According to Press Trust of India, the Nagaland Police has charged 30 personnel (one Major, two Subedars, eight Havildars, four Naiks, six Lance Naiks and nine Paratroopers) of 21 Para (Special Forces) with “murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder for an operation in  Oting-Tiru area of Mon District on December 4, 2021, in which 13 civilians died.

The PTI report has quoted a press conference held by Nagaland DG Police, T John Longkumer on June 11, 2022, at the Chumoukedima Police Complex in Dimapur. It is alleged that the Special Forces personnel did not follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) and the Rules of Engagement.  

Nagaland DGP TJ Longkumer (Centre) speaks about the incident of civilian deaths in anti-insurgency operation by the Indian Army in Mon district

The sequence of events on December 4-5 with respect to the above was as under:

  • Based on inputs received by the Indian Army about specific insurgent movement (supplied by local Nagaland police) near Tiru village, 21 PARA (Special Forces), summoned from outside Nagaland, laid an ambush on December 4. 
  • A vehicle approaching the site was signaled to stop but it sped away. Suspecting insurgents, fire was opened killing six out of eight persons in the vehicle.
  • The Special Forces team was in the process of evacuating the two injured civilians in the vehicle when an armed civilian mob surrounded and assaulted them, burning two vehicles, shooting dead one Special Forces soldier and injuring 14 Special Forces personnel including an officer.
  • To disperse the armed mob, fire was opened in self defence killing seven mobsters and injuring some others. The two injured civilians in the vehicle jumping the ambush were still evacuated to Dibrugarh by the Special Forces along with their own injured.
  • The Special Forces team had enough ammunition to kill the attacking armed mob but did not do so. 
  • On December 5, a 500-600-strong armed mob  (without firearms) attacked the 27 Assam Rifles (AR) post in Mon town; ransacking and burning buildings systematically starting with the office and residence of the Commanding Officer. The police remained bystanders. 182 AR personnel in the post were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and could have fired at the mob but did not. Eventually AR opened fire when the mob went for the ammunition storage and the kote holding balance weapons.  As a result one civilian was killed and six others injured.

When Army lays an ambush on specific intelligence of insurgent movement by local police in insurgency area covered by Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and seeing a vehicle deliberately speeding away (despite being asked to stop) opens fire, what SOP and Rules of Engagement were broken? Was the vehicle to be allowed to get away or was Longkumer to be contacted to ascertain whether the vehicle was carrying insurgents?

The above incidents, the environment in which our forces are operating and the restraint shown by them, need to be viewed in backdrop of the following:

Drugs entering India from the East perhaps equal what enter from the West. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says Myanmar produced 405 metric tons opium in 2020. Myanmar is one of the world’s leading producers of synthetic drugs and narcotics from India also go to Myanmar for refining and return for better dividends. Drugs are big money that aside from corruption, help consolidate power, buy voters and lawmakers.

Insurgents in Nagaland continue to illegally collect revenue to the tune of more than Rs 10,000 crore annuallyPoliticians, administration and police allow this and share the booty.

The politico-police-insurgent nexus (termed mafia hereafter) in insurgency areas is a reality. Politicians win elections with insurgent support. There have been instances of political pressure to free captured insurgents in Nagaland, as also in Maoist insurgency areas.

Army and AFSPA are a hindrance for the mafia in channelizing huge amounts of money accruing from drugs and illegal tax collection for individual and political benefits, especially in a state like Nagaland.

Despite the media blitz about peace deal with Naga insurgents, which anyway does not cover all Naga insurgent parties, the peace deal with even the NSCN (K) has not been completed, even though only the issue of separate flag remains according to media. Therefore, political appeasement of insurgents is essential, aside from the nexus already mentioned.

Considering the above, it is quite possible this was a pre-planned ‘False Flag’ operation by the mafia. The so-called specific intelligence of insurgent movement could have been a ruse to kick-start the plan. Following gives credence to this possibility:

  • The alacrity with which the armed mob surrounded and attacked the Special Forces team. 
  • The armed mob, which killed one Special Forces soldier and injured 14, were from the same nearby village. Police investigation could have easily identified them, including by interrogating the injured. But police filed an FIR against “unknown persons”, that too when insisted by 21Para (Special Forces).
  • Despite clear indications of more violence, Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor, IAS and DG Police Longkurmer did not clamp Section 44 in Mon town to prevent the attack on the 27 AR post on December 5. This was a deliberate default but being part of the mafia none would question them.
  • Attack on the 27 AR was witnessed by the local police who would have easily recognized the ringleaders in the attacking mob. But again, no one was specifically charged.

If police had laid the ambush instead of 21 Para (Special Forces), the narrative would have been different with Ashok Chakras galore. Mumbai has a similar mafia, what with the Karambir Singh episode and October 25, 2021, news reports saying Mumbai had most cases registered under the NDPS Act in 2020 among 19 metropolitan cities in India.

During the 26/11 terror attacks, Mumbai ATS were slaughtered like chicken without firing a single shot but Hemant Karakre was awarded Ashok Chakra. The same Karakare had tortured Lt Col Shrikant Purohit, an outstanding intelligence officer, on purported charges, while the Army hierarchy blackened its face by handing over Purohit to police under political pressure.

The paid media is baying for personnel of 21 Para (Special Forces) charged by Nagaland Police to be punished. Recall the charges against the Army for raping 100 women in Kunan Poshpora village in J&K on February 23, 1991 – charge filed a week later. The National Human Rights Commission and international human rights groups descended on the Valley but after one year of harassing the troops the charges were proved false. The FIR was obviously filed in league with terrorists or under threat.    

Few years back, five youth travelling in a civil vehicle in J&K were fired upon by the Army manning the check post when their vehicle jumped the second check post and tried to flee. The youth died in the firing. The then defence minister immediately tweeted that the soldiers would be punished; state elections were coming up! One JCO and six other ranks involved in the incident, who were on  bonafide duty, were subjected to Summary Court Martial. Such is the influence of vote-bank politics,

What happens to the personnel of 21 Para (Special Forces) charged by the Nagaland Police remains to be seen. The charge sheet has been sent to the Department of Military Affairs in the Ministry of Defence, not to Army Headquarters. Hopefully the Chief of Army Staff, General Manoj Pande will take the stand for these elite troops.

For the unaware, 21 Para (Special Forces) have distinguished themselves admirably in multiple operations in the northeast, including in Operation ‘Hot Pursuit’; against insurgent camps inside Myanmar in 2015, which was widely acclaimed in media.

We also need to acknowledge that Naga insurgency has been supported and armed by China since decades. Most of the Naga insurgents (less ones who signed a peace deal) are in Myanmar and Chinese intelligence would be in contact with them. It is in the interest of China and Pakistan to give a bad name to the Army and remove AFSPA ‘completely’ from the northeast using the mafia, media, human rights groups and non-governmental organizations. Chinese designs in our northeast need no elaboration.   

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.


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1 COMMENT

  1. This is a joke. Charging armed forces personnel for doing their duty and acting in self defence is ridiculous. This is nothing but vote bank politics and the BJP must realize that appeasing hardline terrorists will never get them votes. They have failed in Kashmir and other states are bound to follow because these guys in charge on national security cannot think straight.

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