Thirty Indian Army soldiers, including a Major, have been named in a Nagaland Police chargesheet over the botched operation that killed 14 civilians in Nagaland’s Mon district in December last year.
As the Special Investigation Team (SIT) completed it’s report on the incident, Director General of Police (DGP) Nagaland T John Longkumer on Saturday revealed the findings of the state police’s probe of the what came to be known as the Mon massacre.
The probe preceding the chargesheet found that the Special Force Operation team had not followed the Standard Operating Procedure and the Rules of Engagement and resorted to indiscriminate and disproportionate firing leading to immediate killing of six civilians and grievous injury to two more.
Addressing a press conference at Rhododendron hall at Chümoukedima, the police chief said a professional and thorough investigation was carried out by the SIT in the case.
“CID report seeking sanction for prosecution is forwarded to the Department of Military Affairs in the first week of April 2022 and reminder letter sent in May. The sanction for prosecution is still awaited. Meanwhile, the chargesheet has been filed pending sanction for prosecution against the 30 accused,” the DGP said.
A case under 120B/302/307/326/201/34 IPC is made out against the thirty members of the operations team of the 21 Para SF, including one Major, 2 Subedars, 8 havildars, 4 Naiks, 6 L/Nk and 9 Paratroopers, he said
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He revealed that all the evidence, including relevant important documents from various authorities, sources, scientific opinions from Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Guwahati, Hyderabad and Chandigarh, and technical evidences from National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology (NIELIT) were collected during the course of investigation.
As the investigation in the case is complete, he said, the chargesheet was submitted to the district and sessions court in Mon on May 30 through the Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) in Mon.
The police chief said that in the CID report, the SIT also made various observations with regard to the manner in which the operation was carried out and pointed out the need to address those. The SIT also requested the appropriate authority for taking necessary action.
Investigation, he said, revealed that Alpha team of 21 SF consisting of 31 personnel, led by a Major rank officer, launched an operation in Oting Tiru area on December 3 last year based on intelligence inputs about presence of a group of NSCN-K (YA) and ULFA cadres in the area.
Later on December 4, he said that at around 4:20PM, the operation team of 21 Para SF who had laid an ambush at Longkhao between Upper Tiru and Oting Village opened fire at a White Bolero pick up vehicle that was carrying eight civilians belonging to Oting village, most of whom were working as labourers in the coal mines at Tiru, without ensuring positive identification and failed to carry out the challenging procedure.
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“Investigation has revealed that the Operation team had not followed the Standard Operating Procedure and the Rules of Engagement and resorted to indiscriminate and disproportionate firing leading to immediate killing of the six occupants of the vehicle on the spot and grievously injuring 2 persons,” he said.
As per the SIT investigation, villagers of Oting and Tiru reached the incident spot in search of the missing villagers and the bolero pick up vehicle at around 9:00PM and turned violent on discovering the dead bodies and a scuffle ensued between the villagers and the operation team.
One Paratrooper succumbed to injuries and 14 personnel from 21 Para SF team sustained injuries from the scuffle.
“This led the Major to order for open firing at around 10 PM and the operation team started to break contact,” the police chief added.
A separate FIR in was also registered by Tizit police station on December 11 last year under sections 326 , 435 , 302 , 307 and 34 IPC and under section 25 (1A) Arms Act against unknown persons, to investigate into the death of one paratrooper and the assault on other personnel of the 21 PARA SF, loss of government property, based on the complaint filed by 21 PARA SF, and the case is currently under investigation.
Following widespread protests and calls for repeal of Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA), the SIT was constituted by the Nagaland government to probe the killings of 14 civilians by security forces in Mon district on December 4 and 5.
Nagaland Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Sandeep Tamgadge, the overall supervisor of the SIT, had told reporters that 85 civilians, and 37 security personnel, including 31 army jawans involved in the botched operation, have been examined and the team has visited the spot multiple times.
“The exhibits, soil and blood samples have been sent to Central Forensic Science Laboratories in Guwahati and Hyderabad and their reports are awaited. As soon as we receive those, we will start preparing the final report which will be submitted to the court,” he had said.
On May 10, 2022, Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande had said the investigation into the December 4 firing incident in Nagaland’s Mon district had concluded and the report was now undergoing legal scrutiny.
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