NEW DELHI, 12 Jan: Army Chief Gen MM Naravane on Wednesday described as “highly regrettable” the December 4 firing incident in Nagaland’s Mon district in which 14 civilians were killed and said “appropriate action”, as required to uphold the law of the land, would be taken based on the investigation.
Addressing a press conference ahead of the Army Day, Gen Naravane said the Army’s Court of Inquiry ordered into the incident is expected to submit its findings in a day or two.
He said the Army has standard operating procedures (SOPs) that encapsulate its operational experience and “appropriate action” will be taken and corrective measures instituted to further refine the SOPs based on the outcome of the investigation.
In a botched counter-insurgency operation at Oting village in Mon district, 14 civilians were killed on December 4 in Nagaland, triggering massive public outcry as also demands to lift the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the state.
The Act empowers security forces, deployed in “disturbed areas”, to conduct operations and arrest anyone without a prior warrant. It also gives immunity to the forces if they shoot someone dead.
“The incident which happened in Oting in Nagaland is highly regrettable. In the aftermath of the incident, the Eastern Command was quick in ordering an inquiry. It is headed by a Major General. That inquiry is in its final stages and the findings would be submitted in a day or two,” Gen Naravane said.
Apart from the Court of Inquiry by the Army, the state government appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the incident.
“The regrettable incident of December 4 during operations in Nagaland is being thoroughly investigated. We remain committed to the security of our countrymen, even in the conduct of operations,” Gen Naravane said.
The Chief of Army Staff said the force has been cooperating fully with the SIT and both the probe teams are taking the statements from a cross-section of people that will help in having a greater understanding of what has happened.
“Based on the findings of the inquiry, appropriate action will be taken. I would like to clarify that the law of the land is paramount and we will always uphold that and take action as required in upholding the law of the land,” Gen Naravane said.
Gen Naravane said the overall security situation in the North-Eastern region remained under control, noting that a robust security posture has significantly curtailed the operational space for terrorists.
Referring to insurgents ambushing an Assam Rifles convoy in Churachandpur district of Manipur in November killing a Commanding Officer, he said one incident is not reflective of the overall situation in the North-Eastern region.
“We have taken whatever action is required to deal with that. The bottom line is that the situation in the Northeast has improved manifold,” he said.
The Army Chief said there has been a graduated de-induction of Army units from areas where the security situation has improved.
“On the Indo-Myanmar Border, being an important facet of our security calculus, the due impetus to border guarding is being given by the Assam Rifles,” the Army Chief said.
“We intend to progressively increase, the number of Assam Rifles Battalions deployed for border guarding in times to come, the Army Chief said
Gen Naravane said that as a result of the improvement in the security situation, a number of Army formations involved in counter-insurgency operations, especially in Manipur and Assam, were disengaged from that role.