Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his Meghalayan counterpart Conrad Sangma on Monday demanded that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, be repealed.
Their statements came after 14 civilians were killed in Nagaland’s Mon district in separate incidents of firing by the security forces on Saturday and Sunday. A first information report filed by the Nagaland Police alleged that the Army’s 21 Para Special Force “blankly opened fire” with the “intention to murder and injure civilians”.
The AFSPA gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest, to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”, and to do so with a degree of immunity from prosecution.
The Act is currently in force in Nagaland, but it was lifted from Meghalaya in April 2018. It is also in effect in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and parts of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, according to The Indian Express.
“Nagaland and the Naga people have always opposed AFSPA,” Rio said in a tweet. “It should be repealed.”
The Nagaland chief minister also pressed for the repeal of AFSPA at the funeral service for the civilians killed in the state, PTI reported. He said that the law allows the security forces to raid homes and kill people.
On the same lines, Sangma tweeted: “AFSPA should be repealed.”
Rio told reporters that he has urged the Centre to withdraw AFSPA from Nagaland. He described AFSPA as a “black spot” on the image of the country, reported The Indian Express.
Both Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party and Sangma’s National People’s Party are allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Meanwhile, the Naga Students’ Federation announced a five-day mourning period for the deceased persons, PTI reported.
Fourteen civilians killed in Nagaland
On Saturday evening, the security forces mistakenly opened fire at a pick-up van carrying coal miners from the Tiru area to their village Oting in Mon district, killing six on board. They mistook the group of workers for insurgents.
After the ambush, local residents set vehicles of the security forces on fire. As the soldiers fled, they shot dead more civilians, alleged Nyawang Konyak, the president of the Mon district unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In the ensuing chaos, seven more civilians and one soldier died.
The violence spilled over into Sunday afternoon after locals entered a camp of the Assam Rifles to protest against Saturday’s killing. At least one more person was killed after security forces fired back at protestors.
Twenty-people have been injured, according to PTI. Six of them are reportedly in a critical condition.
Officials said of the 28 injured, the condition of six is stated to be critical and they are undergoing treatment at hospital, officials said.
Naga groups and politicians have condemned the killings.
The National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah faction) – the biggest Naga armed group involved in peace talks with the government – described the security forces as “trigger happy”, adding that this was not the first time they had acted with impunity under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which the group said is used against the Naga political movement.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Nagaland unit chief pointed Temjen Imna Along, in a statement, had pointed out that unarmed civilians were killed in the incident.
“It is therefore tantamount to war crimes during peace time and amounts to summary execution as well as genocide,” he said. “This cannot be tolerated by anyone at any cost and simply putting the blame on intelligence failure is the lamest excuse.”
The Nagaland government has formed a special investigation team to investigate the killings.