Demand for Afspa repeal renews in Nagaland

Updated on Dec 06, 2021 06:28 AM IST

The killing of 13 civilians in an ambush by security forces in Nagaland’s Mon district, amid the ongoing Naga peace talks, renewed the demand for the withdrawal of AFSPA from the northeast.

Placards and black flag are put up at the venue of Hornbill festival in solidarity with the civilians, killed in an anti-insurgency operation, in Kisama in Nagaland, on Sunday. (PTI)
Placards and black flag are put up at the venue of Hornbill festival in solidarity with the civilians, killed in an anti-insurgency operation, in Kisama in Nagaland, on Sunday. (PTI)
ByAlice Yhoshü, Kohima

The killing of 13 civilians in an ambush by security forces in Nagaland’s Mon district, amid the ongoing Naga peace talks, renewed the demand for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act (AFSPA), 1958 from the northeast on Sunday.

AFSPA grants special powers to the armed forces to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”.

As the Isak-Muivah-led National Socialist Council of Nagalim, the largest Naga rebel group, hit out at the “absurdity and insanity” of Indian security forces, it also pointed at the troubles faced by the state’s citizens in the hands of the “trigger-happy Indian security forces” under the controversial AFSPA in the past.

“Unprecedented in recent history, the absurdity and insanity of the Indian security forces has been exposed in the most brutish manner, a ‘black day’ for the Nagas as the Nagas mourns the barbaric killing of innocent villagers in Oting village under Konyak Region on the evening of the 4th December, 2021,” the NSCN-IM, which is among five NSCN factions engaged in peace talks with the Centre, said.

The rebel group, which signed a ceasefire pact in 1997 and a “framework agreement” in 2015, alleged that killings of civilians by security forces was an act to suppress the legitimate Naga political movement.

Also Read| 5-member TMC delegation to visit Nagaland today after civilian killings

“Notwithstanding the ongoing Indo-Naga political dialogue that has seen much fruition during the period running more than two decades, the violence against the Nagas continues unabated. This is one of the most unfortunate parts of the Indo-Naga ceasefire signed in 1997,” the organisation said.

The Niki Sumi-led Khaplang faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) also expressed shock at the killings which occurred amid the ongoing peace talks.

“For long, Nagas have borne the brunt of atrocities of security forces who come in the guise of friends but commit the most heinous acts on innocent public. Nagas demand justice and therefore, the Government of India and Government of Nagaland as well must not delay but initiate proper investigation and take appropriate action against those playing with the lives of innocent public,” the outfit said in a release.

Calling for a time-bound probe into the incident, Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) said AFSPA, by its very nature, was “anti-peace” and the state government must recommend its repeal and removal of armed forces from civilian areas.

The influential Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) appealed to all Naga tribes to not celebrate the ongoing Hornbill Festival in the state capital.

“It is a taboo in our Naga tradition to be feasting, while we mourn our dead in our homes. Let the world know our grief and sorrow and may our voices of protest be heard against the continuing militarization and killings under AFSPA,” NMA president Abeiu Meru said in a release.

The organisation demanded that the state government take cognizance of the repeated violations of human rights under AFSPA and repeal the Act.

“We demand that besides the SIT, a high-level inquiry commission be set up, inclusive of civil society, to investigate and bring the guilty to book, as per the law. We demand that all Indian Army cantonments be immediately shifted from all civilian areas and habitations,” the statement added.

Political parties in the state also condemned the incident.

Bharatiya Janata Party state unit chief Temjen Imna Along said the killings can never be justified.

“When the Government of India and the Naga political groups are engaged in a peace process and are at the threshold of settlement to the protracted Naga political issue, it is time to exercise extreme caution and patience in order to maintain hard earned peace after decades of violent, armed struggle,” Along said in a statement.

“The innocent victims were labourers returning from a hard day’s work and were not armed with any firearms whatsoever. It is therefore tantamount to war crimes during peace time and amounts to summary execution as well as genocide,” the state BJP chief, who is also a minister in the Neiphiu Rio-led United Democratic Alliance (UDA) government in Nagaland, said.

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