The NHRC on Friday said it has issued a notice to the Defence Ministry to show cause as to why Rs 5 lakh should not be recommended to be paid to the next of the kin of an "innocent citizen" who died in "uninformed and indiscriminate firing" by an army unit during an operation against Naxalites in Arunachal Pradesh in June 2017. The National Human Rights Commission, in a statement, also emphasised that if the Defence Ministry pays the relief amount to the victim's family on the basis of its show cause notice in such cases, it will send "positive signals" among the locals and the "credibility of the armed forces shall also improve".
The NHRC issued a notice on February 24 to the Ministry of Defence, through its secretary, to show cause why Rs 5 lakh should not be recommended to be paid as relief to the next of the kin of an "innocent citizen", who died in the "uninformed and indiscriminate firing by the army unit of 21 Para (Special Forces), during an operation against Naxalites in Nantok circle in Changlang district, Arunachal Pradesh in the interning period of June 14-15, 2017," the statement said. The response is expected within four weeks, the rights panels said.
The NHRC has communicated that the case needs to be treated as "special" because the judicial inquiry magistrate has held that the 21 Para (Special Forces) personnel are "responsible for the death of an innocent citizen," it added. The Commission had registered the case on June 29, 2017, on the basis of intimation from the superintendent of police, Changlang, "regarding the death" of a man "during an action by the security forces against Naxalites in Nantok circle, District Changlang," the statement said.
"Subsequently, the Commission through its investigation division found that the judicial magistrate, first class, district Changlang, had conducted the inquiry in the matter. It is recorded, in his report that the PSF personnel neither cooperated nor submitted any statements regarding the operation, despite official letters and request of the inquiry magistrate," it said. After considering the relevant evidences, the judicial inquiry officer found that the army unit of the 21 Para (Special Forces) of Jorhat had "laid ambush within the reachable range of civilian/villagers, without any knowledge of local civil police or villagers, which was undesirable and dangerous for the inhabitants," the NHRC statement said.
Further, the PSF personnel "detained a local innocent villager", till late night without any reason, while he was returning from his own garden. He should have been allowed to go home after ascertaining his identity," it claimed. As a result, the other villagers and family members came towards the forest in search of the man. The PSF should have used night-vision glasses or equipment to see through the dark night hours, and should have identified "innocent empty-handed villagers", the statement said.
"They should have also heard the shouts of the villagers, who were searching their man, who was already detained by the PSF. Instead they resorted to blind firing without any provocation, which led to the killing of an innocent villager under the pretext of 'mistaken identity'," it added. The inquiry magistrate has also reported that "the PSF continued firing indiscriminately from one side till 3 AM of next morning of June 15, 2017 without any retaliation or any cross-firing from anywhere. Such a blunder and irresponsible action is unjustified," the statement said.
"Holding the PSF personnel responsible for the death" of the man, the inquiry magistrate noted that the "victim was an innocent and had no connection with any outfit". The deceased is survived by his old ailing parents, wife and two small children. He was the primary bread earner, and now the family has no source of livelihood, it added. Based on the analysis and inputs of the facts by its investigation division, the Commission, under section 19 of PHR Act (Protection of Human Rights Act), has issued the "show cause notice as to why the victim's family should not be paid the monetary relief", the rights panel said.
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