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Two former deputy chiefs of the army staff – Lieutenant General Zameer Uddin Shah and Lieutenant General Raj Kadyan – both of whom have served several tenures in Nagaland, have separately said that the army should apologise for killing innocent fellow-citizens in Nagaland.
Shah told The Wire that “an apology for wanton killing is very much in order”. He said it “will do a lot of good”.
“I always feel apology is a strong word…but if it does placate the people of Nagaland and if it does lessen tensions, there is no harm for the army tendering an apology for this mistake,” he continued.
According to the general, the killings were “a blunder, a mistake (but) not an offence”.
Questioned about the doubts that have been raised about the claim that the army fired because the car refused to stop – a position taken by the home minister in parliament – and also reports from eyewitnesses that the army allegedly tried to hide the bodies of the dead under tarpaulin sheets, Shah said the army must clarify.
Finally, asked if this episode has damaged the army’s image and standing, he said “I hope not” but added “this is a setback”.
In a separate interview, Kadyan began by saying that one cannot give a simple yes or no answer to the question should the army apologise for killing 13 innocent civilians. He said the killings in Nagaland had happened in two separate places and times. The first was when the army allegedly tried to stop a car which refused to stop and the army, therefore, fired, killing six of the passengers. Kadyan called this “an operational hazard”. He said there is no need for the army to apologise for these first killings.
However, Kadyan said an apology for the second set of killings was required. This is when the army opened fire to disperse a crowd – as the home minister has said. The general said clearly there was excessive use of force on this occasion. He also said the army should not shoot to kill. For these second killings, he added, “I would have apologised if I was Corp Commander.”