New Delhi: Army Chief General MM Naravane said “appropriate action” will be taken against troops n the killing of 14 civilians during an operation that went horrifically wrong in Nagaland last month.Nagaland incident unfortunate, will be thoroughly probed: Army
“It is being investigated thoroughly. Appropriate and corrective action will be taken based on the outcome of the investigation,” General Naravane said during his annual press conference.
Gen Naravane said that the Army continues to maintain a high level of vigil and alertness on the northern border, while also continuing to engage with China through military-level talks.While there has been a partial disengagement, the threat in eastern ladakh has by no means reduced, Naravane warned, adding that now India is much better prepared to deal with any challenge.
Speaking of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, the Army chief said that an incresaed concentration of terrorists have been reported at launch pads across the Western border, while reiterating a ‘zero-tolerance to terrorism’ policy. There have been repeated attempts of infiltration across the Line of Control, he said.He also said that the situation in J&K has shown a gradual improvement.
“On the western front, there is an increase in the concentration of terrorists in various launch pads & there have been repeated attempts of infiltration across the LC. This once exposes the nefarious designs of our western neighbour,” Gen Naravane said, without naming Pakistan.
Since January last year, there have been positive developments along the northern and western borders, the army chief added.
The General called the incident – which involved troops from the elite 21 Para SF and occurred in the northeastern state’s Mon district, and in which one soldier was also killed – “regrettable”.
The Army is conducting an internal inquiry – led by a Major General – into the killings.
The inquiry team visited Oting village – home to 12 of the 14 men who died – on December 29 to inspect the ambush site and understand the circumstances that led to the deaths.
However, civil society groups in the district have expressed “doubts over the credibility” of the inquiry; the Konyak Union said it was unhappy with some of the questions asked of witnesses.
Civil groups have also warned that “justice delayed was justice denied”.
The killings have generated massive backlash against the Army and, specifically, the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, that is in force across much of the northeast.
Under AFSPA security personnel stationed in “disturbed areas” are given sweeping powers, and the relatives of those killed, as well as the Nagaland government and concerned groups, fear the centre will invoke this law to protect the soldiers involved from criminal charges.
Nagaland Police had filed an FIR against the 21 Para SF troops involved, in which they have alleged that the security forces’ “intention (was to) murder and injure innocent civilians”.
Two weeks ago, the Army agreed to give a police access to the statements of soldiers involved.
However, it is unclear, at this time, if the soldiers will eventually be shielded by the government.
The entire incident also triggered furious protests against AFSPA, with the Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his Meghalaya counterpart, Conrad Sangma, leading calls for the law to be revoked.
Widespread protests against AFSPA erupted across Nagaland after the killings and have continued since; on Monday hundreds began a two-day walk from Dimapur to Kohima.
However, despite the deaths of the civilians and mounting anger against the law, AFSPA has been extended for a further six months in Nagaland.
In Manipur, where elections will start February 27, AFSPA has become a big political issue.
AFSPA is in place in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding capital Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as Jammu and Kashmir. It has been scrapped in Tripura and parts of Meghalaya.