At a time when the nation is busy in celebrations for the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is calling for Har Ghar Tiranga, Kargil war heroes are being facilitated in run up to the Kargil Diwas falling on July 26 and the second annual wreath laying is being held on July 29 at the National War Memorial for Operation ‘Pawan’, the Nagaland Police is sharpening claws to  prosecute a Major and 29 members of 21 Para (Special Forces) alleging they deliberately killed 13 civilians on December 4, 2021, near Oting Village of Mon District in  Nagaland. The manner in which the Nagaland Police has twisted facts to hide their own nefarious doings in the police-centric mafia is atrocious.  

It may be recalled that 21 Para (SF) is the same elite unit which had executed Operation ‘Hot Pursuit’ inside Myanmar in 2015, striking insurgent camps in immediate aftermath of insurgents ambushing an army convoy in Chandel District of Manipur on June 4, 2015, killing 18 army personnel and retreating Myanmar thereafter with the NSCN (K) and KYKL claiming responsibility for the ambush. Some termed the 21 Para (SF) raid inside Myanmar ‘surgical strike’ in the east with one media report quoting ground reports reporting 38 insurgents were killed and seven wounded. This is one of the many successful operations undertaken by this unit in the northeast.

Nagaland’s police-ultra-politico-bureaucratic nexus netting  thousands of crores of rupees annually through illegal revenue collection and narcotics smuggling has been covered in these columns earlier, which can be read here:

The sequence of events on December 4-5, 2021 in Mon is also described in the same link. Yet, the Nagaland Police has charged personnel of the 21 Para (SF) team with “murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ for the operation in  Oting-Tiru area on December 4, 2021, in which 13 civilians died.

On a petition filed by the wife of the Major and family members of 21 Para (SF) involved in the incident, a bench of the Supreme Court has stayed proceedings, with the ruling reading, “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 stay by the Supreme Court is an interim one, lifting of which would allow Nagaland Police to initiate prosecution proceedings against the 21 Para (SF) team. Factually, the Indian Army has been a hindrance to the illegal activities of the Nagaland Police and the mafia it is part of. With the next Nagaland Legislative Assembly election scheduled to be held by March 2023, Nagaland can be expected to exert maximum pressure on the Centre to allow prosecuting the said Special Forces personnel.

DG Police Nagalnd, T John Longkumer, is of Chhattisgarh cadre, Chhattisgarh usually has 45 battalions of CAPF/Police (equivalent of about 4.5-5 Infantry Divisions) for counter-Maoists operations, which goes up to125 battalions during elections. With all these battalions 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. The illegal timber trade and illegal sand mining has obvious involvement of the police. A Member Parliament had said in 2010 that the then DGP Chhattisgarh was paying protection money to the Maoists for his own security. For Longkumer, Nagaland is surely a God-sent bonanza.

On December 4, 2021, the 21 Para (SF) team had laid an 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 commandos were in the process of evacuating the two injured civilians when a mob of armed villagers from Oting Village attacked them, shot one commando, slashed his neck and killed him on the spot. 14 commandos including an officer sustained wounds in the mob attack. The 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.

During the investigations by Nagaland Police/SIT, 21 Para (Special Forces) personnel were repeatedly pressured to accept that they killed civilians in “revenge” for the insurgent ambush in November 2021 in Manipur’s Churachandpur district killing seven including the CO of an Assam Rifles battalion, his wife and eight-year old son. This was most idiotic because Assam Rifles is perfectly capable of taking revenge, which would not be by killing civilians anyway. Conversely, given the underhand links of insurgent groups and their Chinese benefactors, Longkumer and the Nagaland Police are perhaps taking revenge on 21 Para (Special Forces) for having raided insurgent camps inside Myanmar in 2015. Is this part of China’s asymmetric design?

Nagaland Police says that the civilians killed in the vehicle were unarmed and the ambush was on the wrong track, both of which are lies. The occupants of the vehicle were armed and 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.

Nagaland Police also stressed that the civilians in the vehicle were miners. The mine in question is Tiru Coal Mine, declared illegal by the Supreme Court following a petition by the NGT. But illegal mining is continuing with full knowledge (and gratification?) of the police and administration; amounting to Contempt of Court. The contractors continue daily mining using young boys from Oting Village as daily wagers. On November 27, 2021, NSCN (K) cadres 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. The Supreme Court and the NGT should take serious note of the illegal mining continuing in Tiru Coal Mine.

As part of its machinations, 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, whereas the incident happened at four in the evening which is fading light in Nagaland.  But this notwithstanding, AFSPA provides for arresting or even shooting down a suspect. If rules of AFSPA are flouted these will be addressed by the Army. .

Allowing Nagaland Police to prosecute 21 Para (SF) personnel on concocted charges will be sacrilege, bad for morale of Indian elite forces and the Army. The Army has its own systemic investigation and corrective system, when required, which should not be burdened with extraneous considerations and election politics. The Nagaland Government took no action against Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor, IAS and Longkurmer for not clamping Section 144 on December 5, 2021, to avoid the mob attack on the 27 AR company base in Mon town, the reasons for which are obvious!

Finally, Longkumer was SP Kanker in Chhattisgarh during 2004-2005 and later DIG in Jagdalpur where many innocent civilians were killed for ‘suspected’ movement, on ‘suspicion’ – and revenge. But there was no squeak from Longkumer and no hue and cry was raised by his bosses and at state level. He and his mafia need to read about Indian Special Forces instead of deliberately tarnishing their image with ulterior motives. It just might prick their conscience, if there is any.

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

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1 COMMENT

  1. The armed forces are the “ultimate argument of the government” (ultima ratio regum). Using them in internal security and then not protecting their actions is not only bad in law and governance but makes military action vulnerable to local politics. The Government must not permit prosecution of the 21 SF personnel under any circumstances.

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