Newspaper report of July 21, 2022, indicate that a bench of the Supreme Court has stayed proceedings on a Nagaland Police FIR against a Major and 29 members of 21 Para (Special Forces) that allegedly opened fire on a truck in Mon district, mistaking its occupants for insurgents, resulting in the death of 13 civilians on December 4, 2021. The SC ruling has come on the petition filed by the wife of the Major and family members of the Special Forces team involved in the incident.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court bench said, “In view of the admitted position that mandatory previous sanction as required under Section 6 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, has not been obtained, we are constrained to pass an interim order staying further proceedings pursuant to FIR No. 27 of 2021/Final Report of the Special Investigation Team/Charge sheet.”
The above media report creates the impression that 13 civilians travelling in a vehicle were gunned down by the Special Forces team, which is not true. There has been extensive media coverage since the incident occurred last year. Readers can purse the sequence of event on December 4-5, 2021, along with other important relevant issues including the police-administration-insurgent nexus for narcotics smuggling, extortion and the like, at the link (https://news4masses.com/nagaland-civilian-killings-the-subterfuge/).
The following are reiterated:
· The Special Forces team laid the ambush on specific inputs from multiple sources including from the local Nagaland Police.
· The vehicle when asked to stop jumped the ambush, which was then fired upon killing six of the eight occupants.
· The Special Forces team was in the process of evacuating the two injured civilians when a mob of armed villagers from Oting Village attacked them, shot one Special Forces commando and slashed his neck, killing him on the spot. 14 Special Forces commandos including an officer sustained wounds in the mob attack.
· The Special Forces team was forced to open fire in self-defence and move out evacuating the injured civilians. In the process, seven mobsters died although the SF had enough ammunition to kill the entire armed mob.
· Where the annual illegal revenue collection in Nagaland is more than Rs 10,000 crore, the narcotics smuggling would fetch many times more.
Readers may not know that T John Longkumer, DG Police Nagaland is of Chhattisgarh cadre, Chhattisgarh being a state where usually 45 battalions of CAPF/Police are deployed (equivalent of about 4.5-5 Infantry Divisions), which go up to125 CAPF/Polce battalions during elections. Yet, CAPF/Police (all under DGP Chhattisgarh) patrols get periodically ambushed by Maoists because aside from other reasons, information is passed on to insurgents who help politicians get elected. Besides, the illegal timber trade and illegal sand mining has obvious involvement of the police. Interestingly, one Member Parliament from Chhattisgarh had said in 2010 that the then DGP Chhattisgarh was paying protection money to Maoists for his own safety.
Nagaland is a bonanza for Longkumer with illegal revenue collection and narcotics running into thousands of crores of rupees annually. Same applies to the politicians and bureaucrats of Nagaland who are hand in glove with the insurgents. No politician has ever been targeted by militants in Nagaland though learning from the tactics of Farooq Abdullah in J&K, SC Jamir when the chief minister had orchestrated an IED attack on a vehicle of his convoy.
For the same reason, no action has been taken against the Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor, IAS and Longkurmer for not clamping Section 144 in Mon town to prevent the attack on the 27 Assam Rifles company post on December 5; a deliberate default? Moreover, the FIR against the 500-600-strong armed mob which attacked and burned the 27 Assam Rifles post on December 5, is against “unnamed persons”, while police watching the fun as bystanders would have easily recognized the leaders if not most of the mobsters. It would not be surprising if Longkurmer held a meeting with the mob leaders, briefing them how they should attack the Assam Rifles in Mon town next day. As to the Nagaland Police/SIT investigation, a number of significant issues must be taken into account.
First, 21 Para (SF) personnel were repeatedly asked to accept that killing of civilians by them was “revenge” for the ambush by insurgents in November 2021 in Manipur’s Churachandpur district that took the lives of seven including a Colonel commanding an AR battalion, his wife and eight-year old son. Did these idiots think that Assam Rifles is incapable of extracting revenge or do they think Assam Rifles is as gutless as the Nagaland Police?
On the contrary, it is quite possible that given the underhand links of insurgent groups, Nagaland Police is extracting revenge from 21 Para (SF) because it was the same unit which in 2015 had hit insurgent camps inside Myanmar as part of Operation ‘Hot Pursuit’.
Second, the accusation that the ambush was in the wrong place and occupants of the vehicle that jumped the ambush were unarmed, are blatant lies. The ambush was laid at the junction of the two tracks, one in use and the other disused, leading to a bridge, so the question of wrong site does not arise. Besides, the occupants of the vehicle were very much armed.
Third, anyone who has operated in Nagaland would know that light is fading at four in the evening but the Nagaland Police/SIT recreated the incident at the site at 1030 in the morning to show that it was broad daylight to see the occupants in the vehicle that jumped the ambush and was fired upon could be easily identified as miners.
Fourth, the mine in question is the Tiru Coal Mine which had been declared illegal by the Supreme Court following a petition by the National Green Tribunal. But despite the Supreme Court directive, illegal mining has been continuing in full knowledge of the Nagaland Police and the administration, which amounts to Contempt of the Supreme Court. The contractors continue daily operation of the mine with young unemployed boys from Oting Village employed as daily wagers. Obviously the police and the administration are taking gratification from the contractors. .
Fifth, On November 27, 2021, the Naga Khaplang Group visited Tiru Coal Mine and extorted money from the Contractors. Also, on December 1, 2021, three armed insurgents came to the bridge (close to the ambush site) and took photographs. Both these incidents are known to Nagaland Police but were not disclosed.
Sixth, the 21 Para (Special Forces) team was on bonafide duty deployed under AFSPA, Note 6 of which reads: Protection to persons acting under Act – No prosecution, suit or other legal proceedings shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done on purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.
Seventh, the Nagaland Mafia, including the insurgents with their Chinese benefactors, has been overreacting to the Indian Army in similar fashion since 1956. If suspicious men or women are interrogated, the Nagaland Police allege ill treatment or rape.
Eighth, in public, if a policeman asks someone to stop and the individual runs away, he or she becomes a suspect. In the instant case, the vehicle asked to stop, sped away.
Ninth, the AFSPA provides for arresting or even shooting down a suspect. If rules of AFSPA are flouted they will be addressed by the Army. Local Police have no role in this.
Finally, the Supreme Court stay is interim, which if lifted will besmirch the elite Special Forces of India. Ironically, we have come to a stage where illegal money-making apart, vote-banks take preference over everything else. With next Nagaland Legislative Assembly election scheduled to be held by March 2023, Nagaland will exert utmost pressure to obtain the Centre’s permission to prosecute these Special Forces personnel and seek lifting of the interim stay by the Supreme Court. It will be a perversity of justice if sacrificing Special Forces on altar of the Nagaland Mafia is allowed.
Lt Gen Katoch (Retd) is renowned special forces officer with an unparalleled service record. He has been a prolific writer with his articles published in leading Defence magazines like FORCE & Fauji India.
(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)