Nagaland Police chargesheets 30 soldiers of 21 Para Special Force for Oting killings

DIMAPUR, 11 Jun: The Nagaland Police has chargesheeted at least 30 members of the 21 Para Special Force, including a major, in the 4 December, 2021 botched army operations in Oting-Tiru area of Mon district, when at least 13 civilians died.

The chargesheet has slapped charges of murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder on the team of soldiers.

The probe which preceded the chargesheet found that the special force operation team had not followed the standard operating procedure and rules of engagement and had resorted to indiscriminate and disproportionate firing, leading to immediate death of six civilians and grievous injury to two more.

Addressing a press conference at the Chumoukedima police complex on Saturday, Nagaland DGP T John Longkumer said that, according to the Tizit police station case related to the Oting incident, the civilians were killed in an ambush laid for militants as a result of mistaken identity on 4 December, 2021.

The case was re-registered by the state’s crime police station on 5 December against unknown persons of the Indian Army under Sections 302, 304 and 34 IPC, and investigation was handed over to a special investigation team (SIT).

“A professional and thorough investigation was carried out by the SIT” in this case, Longkumer said, adding that “various evidences, including relevant important documents from various authorities and sources, scientific opinions from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Guwahati, Hyderabad and Chandigarh and technical evidences from the National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology were collected during the course of investigation.”

The DGP said that the probe is complete and the chargesheet was submitted to the Mon district & sessions court on 30 May through the assistant public prosecutor.

A case under various sections of the IPC has been made out against 30 members of the operations team of the 21 Para Special Force, including a major, two subedars, eight havildars, four naiks, six lance naiks and nine paratroopers, he said.

The DGP said that the CID report seeking sanction for prosecution was forwarded to the department of military affairs in the first week of April this year, and that a reminder was sent in May.

“The sanction for prosecution is still awaited,” he said.

Meanwhile, the chargesheet has been filed, pending sanction for prosecution against the 30 accused, he said.

Investigation has revealed that the Alpha team of the 21 Para Special Force, consisting of 31 personnel led by a major, launched an operation in Oting Tiru area on 3 December, 2021, based on intelligence inputs regarding the presence of a group of NSCN (K-YA) and the United Liberation Front of Asom operatives in the area, he said.

On 4 December, 2021, at around 4:20 pm, the operation team of the 21 Para Special Force, which had laid an ambush at Longkhao between Upper Tiru and Oting village, opened fire at a white Bolero pickup vehicle which was carrying eight civilians belonging to Oting village, most of whom were working as labourers in coal mines in Tiru, without ensuring positive identification or challenging them, he said.

“Investigation has revealed 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 the six occupants of the vehicle on the spot and grievously injuring two persons,” Longkumer said.

The DGP said that, when the villagers of Oting and Tiru reached the incident spot in search of the missing villagers and the Bolero pickup vehicle at around 8 pm, they turned violent on discovering the dead bodies, and a scuffle ensued between the villagers and members of the 21 Para Special Force.

“One paratrooper succumbed to injuries and 14 personnel of the 21 Para Special Force team sustained injuries as a result of the scuffle,” he said.

This led the major to order firing at around 10 pm, and the operation team started to break contact, he said. In the second incident, seven of the villagers were gunned down by the special force.

A separate FIR was registered by the Tiru police station on 11 December, 2021 under Sections 326, 435, 302, 307 and 34 IPC and under Section 25 (1A) Arms Act against unknown persons who caused the death of one paratrooper and assault on other personnel of the 21 Para Security Force and loss of government property, based on complaint filed by the 21 Para SF, the DGP said.

The incident led to a major law and order situation in Mon town the next day, with an angry mob resorting to vandalising public places and also attacking an Assam Rifles post, with a civilian being killed in retaliatory firing.

It also gave rise to the demand for removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Nagaland, with civil society groups conducting several protest rallies across the state in December. (PTI)