Naga body denounces extension of AFSPA

KOHIMA, 2 Jan: An organization that works for the rights of the Naga people globally has denounced the extension of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA in Nagaland, days after the killing of 14 civilians by security forces.

The demand for withdrawing the AFSPA was raised by several quarters following the killing of 14 civilians by army para-commandos in Oting area of Mon district of the northeastern state in a botched up operation and its aftermath on 4 and 5 December.

The leaders of state governments in the region, including Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur, have appealed for the removal of the AFSPA.

The people and civil society bodies of the region have long wanted the AFSPA repealed, the Global Naga Forum (GNF) said in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Centre has constituted a high-level committee to examine the possibility of the withdrawal of the controversial Act from the state. However, on 30 December, the government declared the entire Nagaland as a ‘disturbed area’ for six more months under the AFSPA while terming the state’s condition “disturbed and dangerous.”

Family members of those who were killed are still in mourning but the “government has taken no moral responsibility for the murders, nor tried to remove the cause of the murders, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958),” GNF co-convener Prof Rosemary Dzuvichu and secretary Prof Paul Pimomo said in the letter.

The AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant. It also gives immunity to the forces if they shoot someone dead.

Modi will be seen as the prime minister who extended the AFSPA, after the Oting killings, as a “new year gift to the people of Nagaland,” the GNF letter stated.

“We still believe that, as long as there’s life, there’s hope for changing course for the better in the life of individuals and for nations,” the letter read.

Fourteen civilians in Nagaland’s Mon district were killed in three consecutive episodes of firing by security forces, the first of which has been claimed to be a case of mistaken identity.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah had told the Lok Sabha that the army had received information on the movement of insurgents in Mon and the 21 Para Commando unit had laid an ambush. A vehicle was signalled to stop but it tried to speed away. Suspecting the presence of insurgents in the vehicle, the security personnel opened fire, leading to the death of six of its eight occupants, Shah said.

Regretting the death of the civilians, he had said that the security forces fired in self-defence.

Eight others, including an army man, were killed in subsequent clashes between the force and villagers.

Several political parties have contested the government version that the vehicle was asked to stop. (PTI)