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Nagaland gov’t to hold special session on AFSPA

Day-long discussion to take place on December 20; demand had been raised by various groups such as students’ unions, human rights organisations and tribal bodies have been pushing for repeal of the Act

Sabrangindia 11 Dec 2021

Nagaland Government
Image Courtesy:outlookindia.com

On December 20, the Nagaland Government will hold a day-long discussion on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state assembly. Several rights groups and organisations such as the Naga Students’ Federation had demanded a special session amidst a growing chorus for repeal of the Act in wake of the killing of 14 civilians by armed forces on December 4.

One week ago, on the evening of Saturday December 4, 2021, eight miners were on their way back home from work, when personnel of the 21 Para Special Force opened fire on them at a stretch of the road between Tiru and Oting villages in Mon district, just about 100 kilometers from India’s international border with Myanmar. While six died on the spot, two survivors are being treated for their injuries at the Assam Medical College and Hospital (AMCH).

But what enraged people even more was how seven more people who were members of a search party that had gone looking for the miners when they did not come back home on time, were also shot dead by security forces. A joint report by the Nagaland Director General of Police (DGP) and Commissioners says the security forces were caught in the act of “hiding the bodies” of miners in a bid to take them away to their base camp across the border to Assam by these villagers. When the villagers protested, the security forces opened fire again.

On Tuesday, one of them, a 23-year-old named Sheiwang, who sustained bullet wounds to his elbow and chest, told the Indian Express, “Direct marise,” meaning the security forces just shot at them. He also contradicted Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s claim that the security forces first asked the vehicle to stop and opened fire only when they tried to flee saying, “We were not signalled to stop. They killed us directly. We were not trying to flee…we were just in the vehicle.”

Another civilian was killed when protesters attacked an Assam Rifles camp on December 5, after bodies of the dead were not brought to the helipad at Mon for a funeral. The change of plans had not been communicated to mourners who set properties and vehicles at the camp on fire.

Thus, the total civilian death toll in the entire sordid affair stands at 14, all from the Konyak tribe, the largest Naga tribe.

The impunity of the security forces became starker, when the Army issued a stament claiming it was a case of mistaken identity, something that can only be described as a feeble excuse given how no attempt was made to verify identity of the people before the security forces opened fire.

It is the AFSPA, that is blamed for the impunity with which the army operates in the region. The AFSPA has been in effect in the North East since 1958, while Nagaland became an Indian state in 1963 and has thus remained under AFSPA for close to sixty years. AFSPA allows security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant. This power has allegedly been misused by security forces to torture locals with several allegations of gendered crimes also mode from time to time.

In the aftermath of the Oting shootings, calls for the repeal of the draconian act that has been active in the region for six decades, have only grown. In fact, two Chief Ministers – Neiphiu Rio of Nagaland and Conrad Sangma of Meghalaya – have already openly called for its repeal. Given how state governments in both these states are formed in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that is in power at the Centre, this puts a strain on the alliance and casts a shadow over the BJP’s dreams of retaining its newfound foothold in the North East.

The decision to conduct a special day-long session was taken after a meeting of the Core Committee of the Parliamentary Committee on Naga Political Issue in Kohima on Thursday. This Committee headed by Rio himself comprises 60 MLAs and two MPs.

Several prominent voices in the region have spoken up against the impunity of the Armed forces. Former Nagaland CM TR Zeliang said, “An enquiry commission headed by a retired judge should be immediately set up and stringent action taken up against the security personnel involved,” adding, “Such brutality, especially from security forces, in a civilised society where we all yearn for peace and tranquility is most unfortunate.”

Meanwhile, the Naga Hoho, Nagalands apex tribal body has submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through the Nagaland Governor demanding clarity on the Centre’s position on the Indo-Naga political conflict and repeal of the AFSPA. The Indian Express quoted excerpts from the memorandum, “This is not an isolated incident and Naga people have been repeatedly humiliated and insulted without recognizing our rights to life.” It further said, “We make this statement in the background that, there is an ongoing political negotiation and peace process between the Government of India and the Naga people which can be testified by the signing of various Agreements with the Naga Political Groups (NPGs).” The memorandum said that the Naga struggle should not be equated with “terrorism” or “secesessionism”.

“Naga Hoho strongly feels that there is peaceful atmosphere in Naga areas as of now and therefore any policy that harms the atmosphere of trust and confidence would be so dear to all stakeholders and therefore, the AFSPA must be summarily repealed from our land,” said Naga Hoho.

SabrangIndia has reported previously on the timing of the shootings, given how the incident occurred even as the Indo-Naga Peace talks were underway. It is noteworthy, that repeal of the AFSPA is one of the key demands of the draft framework agreement to maintain peace in the region signed between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) (NSCN-IM) and the government interlocutor RN Ravi in 2015.

Now the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) that comprise seven separatist groups that are in talks with the Indian government as part of the Naga Peace Process have also dug their heels in, demanding the repeal of AFSPA. In a statement released, they said, “Indo-Naga issue is far past beyond AFSPA and the most regrettable cycles of violence over the last many decades should not be allowed to rear up its vicious head again to haunt the survivors and also to deter the posterity from stepping into the path of violence once again. Having fully reposed our confidence in the commitment of the GOI led by the charismatic and iron-willed leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to resolve Indo-Naga issue without further delay, we also make an earnest appeal to revoke AFSPA from Nagaland as precursor to peaceful, honorable and acceptable political solution.”

While the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of the December 4 incident, Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global human rights advocacy group has also demanded a repeal of the AFSPA.

Related:

Security forces gun down 13 civilians in Nagaland
Nagaland killings: Chorus grows for repeal of AFSPA
Army tried to hide bodies: Nagaland DGP’s report
Nagaland Killings: NHRC takes suo motu cognisance
So long as AFSPA protects soldiers from accountability, such atrocities will continue: HRW

Nagaland gov’t to hold special session on AFSPA

Day-long discussion to take place on December 20; demand had been raised by various groups such as students’ unions, human rights organisations and tribal bodies have been pushing for repeal of the Act

Nagaland Government
Image Courtesy:outlookindia.com

On December 20, the Nagaland Government will hold a day-long discussion on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state assembly. Several rights groups and organisations such as the Naga Students’ Federation had demanded a special session amidst a growing chorus for repeal of the Act in wake of the killing of 14 civilians by armed forces on December 4.

One week ago, on the evening of Saturday December 4, 2021, eight miners were on their way back home from work, when personnel of the 21 Para Special Force opened fire on them at a stretch of the road between Tiru and Oting villages in Mon district, just about 100 kilometers from India’s international border with Myanmar. While six died on the spot, two survivors are being treated for their injuries at the Assam Medical College and Hospital (AMCH).

But what enraged people even more was how seven more people who were members of a search party that had gone looking for the miners when they did not come back home on time, were also shot dead by security forces. A joint report by the Nagaland Director General of Police (DGP) and Commissioners says the security forces were caught in the act of “hiding the bodies” of miners in a bid to take them away to their base camp across the border to Assam by these villagers. When the villagers protested, the security forces opened fire again.

On Tuesday, one of them, a 23-year-old named Sheiwang, who sustained bullet wounds to his elbow and chest, told the Indian Express, “Direct marise,” meaning the security forces just shot at them. He also contradicted Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s claim that the security forces first asked the vehicle to stop and opened fire only when they tried to flee saying, “We were not signalled to stop. They killed us directly. We were not trying to flee…we were just in the vehicle.”

Another civilian was killed when protesters attacked an Assam Rifles camp on December 5, after bodies of the dead were not brought to the helipad at Mon for a funeral. The change of plans had not been communicated to mourners who set properties and vehicles at the camp on fire.

Thus, the total civilian death toll in the entire sordid affair stands at 14, all from the Konyak tribe, the largest Naga tribe.

The impunity of the security forces became starker, when the Army issued a stament claiming it was a case of mistaken identity, something that can only be described as a feeble excuse given how no attempt was made to verify identity of the people before the security forces opened fire.

It is the AFSPA, that is blamed for the impunity with which the army operates in the region. The AFSPA has been in effect in the North East since 1958, while Nagaland became an Indian state in 1963 and has thus remained under AFSPA for close to sixty years. AFSPA allows security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without a warrant. This power has allegedly been misused by security forces to torture locals with several allegations of gendered crimes also mode from time to time.

In the aftermath of the Oting shootings, calls for the repeal of the draconian act that has been active in the region for six decades, have only grown. In fact, two Chief Ministers – Neiphiu Rio of Nagaland and Conrad Sangma of Meghalaya – have already openly called for its repeal. Given how state governments in both these states are formed in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that is in power at the Centre, this puts a strain on the alliance and casts a shadow over the BJP’s dreams of retaining its newfound foothold in the North East.

The decision to conduct a special day-long session was taken after a meeting of the Core Committee of the Parliamentary Committee on Naga Political Issue in Kohima on Thursday. This Committee headed by Rio himself comprises 60 MLAs and two MPs.

Several prominent voices in the region have spoken up against the impunity of the Armed forces. Former Nagaland CM TR Zeliang said, “An enquiry commission headed by a retired judge should be immediately set up and stringent action taken up against the security personnel involved,” adding, “Such brutality, especially from security forces, in a civilised society where we all yearn for peace and tranquility is most unfortunate.”

Meanwhile, the Naga Hoho, Nagalands apex tribal body has submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through the Nagaland Governor demanding clarity on the Centre’s position on the Indo-Naga political conflict and repeal of the AFSPA. The Indian Express quoted excerpts from the memorandum, “This is not an isolated incident and Naga people have been repeatedly humiliated and insulted without recognizing our rights to life.” It further said, “We make this statement in the background that, there is an ongoing political negotiation and peace process between the Government of India and the Naga people which can be testified by the signing of various Agreements with the Naga Political Groups (NPGs).” The memorandum said that the Naga struggle should not be equated with “terrorism” or “secesessionism”.

“Naga Hoho strongly feels that there is peaceful atmosphere in Naga areas as of now and therefore any policy that harms the atmosphere of trust and confidence would be so dear to all stakeholders and therefore, the AFSPA must be summarily repealed from our land,” said Naga Hoho.

SabrangIndia has reported previously on the timing of the shootings, given how the incident occurred even as the Indo-Naga Peace talks were underway. It is noteworthy, that repeal of the AFSPA is one of the key demands of the draft framework agreement to maintain peace in the region signed between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) (NSCN-IM) and the government interlocutor RN Ravi in 2015.

Now the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) that comprise seven separatist groups that are in talks with the Indian government as part of the Naga Peace Process have also dug their heels in, demanding the repeal of AFSPA. In a statement released, they said, “Indo-Naga issue is far past beyond AFSPA and the most regrettable cycles of violence over the last many decades should not be allowed to rear up its vicious head again to haunt the survivors and also to deter the posterity from stepping into the path of violence once again. Having fully reposed our confidence in the commitment of the GOI led by the charismatic and iron-willed leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to resolve Indo-Naga issue without further delay, we also make an earnest appeal to revoke AFSPA from Nagaland as precursor to peaceful, honorable and acceptable political solution.”

While the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken suo motu cognizance of the December 4 incident, Human Rights Watch (HRW), a global human rights advocacy group has also demanded a repeal of the AFSPA.

Related:

Security forces gun down 13 civilians in Nagaland
Nagaland killings: Chorus grows for repeal of AFSPA
Army tried to hide bodies: Nagaland DGP’s report
Nagaland Killings: NHRC takes suo motu cognisance
So long as AFSPA protects soldiers from accountability, such atrocities will continue: HRW

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