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

A sanction for prosecution from the Union government is required to initiate any proceeding against security forces for their actions while discharging duties under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

On December 4, 2021, 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 had 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.

Thirty members of the operations team of 21 Para Special Force, including one Army officer, were named by the Nagaland Police in its chargesheet in the case.

The police said that “indiscriminate and disproportionate firing” led to the immediate death of six civilians and caused grievous injuries to two more.

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

It had passed the order on a plea by the wives of some of the Army personnel who had approached the Supreme Court demanding that the first information report against their husbands be quashed.

On Thursday, the state police said that the Centre’s denial of sanction has been communicated to the district and sessions court in Mon.

The Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights said that the Centre’s response was not a surprise, according to the Hindustan Times.

“In the past 50-60 years, no military personnel have been prosecuted for the atrocities they committed against our people,” the organisation’s secretary general Neingulo Krome said.

Naga People’s Front legislator Kuzholuzo Nienu expressed disappointment at the Centre’s decision. “First, justice was delayed,” he said. “And now, justice is being denied.”

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