DIMAPUR, JUNE 21: The Army will try the 21 Para (Special Forces) personnel involved in the killing of 13 civilians at Oting Village in Mon district on December 4 last year as per the report of its own Court of Inquiry (CoI), according to an IANS report on Tuesday.
The news agency quoted a senior officer in the Eastern Command as saying: “If one were to go by the SIT’s charge-sheet, it would seem like a group of renegade soldiers went to the spot with the intention to kill innocent villagers. This is far from the truth. All the accused are highly-trained personnel of the Indian Army who were on a mission to neutralise a group of militants, including some of the top leadership of the NSCN (K-YA).
“It is unfortunate that the van carrying residents of Oting arrived at the spot exactly at the time when the militants were about to get there. The militants were close by and got away, thanks to the confusion”.
On June 11, the Director General of Police (DGP), Nagaland, T John Longkumer told a press conference that the 30 Indian army personnel have been named in the charge-sheet submitted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Nagaland Police formed to probe the massacre.
Based on the SIT report, charge-sheets were filed against the paratroopers under Sections 302, 307, 326, 120B and others of the Indian Penal Code.
While Section 302 deals with murder, Section 307 relates to attempt to murder. Section 326 involves ‘causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons and means’, Section 120B relates to criminal conspiracy.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a retired Lieutenant General told the news agency that allowing a civil court to try the SF personnel would amount to “throwing them to the wolves”.
This would affect the morale of the troops who would be reluctant to obey orders, he said.
“However painful, such things happen during operations. Do remember that outfits like the NSCN (K-YA) kill innocents simply to scare others into providing them shelter and other support. Unfortunately, our Governments are not so active about pressing charges against them. The SIT has no idea of how things operate in the Army. Otherwise, why would all the personnel be charged with murder? A soldier follows the order of his officer. He is not to be blamed if an innocent is killed by his bullets”, the retired officer said.
Another important point he made was on how quick the State Governments are at accusing the Army of excesses, the report stated.
According to another officer, the NSCN (K-YA) is a banned outfit that is “against the peace process in Nagaland”.
“In fact, this outfit has been active in the neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh over the last few months, carrying out abductions and extortions. The Assam Rifles has been busy in Arunachal Pradesh, dealing with the NSCN (K-YA). The local population in that State are up in arms against this organisation”, the report read.
“The NSCN (K-YA) has cadres from Myanmar and Nagaland. The outfit is involved in drugs smuggling. Its leaders would love to see our SF personnel facing trial at a civil court. The region where the deaths occurred is close to the India-Myanmar border and villages on the Indian side have been known to shelter cadres and provide safe passage to militants. The intelligence inputs ought to have been updated based on real-time movement. But that doesn’t mean that our soldiers were involved in murder”, the officer said.
According to the report, the Army has the option to try the personnel involved in the incident through court martial proceedings and it will resort to it.
“This will ensure a fair trial for the accused, based on the findings of the Court of Inquiry”, it claimed.
(Page News Service)