Nagaland passes resolution seeking roll-back of Afspa
Denouncing the killing of civilians in Mon district in December by security forces, Nagaland lawmakers on Monday unanimously demanded lifting of AFSPA, the law that grants armed forces extensive powers against citizens.
“The Nagaland Legislative Assembly unanimously resolves to demand that the Government of India repeal the AFSPA 1958 from the North East and specifically from Nagaland so as to strengthen the ongoing efforts to find a peaceful political settlement to the Naga political issue,” stated a resolution adopted in the state assembly on Monday.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, also known as AFSPA, is in force in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. It allows security forces to open fire on any person on suspicion, and arrest individuals and search premises without warrants, in designated disturbed areas.
The Nagaland assembly had previously adopted resolutions for withdrawal of AFSPA in 1971 and 2015.
The 60-member assembly met on Monday in an emergency session in the backdrop of the killing of 13 civilians – including six people in a botched military operation – at the Tiru-Oting area in Mon district by 21 Para Special Forces of the Indian Army on December 4, and another civilian killed by security forces in Mon town on December 5 during subsequent clashes, which also resulted in injuries to 35 persons.
“The House calls for an apology from the appropriate authority, along with an assurance that justice will be delivered by applying the laws of the land upon those who perpetrated the inhuman massacre... The House appeals to the citizens of Mon district, its civil societies, the citizens of the State and mass based organisations to extend cooperation to the Government and its agencies in our collective efforts to demand justice, and to restore normalcy in the interest of all the citizens,” the resolution said.
“The Naga people have been crying for peace and an early solution for the long pending Naga political issue. It is of paramount importance that the people’s voice is heard and respected. The House, therefore, once again appeals to the negotiating parties of the Indo-Naga political dialogue to bring the talks to its logical conclusion by reaching a settlement that is honourable, inclusive and acceptable, at the earliest,” it stated.
The resolution was the outcome of the day-long discussion on AFSPA and its application in Nagaland, which was initiated by deputy chief minister Yanthungo Patton of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“There have been many instances of gross abuse by the members of the security forces over the years, the most recent being the ghastly firing incidents in Oting–Tiru village area of Mon district, which led to the loss of life of 14 of our beloved Konyak brothers,” Patton remarked.
Chief minister Neiphiu Rio cited the Oting killings to say security forces had misused AFSPA provisions several times.
Although AFSPA has its origins in the Naga political issue and the armed insurrection that followed, Rio pointed out that the Centre and all Naga political groups (with the exception of Myanmar-based NSCN-K Yung Aung faction) are currently engaged in political dialogue, and are under ceasefire agreements, due to which no major armed clash or conflict has been reported in recent years.
“Declaration of a state or any area as ‘disturbed area’ under Section 3 of the AFSPA is made by the Government of India generally for a period of 6 months at a time. Every time, we have been taking the same stand that there is no need or justification for extending the declaration of Nagaland as a ‘disturbed area’. But every time, our views, and our objections are ignored, and the declaration is renewed again and again for the last many years,” Rio said.
With the current “disturbed area” tag on Nagaland due to expire by the end of December, Rio expressed hope that the central government will not extend it any further.
Minister Temjen Imna Along, who is president of BJP’s Nagaland unit, also voiced strong support for the repeal of AFSPA. “It is really painful to see that in such a great country like India… an act of war by security forces has happened upon its own people; and they have shelter and refuge under the AFSPA… There is no space for such an Act in a democracy,” he said.
Minister P Paiwang Konyak, who represents the constituency in which Tiru-Oting area lies, said anyone who reads through AFSPA provisions and the Disturbed Areas Act would realise what could be the impact on civilians if the provisions are handled inappropriately.
Sharing a ground-zero report on the Oting killings, and on what the Army had termed as an “intelligence failure” and “mistaken identity”, Konyak said a detailed report will be brought out by the special investigation team constituted by the state government.