On December 4, 2021, as many as 14 people, including 13 civilians, were killed in an Army operation conducted at Oting in Mon district of Nagaland. In a statement issued the next day, 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 had 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.
Although the army admitted its involvement in the Mon incident, it tries hard to justify the ‘act’ of slaughtering innocent villagers on the basis of what they called ‘credible’ intelligence reports and a case of mistaken identity. 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 this parts among members of the security forces which has led to the occurrence of the Oting ambush. One agrees that 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 a 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.
Although the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is still in force, peace talks between the Indian Government and various Naga factions had 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 four 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 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.
Now, the BJP government at the Centre had recently decided to reduce the coverage area of AFSPA in view of the improved law and order situation. However, AFSPA still remains in force in the hill areas of Manipur.
The cause of the unfortunate loss of lives at Oting was investigated by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the Nagaland government while the Army constituted a Court of Inquiry both of which had completed its given task.
After the investigation, Nagaland police had submitted a charge-sheet against 30 personnel of 21 Para Special Force. However, Army authorities say they are still analysing the charge sheet and report of the Court of Inquiry.
A year has gone by, jobs and compensation given to the families of the victim who had fallen in the botch ambush. But, the wounds are yet to heal and the local people are still not cooperating with the Army.
A closure has to be brought and for that due punishment to those guilty personnel and a change of outlook and attitude is needed.