Officer of maj gen rank to head army’s court of inquiry into Nagaland firing incident

NEW DELHI, 7 Dec: The Indian Army has ordered a court of inquiry headed by an officer of major general rank into the Nagaland firing incident in which 14 civilians were killed, official sources said on Tuesday.

Former senior army officers on Monday called the incident “unfortunate” and “tragic,” adding that the botched up operation was likely a result of wrong intelligence.

The sources said an officer of major general rank would head the court of inquiry to probe the operation of the 21 Para Special Forces that took place in the state’s Mon district last Saturday evening.

The inquiry will focus on the “intelligence” and the “circumstances” on which Saturday’s operation was based on, they noted.

“It is very unfortunate. It is apparently a foul-up of intelligence. That is what it appears to me,” retired lieutenant general Ashok Mehta told PTI.

“What followed is even more tragic. The villagers were so angry that they surrounded the commandos and apparently attacked them with machetes, and in self defence, they had to fire on them,” he added.

He said that in his opinion, such an incident has never happened before in the Northeast.

“This is one of the biggest foul-ups of military operations or counter-insurgency operations in recent times,” Mehta added.

On Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s demand to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA, he said: “If you repeal AFPSA, then the armed forces will not operate because they would not have any police powers or safeguards.”

The paramilitaries who have police powers will operate, but they are not equipped to deal with such counter-insurgency operations, he added.

Retired lieutenant general Subrata Saha said that, “starting right from the field to up to the home minister, everyone acknowledges that it was a case of mistaken identity and an unfortunate incident.”

Citing his experience in handling similar situations during his service, he said, “These situations are complex, and you really do not know what can lead to what.”

“How can one rule that someone has fed wrong intelligence with a vested interest as the peace process (between the Centre and insurgents) was moving, although slowly but steadily and making some good progress,” Saha added.

There are multiple possibilities that the army’s court of inquiry and the SIT will both go through and determine the sequence of facts, and things would be taken to their logical conclusion, he said.

On Rio’s demand to repeat the AFSPA, he said: “This (demand) is not uncommon. Every time an unfortunate incident occurs, this demand keeps coming to the fore. But I would urge that we should not link one with the other.”

He said he is sure that all these issues, such as the proposal of repeal of AFSPA, would be gone into by the people who would study the investigation reports and take an appropriate decision.

“As of now, the highest priority should be investigations, and everyone should await their results,” he said.

“Under no circumstances should the peace process be allowed to derail,” he added. (PTI)