The Indian Army has completed its Court of Inquiry into the killing of 14 persons by soldiers during an operation in Nagaland’s Mon district in December, the force’s Eastern Command chief said on Monday, PTI reported.
On the evening of December 4, the Army’s 21 Para Special Force had opened fire at a pick-up van carrying coal miners from Tiru to Oting village in Mon district, killing six on board. They had apparently mistaken the group of workers for insurgents. A crowd of protestors then set fire to vehicles belonging to the Army. The soldiers opened fire again, killing seven more civilians.
The violence spilled over into the afternoon of December 5 after locals entered a camp of the Assam Rifles in the district headquarters of Mon. At least one more person was killed after security forces fired back at the protestors.
A first information report 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”.
The Army started a Court of Inquiry to probe the matter whilst the Nagaland government set up a Special Investigation Team to look into the killings. The SIT had submitted its report to a district court earlier this month, according to The New Indian Express.
On Monday, the Army’s Eastern Command chief Lieutenant General RP Kalita said that the killings were “a case of mistaken identity and error of judgement”, PTI reported.
“The Army Court of Inquiry is complete and it is being examined now,” he told reporters. “We also received the Special Investigation Team report and both are being analysed.”
Kalita added that if its personnel are found to be guilty, the Army will take action irrespective of their rank.
“Whenever there is deviation [from the standard operating procedure], strict actions were taken against the defaulters,” he said. “In this case also, action will be taken as per the Army Act and requisite laws of the land.”
The Mon killings had led to protests in Nagaland and renewed demands to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The law gives Army personnel in “disturbed areas” sweeping powers to search, arrest, and open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”.
On April 1, the law was revoked in 23 districts of Assam and 15 police stations jurisdictions in Manipur and Nagaland. On April 28, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the Centre was making efforts to completely remove the Act from the North East.