People’s Union for Democratic Rights demands that the Centre give sanction for prosecuting guilty army personnel involved in the killings in Oting, Nagaland on December 4, 2021. Spread over 300 pages, the SIT has accused the army on multiple grounds, and the most recent reportage on the findings are damning because they show that the commanding officer was aware for full 50 minutes and that he had suppressed the information that the team’s ambush was laid on the wrong track. Further, the post-mortem report shows that the killings of all 14 villagers, carried out over two consecutive operations, were deliberate in design.
It will be remembered that the SIT had completed its investigation in March and had submitted its chargesheet in mid-April and its final report in early May before a local court in Mon district. The army too had conducted an independent probe and it is not mandated that it make the findings public. Since April, the SIT has been awaiting sanction from the Department of Military Affairs to proceed with prosecution. More importantly, the Nagaland Chief Minister said in early March, that the SIT findings would be made public only after the Centre would give permission to prosecute.
Importantly, while the Centre had announced on March 31 that it would reduce the disturbed areas under the AFSPA, it had said nothing about prosecuting guilty army personnel, a fact pointed out by PUDR in its statement which had welcomed the Centre’s decision. Stressing on the fact that sanction from the Union Government is mandatory for initiating legal suit against army personnel, the statement had drawn attention to the 2015 Rajya Sabha all-India figures which showed that out of 38 requests made before the Centre from 1991 till 2015, 30 were turned down and 8 remained pending. In short, such routine denials along with the refusal to share the findings of inquiries thwart the possibility of prosecuting the guilty and allows the army to sit judge and jury over its own actions.
- That the findings of the SIT into the Oting killings be made public.
- That the military authority and the central government give sanction for prosecuting guilty armed personnel involved in the cold-blooded killings on December 4, 2021.
Deepika Tandon and Shahana Bhattacharya