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Oting massacre: SIT examines 85 witnesses, villagers, officials; Issued notice to army officials for collection of documents

The SIT team briefing media persons on Thursday

The SIT team briefing media persons on Thursday

SIT had examined 85 civilian witnesses which included the injured persons in Mon, Dimapur and Dibrugarh, besides various villagers, officials from the government, drivers etc. It also issued a notice to the Army officials under section 91 for collection of documents, and received the information it sought to know.

By Imna Longchar, TFM Nagaland Correspondent

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the Nagaland government to probe the Oting massacre on December 4 and 5 in Mon where 14 innocent civilians were killed by the security forces on Thursday stated that the investigation is still in progress and that the team is awaiting the forensic reports from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Guwahati and Hyderabad, and National Institute of Electronics & Information Technology (NIELIT) in Kohima.

The SIT’s statement comes a day after Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio told media persons that the SIT, which was given a month’s time to complete its investigation is awaiting forensic lab results for finalizing its final report.

Briefing media persons at a press conference held Thursday evening at Police Headquarters (PHQ) in Kohima, ADGP (Law and Order), Sandeep M Tamgadge, who is supervising the probe led by a host of officers — DIGP (CID), Roopa M, SP (Crime and PRO), Manoj Kumar, Addl. SP (Cyber Crime), Tulakha, Addl. SP (Cyber offenses) Michael Yhome, highlighting the status and the progress of the investigation said that following the army operations which led to the killing of six coal miners and seven other villagers in Oting-Tizu area, Mon, on December 4 and another civilians on December 5 in Mon town, a suo-moto First Information Report (FIR) was initially registered at Tizit Police Station (PS), Mon.

Subsequently on December 5, the Nagaland government constituted an SIT headed by Limasunep Jamir, IGP (Range) as the Chief Investigating Officer (CIO) and a team of officers, with the option for the SIT to co-opt more officers, if required, within the one-month time frame to complete the investigation and submit its report.

The case was later transferred to the State Crime Police Station in Kohima and an FIR was registered under Section 302, 307 and 34 IPC, said the ADGP.

On conducting the investigation, the SIT co-opted more officers and ultimately the team increased to 21 officers, including IGP (Range) as Chief IO, one DIG Rank officer, four SP rank officers, two deputy commandant and others, among which four officers were from the Konyak community.

To conduct the investigation in a professional manner, the SIT was further divided into eight teams out of which four teams were given the task of examining the witnesses and the injured victims in the three incidents while a team was tasked with the responsibility of cyber and technical analysis of available technical and electronic evidence; one team was at the Police Headquarters under the supervision of DIG (CID) with the task of compiling the documents for documentation.

Another team was dedicated to studying the scene of the crime, collect materials, exhibits and evidences from scene of crime, compile it and sent it for forensic lab analysis, while another team was tasked to co-ordinate with various forensics.

Sandeep said that in the last more than one month, the SIT had visited the crime scene on multiple occasions and one officer of SP rank was tasked with staying at the base for over 15 days to examine and study the entire scene of crime from multiple angles and reconstruct the events and various possibilities for the crime.

The ADGP (Law and Order) also stated that the SIT has collected a lot of material evidence in the form of empty ammunition and other exhibits from the crime scene, which were taken from the possession of the Oting villagers.

He also added that a media appeal was made, asking individuals in possession of any audio or visuals to share with the investigation team and further informed that it was collected in original matter and not formatted after following due-level procedure for record and for cyber and forensic analysis.

SIT requested a team of four senior forensic scientific analysts from CFSL in Guwahati and Hyderabad to visit the site of the crime, to reconstruct the entire event, and examine various possibilities.

Accordingly, a team of CFSL was stated to have visited the scene of crime on December 21 for two days and after completing the analysis, the team forwarded the exhibits — soil samples, blood samples, ammunitions etc. — to the CFSL labs in Guwahati and Hyderabad and the reports are awaited, Sandeep further said.

The ADGP also said that the samples collected from the sources were currently under Cyber Forensic Analysis for other processes.

He also maintained that the SIT had examined 85 civilian witnesses which included the injured people at Mon, Dimapur and Dibrugarh, besides the various villagers, officials from the government, drivers etc and it also issued a notice to the Army officials under section 91 for collection of documents, and received the information it sought to know.

Sandeep said after collecting the documents, names and details of the personnel who were part of the operations, the SIT issued summons under section 160 CrPc and accordingly, till date the team has examined 37 officers and under ranks of Army and Assam Rifles and those statements were recorded and included in the report.

The SIT recorded statements of the surviving victims under section 164 and statements to the judicial officials, which were also part of the report.

Informing that by and large the field investigation in the form of recording of the statements of the witnesses, victims etc., is “doing good” and the Cyber forensic, which was to be done, is under process now, the ADGP said that the SIT had also collected multiple CDF, multiple phone numbers, CD analysis was also done on the basis of the CV analysis, and further statements of other people were supposed to be recorded, some were completed and others would be completed soon.

He later added that as soon as it receives the report, it would submit the final report to the competent court, as criminal investigation is a technical legal procedure under Cr Pc Chapter 3 of the investigation.

Meanwhile, when asked on the demand made by the civil-based organizations to make the findings of the SIT public, the ADGP answered that the results of the investigation were only supposed to be shared with the court.

He maintained that putting it up in the public domain at this stage, while the investigation is not completed, is not legally tenable adding that the SIT is supposed to submit the result of the investigation only with the Court.

The ADGP also added that the team was not in a position to say how much time the CFSL would take to submit the reports of the forensic analysis, while maintaining that one SP-ranked officer is constantly following up with the various forensic science labs.

He stated that the team had also made a special request to the labs about looking at the sensitivity of the case, the scientific analysis be expedited and shared with the investigating team as soon as possible so that the team can come to a final conclusion and the final report be submitted to the Court of Law.

So far, the team had examined the personnel which included the actual operation team which conducted the December 4 operation led by a major rank officer, two JCOs and other personnel, totalling 31 personnel.

It had also examined a few other officers from both Army and Assam Rifles, one CO rank officer, one brigadier and another major rank officer, it was informed.

The ADGP further said that the preliminary investigation followed certain procedures laid down in the Criminal Procedure Court and they had to follow the guidelines that have already been established as a principle of social justice.

Clarifying reports claiming that the investigation of the Army and Assam Rifles examinations was pre-recorded, the Sandeep said it was not “pre-recorded” but the SIT actually examined them at the same time informed that during the course of the investigation, the operation which had been done by the special para-military forces, have been attached to their (Army) court of enquiry.

He later also said that the SIT investigation was done in a professional manner so that the evidence can stand legal scrutiny under any court of law.

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