Centre refuses to prosecute 30 Army men over Nagaland civilian killings

An FIR filed by the Nagaland Police had said that the Army’s 21 Para Special Force “blankly opened fire” with the “intention to murder and injure civilians”.

Published: 14th April 2023 01:34 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th April 2023 01:41 PM   |  A+A-

A rally against AFSPA in Mon district of Nagaland

A rally against AFSPA in Mon district of Nagaland. (File Photo | EPS)

By Online Desk

The Defence Ministry has denied sanction to prosecute 30 Indian Army personnel in connection with the killing of civilians in Nagaland’s Mon district in 2021, the state police said on Thursday.

“The competent authority (Department of Military Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Government of India) has conveyed its denial to accord Sanction for Prosecution against all the 30 accused,” a statement from the state police headquarters said, as quoted in the Hindustan Times. “As required by law, the fact of the denial of the Prosecution Sanction has been communicated to the Court of District & Session Judge, Mon by the State Crime Cell Police Station and the SIT,” the statement in the HT report further added.

Reacting to the news, Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights secretary-general Neingulo Krome told Hindustan Times, “In the past 50-60 years, no military personnel have been prosecuted for the atrocities they committed against our people."

In July last year, the Supreme Court had stayed criminal proceedings against the 30 accused Army personnel as the state police did not obtain the required sanctions for prosecution from the Centre.

The Centre’s legal sanction is required to initiate any proceeding against security forces personnel for their actions while discharging duties under section 197(2) of CrPC and section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

On December 4, 2021, six local coal miners in a pick-up van in Tiru-Oting area of Mon district were killed by soldiers of 21 Para Special Forces of the Indian Army who mistook them as militants. Protestors then set fire to Army vehicles which prompted the soldiers to open fire again, killing seven more civilians.

On December 5, locals entered a camp of the Assam Rifles in the district headquarters of Mon and one more person was killed after security forces fired in retaliation at the protestors.

The incidents once again gave rise to the demand for the removal of the AFSPA from Nagaland with civil societies conducting several protest rallies across the state at the time.

A special investigation team (SIT) headed by the Nagaland inspector general of police probed the case and on March 24, 2022 had sought sanction for the prosecution of the accused from the defence ministry.

Thirty members of the Special Force Operation team including one Army officer were named by the SIT's chargesheet in the case on May 30, 2022.

The probe which preceded the charge sheet had found 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 the immediate killing of six civilians and grievous injury to two more.

An FIR filed by the Nagaland Police had said that the Army’s 21 Para Special Force “blankly opened fire” with the “intention to murder and injure civilians”.

On December 4, 2021 at around 4:20 PM, the operation team of 21 Para Special Force who had laid an ambush at Longkhao between Upper Tiru and Oting Village 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 without ensuring positive identification or challenging them.

The police said that investigation revealed that when the villagers of Oting and Tiru reached the incident spot in search of the missing villagers and the Bolero pick-up vehicle at around 8 PM, they turned violent on discovering the dead bodies and a scuffle ensued between the villagers and members of 21 Para Special Force.

(With inputs from Express News Service and PTI)


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