Security forces wind up search operation in Tirap

Questions raised over NIA, police’s shoddy investigation

[ Tongam Rina ]

KHONSA, Jun 2: The security forces have wound up their search operation in Tirap district to nab the culprits involved in the killing of 11 people, including MLA Tirong Aboh, on 21 May.
The search operation, which had begun on 22 May, was concluded without any success. Defence sources confirmed that the search operation has been called off.
However, in a late evening message to this daily on Sunday, the defence spokesperson said the operation was intensified, and that a joint operation with the police and the civil administration was ongoing, adding that 11 people have been handed over to the state police for questioning.
The ground reports indicate otherwise. The security forces are reported to have concluded their search operations on 29 May.
The defence ministry in a press statement on 22 May had said, “The Indian Army has launched a massive search operation in the jungles of Tirap, Longding and Changlang to nab the perpetrators of the cowardly killing.”
The Indian Army had also assured that it would “soon track down and bring to justice all perpetrators involved in this horrific act.”
But it appears that the promise fizzled out after about two weeks as the security forces have abandoned the search operation in apparent hurry.
“Have you seen any member of the security forces between Hukanjuri check gate and Khonsa, or on the way to Dadam circle?” asked a citizen, dismissing the army’s claim that it has blocked escape routes, deployed mobile check gates, and intensified area domination.
“The only time when there is army presence is when their officers take the route. The lives of the common people don’t matter to the Indian Army,” said another.
Another local said the move of the security forces, and the subsequent publicity regarding its operational tactics, was a “cheap attempt to deflect the attention of the people of Tirap.”
Meanwhile, questions are being asked about the investigation process reportedly being carried out by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the state police.
“Officials of the NIA came to Tirap and have left already,” confirmed an official. This puts a question mark on the decision taken during the state cabinet meeting on Sunday, in which the council of ministers decided to hand the assassination case over to the NIA. Going strictly by facts, it would appear that the state government is still unaware that NIA officials have already been to the district.
On the other hand, a police insider said the state police do not have the required facilities to carry out an investigation of this level.
“Intelligence input from the police is often overlooked in the district,” says another.
However, not everyone is sympathetic towards the state police. Many of the family members of the deceased that this daily spoke to said the tragedy could have been averted had the killers of Aboh’s worker, Jaley Anna, been nabbed.
The police apparently did not act even though Anna told everyone before dying who had tortured him.
Fifty-two-year-old Anna, from Kheti village, died on 29 March after being tortured by suspected members of the NSCN (IM).
“I want to know what the police have done in Jalley Anna’s case,” said a relative of one of those who was killed in the massacre.
“Was the security of Tiroh Aboh enhanced by the state police even after he publicly called out the NSCN (IM) over their involvement in the killing of his worker?” asked another.
The director general of police (DGP) refused to answer any question pertaining to the investigation, the withdrawal of police from Tirap district during the recently held state and parliamentary elections, and the current strength of the police in the district.
“Such details cannot and will not be provided to the press,” he said.
Dismissing the questions of this journalist regarding the visible lack of coordination between the security agencies and the state police in the district resulting in the failure to nab the culprits even after two weeks, DGP SBK Singh refused to say anything.
“Your questions are all imaginary,” he retorted, instead of giving a proper response.
The DGP is yet to visit Tirap after the massacre. It is learnt that the top police officers of Tirap also did not attend Aboh’s burial.
Meanwhile, this daily has learnt that the state police and the IRBn were withdrawn from the district during the election. The police personnel were withdrawn as they had to be deployed in Kra Daadi and Kurung Kumey districts from where repeated incidents of violence were being reported, said an insider.
The decision of the state police to lessen the strength of its personnel in a sensitive district raises more questions than answers.
Meanwhile, new Home Minister Bamang Felix said he would convene a review meeting on Tirap on 6 June.