Army chief expresses regret on Nagaland killings; says report to be submitted in 'day or two'
General MM Naravane assured that appropriate action will be taken, adding that the force will do whatever is necessary to uphold the law of the land.
Army chief General MM Naravane on Wednesday expressed regret over the killing of civilians by special forces troops in Nagaland's Mon district in December last year, adding that the army's Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is investigating the killings, will submit its report in a ‘day or two.’
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“The incident was regrettable. The inquiry is in its final stages, and the report may be submitted in a day or two. Appropriate action will be taken. The law of the land is paramount, we will do whatever is necessary to uphold it,” General Naravane, the senior most military officer in the country post the untimely demise of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat whom he also succeeded as army chief, said.
Further corrections in the standard operating procedure (SOP) will be made upon the completion of the probe, he further said, as he addressed the annual army chief's press conference.
On December 4, 2021, commandos of an elite unit shot dead six coal miners, in what the force and the Union government later described as a case of ‘mistaken identity.’ Immediately following the killings, the troops were confronted by furious villagers; in the subsequent melee, seven more villagers and a commando, too, lost their lives.
A day later, as protests broke out, another civilian was killed as protesters stormed a local Assam Rifles camp, prompting soldiers to open fire.
The killings triggered massive outrage, as well as calls to repeal the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa) from across the northeast. The legislation grants troops operating in regions designated as ‘disturbed areas’ powers to search, arrest and even shoot people, if necessary' for maintenance of public order.
In such cases, under Afspa, soldiers can only be prosecuted on sanction from the central government.
At least two chief ministers in the northeast, Nagaland's Neiphiuo Rio, and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma, have publicly called for the act to be repealed.
The Centre, on December 26, set up a high-level home ministry panel to review to look into the possibility of the withdrawal of Afspa. However, on December 30, it extended the act for a further six months in Nagaland.