Homeland Security

Nagaland Killings
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 07 Dec , 2021

Pic Source: https://keralakaumudi.com

The media is agog with the recent incident of killings in Nagaland. The Union Home Minister has made a statement in Parliament, highlights of which include the following:

    • Based on inputs received by the Indian Army, about movement of the insurgents near Tiru village in Tizit area (Mon district), an ambush was laid on the evening of December 4 by 21 PARA (SF).
    • A vehicle approaching the site was signaled to stop but it tried to flee.  Suspected of carrying insurgents, the vehicle was fired upon resulting in the killing of six out of eight persons in the vehicle. However, it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. The two injured persons were evacuated by Army personnel to medical facilities.
    • Thereafter, local villagers surrounded the Army team, burnt two vehicles and assaulted them resulting in death of one Security Force (SF) personnel and injuries to several others.
    • To disperse the crowd, SFs opened fire which resulted in killing of seven more civilians and injuring some others.
    • FIR was registered in Tizit Police Station and the case has been transferred to the State Crime Police Station (SCPS) and a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted.
    • On the evening of December 5, a mob of approximately 250 tried to ransack the Company Operating Base (CoB) of Assam Rifles in Mon town. The mob burnt buildings of the CoB following which troops had to open fire to disperse the mob. Resultantly, one civilian was killed while another was injured.
    • HQ 3 Corps, Army has deeply regretted the incident which resulted in the unfortunate killing of innocent civilians and has said that the cause is being investigated at the highest level and appropriate action will be taken as per law.
    • The Home Minister took immediate measures as required and the Government is keeping a close watch on the evolving situation. The state authorities have promulgated prohibitory orders in the affected areas.
    • Government sincerely regrets this unfortunate incident and expresses deepest condolences to the affected families.

According to media reports, the FIR alleges that 21 PARA (SF) “blankly opened fire” resulting in the killing of many Oting villagers and also that the “intention” of security forces was to “murder and injure civilians”.  

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has condemned the unfortunate incident that led to the killing of civilians and tweeted: “Condolences to the bereaved families & speedy recovery of those injured. High-level SIT will investigate and justice delivered as per the law of the land.”

Rovilatuo Mor, IAS, Commissioner, Nagaland and T John Longkurmer, IPS, DG Police Nagaland, in a signed joint statement on December 5, accused 21 PARA (SF) of killing unarmed civilians at random without any attempt for identification. They further say when villagers (number not mentioned) came to the spot, the Special Forces personnel again opened indiscriminate firing killing seven more villagers before fleeing from the scene and that two of the seriously injured civilians were taken to Assam side by the Security forces themselves and are admitted in the ICU at Dibrugarh Hospital.

The statement also says that on December 5, 600-700 people armed with sticks, pipes, flammable fluids and few with machetes or daos (dahs) went to the Assam Rifles camp. After almost an hour into the melee, the second round of continuous firing by the Assam Rifles resulted in one civilian killed and six wounded.

The FIR against 21 PARA (SF) alleging opening firing blankly and intention of murdering and injuring civilians would have had concurrence of the DG Police, T John Longkurmer, for reasons not too difficult to understand.

Media and some journalists are busy spinning the narrative. One journalist writes that forces were under pressure to show some results after the Manipur ambush on November 13 where the CO of an Assam Rifles battalion, his wife, 6-year old son and three soldiers were killed in an ambush by insurgents; suggesting that the action in Nagaland was a reprisal without credible reason. Another newspaper says that the civilians moving in the vehicle were singing loudly – is it suggesting that the reason the driver did not stop the vehicle? But surely, the driver was given the signal by a soldier on the road?  

The Commissioner and DG Police Nagaland while accusing 21 PARA (SF) of killing civilians at random without establishing their identity and later opened firing indiscriminately when villagers came the spot need to answer the following:

    • Why did the vehicle try to flee and not stop when asked to do so?
    • They may despise the Army but if hypothetically they were part of the ambush which was laid based on intelligence about movement of NSCN (K) cadres generated by “local police” – let the vehicle flee?
    • Are they in league with NSCN (K) or on their payroll or was the said intelligence generated by local police false by design to orchestrate this incident for nefarious reasons?
    • If the intelligence indeed was false, on whose behest was it – political or insurgents linked to Chinese intelligence?
    • If intent of 21 PARA (SF) was to murder and kill civilians, why would they carry two injured civilians to medical facilities?
    • Why not mention that the killed soldier was first “shot” and then attacked with a dah.
    • Wasn’t the firing by 21 PARA (SF) in ‘self defence’ rather than “indiscriminate” at the villagers? Why otherwise were 14 personnel (including an officer) of 21 PARA (SF) injured and in Dibrugarh Hospital? Surely they had enough ammunition to fire “Indiscriminately” if their intent was to kill, murder and injure civilians.
    • Shouldn’t the Commissioner and DG Police be charged for not imposing prohibitory orders on the evening of December 4 itself? Why did they not anticipate the violence on December 5? Was it laxity or by design in consultation with politicians or the NSCSN?   

It may be recalled that a few years back there was an incident in J&K where five youth travelling in a civil vehicle were fired upon when their vehicle jumped two check posts and tried to flee. The youth died in the firing. There was political uproar and human rights groups were up in arms. The check post guard of one JCO and six other ranks were on bonafide military duty in an area declared “Disturbed”. But because of political pressure they were subjected to Summary Court Martial. It was election time then and same is the time now though not in Nagaland.

Initially six civilians had died in Nagaland. More casualties would not have happened if the armed villagers had not attacked the soldiers. At the same time, there is no question of soldiers having a license to kill civilians but the circumstances too need to be taken into account. The Army has set up a court of inquiry under a Major General to look into the killing of civilians in Nagaland. Without doubt justice will be delivered as mandated by law.

As for the politicians, the Commissioner and DG Police of Nagaland, they may want counter-insurgency operations to slow down that helps smooth flow of narcotics and consolidating political power in concert with insurgents. But equate the Indian Army functioning to that of the Pakistani army in Balochistan is sacrilege. Special Forces are the finest of the forces and 21 PARA (SF) has earned a singular name in counter insurgency operations in the northeast, including national recognition for hitting insurgent camps inside Myanmar during 2015 under Operation ‘Hot Pursuit’.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army.

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13 thoughts on “Nagaland Killings

  1. Unfortunately, people seem to forget that soldiers are from different parts of
    the country, carrying out a professional duty on behalf of the Govt on orders. They have no interest in the area or in carrying out combat duties in these areas. Under such circumstances attributing motives & accusing soldiers of wrong doings and deliberately killing civilians is unacceptable. If anyone has any problem with the military, they need to get the ‘disturbed area’ tag removed from the area & get the army out & not keep blaming the army just because they cannot react. Let there be no doubt, soldiers are not interested in carrying out orders & then be blamed, accused & punished for doing the dirty work which has cropped up as a result of corruption and inefficiency of the security forces, administration & the political class.

  2. An excellent analysis from a Special Forces Veteran General must be taken seriously and role of Commissioner and IG Police Nagaland in framing Narrative of FIR, lack of anticipation in local backlash and Intelligence report be questioned and investigated.

  3. The proof of the pudding will be seen wheb the answers to 3 questions emerge

    A) Will we succumb to the pressure to punish the Uniformed just to appease Nagaland

    B) If the wrong or Purppseful disinformation was planted by a mole in in a central agency, will the centre n that agency try n make 21 para as the scape goat. The mole after proving to be a liability has unmasked himself. Would we aid this mole by shifting the blame away from him

    C) If apart from mistaken identity due to seeded intel, the officer has clean hands Will the Uniformed heirarchial order stand by him or go the Col Purohit or Punishing the JCO for firing at a runaway car in kashmir , way , due to pol pressure.

  4. Wlell discribed sir.
    There are elements supporting terrorists organisation s and antinational elements . They are bent upon tarnishing the IA image. How can political leaders tell lies without first verifying facts. This is all concocted story they are telling and misleading the country.

  5. There are reports of recovery of Brown Sugar worth 500 cr on 05 Dec. Was it a planned affair to have AFSPA repealed to facilitate free transit and business? IA has repeatedly proved to be the most ethical and humane army even under most adverse situations and SF troops are not raw green horns who would panic or go berserk. Unfortunately in India everything is overly politicised too.

  6. Even traffic police stops for pollution check and we meekly stop, even if it amounts to delaying whole traffic behind in peak hours to office. And here they merrily sing past carrying a rifle. They met their fate any one who defies orders of the Defence and Homeland security will meet this fate …….period………..and if the same is to be challenged by the political community, or talk of repealing AFSPA then our top brass better take a stand that Fauz will not perform IS duties at all. We were enrolled for guarding the frontiers and not cleaning politically created S**T

  7. The balanced version of the unfortunate incident is here in this article. I have commanded an Assam Rifles battalion in Nagaland and Manipur. The pressure to perform and get results is unimaginable. Let us not assume or presume and wait for the inquiry to finish. A sad day indeed for all of us.

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