Justice beyond probes

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/14/2022 12:52:55 PM IST

 By all accounts, the horrific killings at Oting-Tiru on December 4,2021 merits being termed as the ‘Oting Massacre’ the most shocking incident when a total of 13 innocent civilians were gunned down in cold blood without any rhyme or reason by a command unit of the 21 Paras(Special Forces). This unit is based in Jorhat( an area under the 4 Corps) and was used to set up an ambush in Otring-Tiru area ( an area under the 3 Corps) on December 4. The victims were working as labourers in coal mines at Tiru(Mon). The Oting Massacre comes as the worst infamy after many similar incidents that blotted Nagaland during the dark ages during the 50s to 60s. The lives of a total of 13 innocent and helpless civilians were snuffed out just as their families were preparing to celebrate Christmas in 2021. The state government instituted a Special Investigation Team(SIT) under the supervision of an ADG and headed by an IGP along with four other senior police officers. Later the SIT was increased by co-opting more officers and presently, has a total of 21 members. The SIT was to have submitted its report to the state government within one month- i.e. by January 5,2022. The report is still incomplete, according to the Police since forensic reports from Guwahati and Hyderabad were still awaited. The Civil Society Organisations(CSOs) have accepted the explanation given by the police and so the outcome will have to wait. On the other hand, the Chief of Army Staff Gen.M.M. Naravane , on January 12 , promised that if found guilty, those involved will not be spared. He also said that the Court of Inquiry(CoI) set up by the Army to probe the Oting Massacre, headed by an officer in the rank of Major General is to submit its report “in a day or two”. This means that the CoI report should be completed by January 14 or 15. As per accounts, the Army CoI is only a preliminary procedure where it(CoI) seeks to collect evidence, both oral and material. The next level is said to be summons on the accused based on evidence collected. If the charges stick then the next level would be a Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) where the final trial and sentencing takes place. However, according to the Army Act, army courts can try personnel for all kinds of offenses, except for murder and rape of a civilian, which are primarily tried by a civilian court of law. It remains to be known if those involved in the Oting Massacre are being tried on charges of murder. If the CoI has taken as long as one month, then it is plausible that the next level of submission of evidence will also take a month or two. Finally, if the charges stick, then the final level is the SGCM and which could take much longer. Again, if the Army Act does not provide for trial of personnel accused of rape and murder, then this clause alone should allow a civil court to take over the case. It will serve the ends of justice if there is a judicial inquiry into the incident so that the entire conspiracy, if there is one, is exposed and act as future deterrent. 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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