bid to take them away to their base camp across the border to Assam by these villagers. When the villagers protested, the security forces opened fire again.

Another civilian was killed when protesters attacked an Assam Rifles camp on December 5, after bodies of the dead were not brought to the helipad at Mon for a funeral. The change of plans had not been communicated to mourners who set properties and vehicles at the camp on fire.

Thus, the total civilian death toll in the entire sordid affair stands at 14, all from the Konyak tribe, the largest Naga tribe.

The impunity of the security forces became starker, when the Army issued a statement claiming it was a case of mistaken identity, something that can only be described as a feeble excuse given how no attempt was made to verify identity of the people before the security forces opened fire. SabrangIndia had reported previously how on the security forces had claimed that they had ambushed the convoy because they had “bad intel” that members of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) or NSCN-K, a separatist group that has been designated a terrorist group, were travelling through the region. Shortly afterwards, the Army had issued a statement saying, “Based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted in the area of Tiru, Mon District, Nagaland. The incident and its aftermath are deeply regretted.”

However, this explanation didn’t wash with anyone given how security forces opened fire without verifying the identities of the people they were shooting at, something that has now been corroborated by the DGP’s report.

Given how security forces are virtually shielded from accountability for their actions because of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the chorus to repeal the draconian Act had been growing, not just in Nagaland, but across the North East. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma became the first Chief Minister in the north east to demand the Act’s repeal, followed by Nagaland CM Niphun Rio.

Later that month, the Nagaland State Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution to repeal the AFSPA. The resolution was moved by none other than Nagaland Chief Minister Niphun Rio. Interestingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party, that is the ruling regime at the Centre, is also a part of the coalition government in Nagaland.

AFSPA and the abuse of power in the North East

The AFSPA has been in effect in the North East since 1958, while Nagaland became an Indian state in 1963 and has thus remained under AFSPA for close to sixty years. AFSPA allows security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant. This power has allegedly been misused by security forces to torture locals with several allegations of gendered crimes also mode from time to time.

The image of the Mothers of Manipur stripping and holding a banner saying, “Indian Army Rape Us”, is still fresh in the minds of people. The AFSPA has been condemned by many rights groups and most famously by human rights defender Irom Sharmila for its misuse by security forces to commit excesses, abuse and human rights violations.

In fact, scrapping the AFSPA was one of the key demands of the draft framework agreement to maintain peace in the region signed between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) (NSCN-IM) and the government interlocutor RN Ravi in 2015. However, the act was not withdrawn.

In January 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared the entire state of Nagaland as a “disturbed area” for six more months (after it had done so in June 2020), under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958. This was extended by six more months at the end of June 2021, and is therefore effective till December 31, 2021. This is how repeated extensions have kept the draconian law in effect in the North East for decades.

Related:

No respite for Nagaland, MHA extends AFSPA for six months

Nagaland Assembly adopts resolution to repeal AFSPA

Nagaland gov’t to hold special session on AFSPA

Nagaland killings: Chorus grows for repeal of AFSPA

Army tried to hide bodies: Nagaland DGP’s report

Nagaland Killings: NHRC takes suo motu cognisance

So long as AFSPA protects soldiers from accountability, such atrocities will continue: HRW

Nagaland Killings: Police file case against 30 security personnel

The personnel belonging to the 21 Para (Special Forces) had opened fire upon miners belonging to the Konyak tribe in December

Nagaland
Image: The Telegraph

The Nagaland police have now filed a chargesheet against 30 personnel of the 21 Para (Special Forces), allegedly involved in the killing of miners and protesters in December 2021. Police had also initiated a procedure to seek sanction for prosecution, which is still awaited.

According to Nagaland DGP T. John Longkumer, the chargesheet was filed in the Mon District and Sessions Court on May 30, and a sanction for prosecution was filed in the last week of April, reported The Telegraph.

Readers would recall that police had registered a case under sections 302 (murder), 304 (attempted murder) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in the case that was then handed over to a Special Investigation Team (SIT).

According to a report in the Arunachal Times, those chargesheeted include at least one officer of the rank of Major, as well as two subedars, eight havildars, four naiks, six lance naiks and nine paratroopers. The publication quoted Longkumer as saying, “Investigation has revealed that the special force operation team had not followed the standard operating procedure and the rules of engagement and resorted to indiscriminate and disproportionate firing, leading to immediate killing of the six occupants of the vehicle on the spot and grievously injuring two persons.”

He further said, “A professional and thorough investigation was carried out by the SIT,” and that, “Various pieces of evidence, including relevant important documents from various authorities and sources, scientific opinions from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Chandigarh, and technical evidence from the National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology were collected during the course of investigation.”

Brief background of the case

Readers would recall that on the evening of Saturday December 4, 2021, eight miners were on their way back home from work, when personnel of the 21 Para Special Force opened fire on them at a stretch of the road between Tiru and Oting villages in Mon district, just about 100 kilometers from India’s international border with Myanmar. While six died on the spot, two survived and were treated for their injuries at a hospital in Assam, across the state border.

But what enraged people even more was how seven more people, who were members of a search party that had gone looking for the miners when they did not come back home on time, were also shot dead by security forces. A joint report by the Nagaland Director General of Police (DGP) and Commissioners says the security forces were caught in the act of “hiding the bodies” of miners in a bid to take them away to their base camp across the border to Assam by these villagers. When the villagers protested, the security forces opened fire again.

Another civilian was killed when protesters attacked an Assam Rifles camp on December 5, after bodies of the dead were not brought to the helipad at Mon for a funeral. The change of plans had not been communicated to mourners who set properties and vehicles at the camp on fire.

Thus, the total civilian death toll in the entire sordid affair stands at 14, all from the Konyak tribe, the largest Naga tribe.

The impunity of the security forces became starker, when the Army issued a statement claiming it was a case of mistaken identity, something that can only be described as a feeble excuse given how no attempt was made to verify identity of the people before the security forces opened fire. SabrangIndia had reported previously how on the security forces had claimed that they had ambushed the convoy because they had “bad intel” that members of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) or NSCN-K, a separatist group that has been designated a terrorist group, were travelling through the region. Shortly afterwards, the Army had issued a statement saying, “Based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted in the area of Tiru, Mon District, Nagaland. The incident and its aftermath are deeply regretted.”

However, this explanation didn’t wash with anyone given how security forces opened fire without verifying the identities of the people they were shooting at, something that has now been corroborated by the DGP’s report.

Given how security forces are virtually shielded from accountability for their actions because of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the chorus to repeal the draconian Act had been growing, not just in Nagaland, but across the North East. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma became the first Chief Minister in the north east to demand the Act’s repeal, followed by Nagaland CM Niphun Rio.

Later that month, the Nagaland State Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution to repeal the AFSPA. The resolution was moved by none other than Nagaland Chief Minister Niphun Rio. Interestingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party, that is the ruling regime at the Centre, is also a part of the coalition government in Nagaland.

AFSPA and the abuse of power in the North East

The AFSPA has been in effect in the North East since 1958, while Nagaland became an Indian state in 1963 and has thus remained under AFSPA for close to sixty years. AFSPA allows security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant. This power has allegedly been misused by security forces to torture locals with several allegations of gendered crimes also mode from time to time.

The image of the Mothers of Manipur stripping and holding a banner saying, “Indian Army Rape Us”, is still fresh in the minds of people. The AFSPA has been condemned by many rights groups and most famously by human rights defender Irom Sharmila for its misuse by security forces to commit excesses, abuse and human rights violations.

In fact, scrapping the AFSPA was one of the key demands of the draft framework agreement to maintain peace in the region signed between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) (NSCN-IM) and the government interlocutor RN Ravi in 2015. However, the act was not withdrawn.

In January 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared the entire state of Nagaland as a “disturbed area” for six more months (after it had done so in June 2020), under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958. This was extended by six more months at the end of June 2021, and is therefore effective till December 31, 2021. This is how repeated extensions have kept the draconian law in effect in the North East for decades.

Related:

No respite for Nagaland, MHA extends AFSPA for six months

Nagaland Assembly adopts resolution to repeal AFSPA

Nagaland gov’t to hold special session on AFSPA

Nagaland killings: Chorus grows for repeal of AFSPA

Army tried to hide bodies: Nagaland DGP’s report

Nagaland Killings: NHRC takes suo motu cognisance

So long as AFSPA protects soldiers from accountability, such atrocities will continue: HRW

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