Probe report on Nagaland killings in 1-2 days: Army chief
The army court of inquiry into the killing of 13 civilians in a botched counter-insurgency operation in Nagaland’s Mon district last month is expected to submit its report in a day or two, army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Wednesday.
Appropriate action will be taken and corrective measures instituted to further refine the army’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) based on the outcome of the investigation, he said.
The army inquiry is being conducted under a major general posted in the country’s North-east. A special investigation team (SIT) set up by the Nagaland government is also probing the incident.
The civilians were killed in two separate firing incidents on December 4 and 5 last year.
In the first incident, army personnel gunned down six coal mine workers after mistaking them for insurgents. Soon, angry villagers reached the spot and set ablaze security vehicles, sparking off another round of firing by the forces to control the situation in which seven villagers and one soldier died.
“The regrettable incident is being thoroughly investigated. We remain committed to the security of our countrymen, even in the conduct of operations. We have SOPs that encapsulate our operational experience, which have stood the test of time. Corrective measures will be instituted to further refine our SOPs,” the army chief said at his annual press briefing ahead of Army Day on January 15.
The December 4 incident involved a Special Forces unit that had laid an ambush after receiving intelligence inputs on the movement of militants in the area.
The gunning down of the civilians renewed the demand for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from the state. The Act, which grants special powers to the forces to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”, has been a contentious issue in the state, with civil society members saying it gives army personnel impunity to carry out excesses and forces saying it helps them maintain order in restive areas.
The AFSPA bestows sweeping powers on the forces and prohibits prosecutions from being initiated without the go-ahead from the Centre, if the allegations are linked to the public duty of the accused.
The incident came weeks after militants ambushed an Assam Rifles convoy near the porous India-Myanmar border in Manipur’s Churachandpur district, killing five soldiers, including a colonel, his wife and their eight-year-old son.
Reacting to the army chief’s statement, Konyak Union, the apex tribal body in Nagaland’s Mon district, demanded that any action taken report should be brought in public domain.
“I heard about the army chief’s statement today. We shall see when the investigation report is out. As for his announcement that appropriate action will be taken, our people’s demand right from the start is that any action taken report should be brought out in the public domain,” said Howing Konyak, president of Konyak Union.
The union had earlier served a 30-day ultimatum to the government, demanding that all officers and jawans involved in the killings of civilians be booked under applicable civil court, and the action taken report must be brought before the public domain. The ultimatum expired on January 10.
Howing Konyak said a crucial all-Konyak Summit convened by the tribe’s civil society organisations is scheduled to be held on January 14 to deliberate on the further course of action.
All nine Konyak legislators in the state’s 60-member assembly, along with village council leaders, civil servants, leaders of student unions and women organisations are expected to attend the summit.