Guwahati: The Indian Army’s Eastern Command chief said Monday that the force has completed the Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the firing incident in Nagaland where soldiers gunned down over 12 civilians in December last year. Following the killings in Oting area of Mon district in a botched operation and its aftermath, the Army started a CoI, while the Nagaland government set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the incident.
“It was a case of mistaken identity and error of judgement. The Army CoI is complete and it is being examined now. We also received the SIT report and both are being analysed,” General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command, Lt Gen RP Kalita, said. If there is any lapse or fault by anyone, action will be taken irrespective of his rank, Kalita informed.
Lt Gen Kalita said Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which has been in force in the North-eastern state for decades, gives some operational support to the forces working in difficult terrains, but the law was not absolute.
“There are SOPs (standard operating procedures) to be followed. At times, deviations have taken place. Whenever there is deviation, strict actions were taken against the defaulters. In this case also, action will be taken as per the Army Act and requisite laws of the land,” the Army Commander said.
The AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant besides giving immunity from arrest and prosecution to the security forces if they shoot someone dead. The Act was withdrawn from 15 police station areas in seven districts in Nagaland with effect from April 1.
Six coal miners returning from work December 4 were killed in a botched ambush by the security forces at Oting. Seven others were gunned down when villagers, angry after discovering the bullet-riddled bodies of the labourers on an Army truck, clashed with the soldiers.
One security personnel was also killed in the melee. Another civilian was killed when a mob attacked an Assam Rifles camp at Mon town the next day.
The Nagaland government had expanded the five-member SIT to a 22-member probe team and divided it into seven groups. The Army’s Court of Inquiry was headed by a Major General rank officer.