Nagaland cabinet calls off Hornbill Festival, seeks repeal of AFSPA

KOHIMA, 7 Dec: The situation in Nagaland, where protests and rioting broke out after firing by security forces claimed 14 civilian lives, remained tense but calm on Tuesday as the state cabinet met and decided to write to the Centre, demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA.

The cabinet, which met in an emergency sitting under the leadership of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Tuesday, also called off the ongoing Hornbill Festival in protest against the killing, state ministers said.

The 10-day Hornbill Festival, the state’s largest tourism extravaganza held at Naga Heritage Village in Kisama near the state capital, was scheduled to end on 10 December.

During the meeting, the cabinet was briefed about the action taken following the killing, including setting up of a special investigation team (SIT) headed by an IGP rank officer and grant of ex gratia to the next of kin of the deceased by the state and the central governments, ministers Neiba Kronu and Temjen Imna Along later told reporters.

The cabinet has directed the SIT to complete the investigation within a month, they said.

Kronu said that altogether 14 civilians died in the incident, while two seriously injured are undergoing treatment in neighbouring Assam, and six are being treated in Dimapur.

The firing incidents took place in Oting-Tiru area on 4 December and Mon town on 5 December.

“All activities of Hornbill Festival 2021 should cease in view of mourning announced for the deceased in the firing incidents in Mon district,” Kronu said.

Officials said that the situation in the state, where people had taken to the streets in protest against the firing, was “tense but calm.”

Rio, while attending the funeral of the 14 civilians in Mon town on Monday had joined a growing chorus of demands seeking the repeal of the AFSPA that gives special powers to security forces in ‘disturbed areas’.

A report submitted to the state government on Sunday claimed that the army made no attempt to ascertain the identity of the civilians returning from work on a pickup truck before shooting them in Nagaland’s Mon district last Saturday.

Critics have maintained that the controversial law gives the armed forces to act with impunity, leading to human rights violations.

The joint report by the state’s DGP T John Longkumer and Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor quoted eyewitnesses, who said the army’s special forces tried to “hide” the bodies of six people by wrapping and loading them on a pickup van with the intention of taking them to their base camp. (PTI)