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Oting Ambush: A case of mistaken identity

IFP Editorial: If the Indian army lying in wait for Naga insurgents to ambush cannot differentiate innocent and ordinary coal miners from insurgents, something is seriously wrong with the army establishment.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated on 6 Dec 2021, 8:14 pm

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How could it be a case of mistaken identity? No matter what, it is a clear case of misconception and general suspicion of the people of these parts among members of the security forces which has led to the occurrence of the Oting ambush. As many as 14 people, including 13 civilians, were killed in an army operation conducted at Oting in Mon district of Nagaland late Saturday, according to sources. In a statement issued on Sunday, the Army’s 3 Corps claimed responsibility for the killing of the civilians and stated that it “deeply regretted” the incident. The army in a statement said that based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted in the area of Tiru, Mon district, Nagaland. The incident and its aftermath are deeply regretted. The cause of the unfortunate loss of lives is being investigated at the highest level and appropriate action will be taken as per the course of law. The security forces have suffered severe injuries in the incident, including one soldier who succumbed to the injuries. Following the incident, the Nagaland government has ordered a high-level probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT). Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio appealed for peace among all sections and assured justice.

At least, the army has admitted to its involvement in the Mon incident although it tries hard to justify the ‘act’ of slaughtering innocent villagers on the basis of what they called ‘credible’ intelligence reports. Let us say, cross border movement of Naga insurgents is quite a common occurrence in those parts of Nagaland bordering Myanmar. More than 60 years, the Indian army and security forces had been fighting the Naga insurgents and if it says that it does not understand the modus operandi of Naga insurgents no one will believe them. It seems, the general belief among armed forces that every Naga is hostile is still there. Years ago, the Naga insurgents were branded as ‘Naga Hostiles’ by the Indian establishment. If the Indian army lying in wait for Naga insurgents to ambush cannot differentiate innocent and ordinary coal miners from insurgents, something is seriously wrong with the army establishment. Even though the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is still in force, peace talks between the Indian government and various Naga factions have been going on for quite some time.   

In Manipur, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or simply AFSPA has been out of the public radar for quite some time. Out of action out of mind, as they say, till the Friday night incident when Assam Rifles personnel in mufti killed a 29 year old father of 4 children in Kangpokpi district. In the aftermath, an enraged mob, including men and women of Twilang area, stormed the 44 AR outpost at Gelnel village and torched two vehicles of Assam Rifles. In the morning, it was found that two AK rifles in the Gypsy were also burnt along with the vehicles. After a prolonged movement in 2004 for repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the wake of the brutal rape and murder of Manorama Devi the then O Ibobi led Congress government had withdrawn it from seven assembly constituencies of Greater Imphal despite objections from the Centre. There were demands for repealing the Act from the whole of Manipur from various sections of the society as a result of overall improvement in the law and order situation of the state, but it has not moved forward since the 2004 decision. Not so long ago, the Army Chief General MM Naravane said in January this year that the Army is planning to gradually reduce the number of troops deployed for internal security duties in the Northeast. As a result, the Army has already pulled out one of its brigades from the region and now plans to move out another one or two in the near future.  The defence lobby has been at the forefront of opposing the withdrawal of AFSPA from areas where it is in force and states have always been reluctant to go against the lobby. But, the Army Chief is openly admitting that the law and order situation has greatly improved in states including Manipur. The view of the Home Ministry is the same and it says that overall the security situation in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura has improved to a satisfactory level.

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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