Nagaland firing victims laid to rest; CM joins demand for repeal of AFSPA

KOHIMA/SHILLONG/NEW DELHI, 6 Dec: Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Monday joined the growing chorus of demands seeking repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA at a poignant funeral service for the 14 civilians killed in firing by security forces.

Rio, speaking at the funeral held at the Mon headquarters helipad ground, said that AFSPA give powers to the army to arrest civilians without any arrest warrant, raid houses and also kill people but there is no action against the security forces.

“They have created a law and order situation,” said Rio.

Earlier in the day, demands for revocation of the AFSPA had been made by Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma.

Civil society groups, rights activists and political leaders of the Northeast region have been demanding the withdrawal of the “draconian” law for years, alleging excesses by security forces with impunity under the cover of the Act.

“AFSPA should be repealed,” tweeted Sangma, whose NPP is an ally of the BJP. The state Congress also supported the chief minister, urging him to convene a meeting for consultation over the issue.

The AFSPA is in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (excluding Imphal Municipal Council area), Arunachal Pradesh’ Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts and areas falling within the jurisdictions of eight police stations at the Assam boundary.

The Nagaland Police on Monday also lodged a murder case against the 21st Para Special Force of the army for its alleged involvement in firing on the civilians, even as several tribal bodies enforced shutdowns in protest against the action of the security forces.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC have been clamped in Mon town, but the situation is tense, officials said.

Meanwhile, confusion prevailed on Monday over the death toll in firing by security forces on civilians in Nagaland’s Mon district.

The Konyak Union, the apex tribal body in the district, had initially claimed that 17 civilians were killed in the firing, but later revised the toll to 14. The police, however, have maintained that 14 civilians were killed in separate incidents of firing on Saturday and Sunday.

The Nagaland Police filed a suo moto FIR against the 21st Para Special Force of the army.

A case was registered under Sections 302/307/34 of the IPC, relating to murder, attempt to murder and criminal act committed by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all.

In the complaint, Tizit police station in the district said, “On 4 December, at around 1530 hours, coal mine labourers were returning to their native village Oting from Tiru in a vehicle. On reaching Longkhao between Upper Tiru and Oting, security forces blankly fired at the vehicle without provocation, resulting in the killing of many villagers and seriously injuring many others.”

It also noted that, at the time of the incident, there was no police guide nor did security forces make requisition for guides.

“Hence, it is obvious that the intention of security forces is to murder and injure civilians,” the FIR alleged, urging authorities to take necessary action against the culprits.

In a sudden move, tribal bodies, civil societies and student bodies on Monday morning imposed shutdowns of different durations ranging from six to 12 hours across the state.

The influential Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) has announced five days of mourning, while also asking tribals not to participate in any celebration during the period.

Officials said that, of the 28 injured, the condition of six is stated to be critical and they are undergoing treatment at a hospital.

Army jawan Gautam Lal, who was killed in the rioting that followed the firing on civilians, was from Uttarakhand’s Tehri district.

“We have received information about Lal being martyred in Nagaland,” Kirtinagar Sub-District Magistrate Sonia Pant said.

A resident of Nauli village in Tehri, Gautam Lal was serving as a paratrooper in the 21 battalion of the Parachute Regiment.

The youngest of five brothers, he had joined the army in 2018. (PTI)