The Nagaland government on Monday decided to write to the Centre demanding that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, be repealed from the state, PTI reported.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Nagaland Cabinet, held to discuss the situation after 14 civilians were killed in the state’s Mon district in separate incidents of firing by the security forces on Saturday and Sunday.
The AFSPA gives the military sweeping powers to search, arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”. The Army personnel can do so with a degree of immunity from prosecution.
On Monday, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his Meghalayan counterpart Conrad Sangma had called for scrapping of the law. Both Rio and Sangma’s parties are allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Opposition parties had also raised the demand in Parliament.
“The AFSPA is not a subject matter of the state,” Nagaland Tribal Affairs Minister Temjen Imna Along said at a press briefing after the meeting on Tuesday. “The job of the state government...looking at the situation what has happened is to appeal before the government of India to remove AFSPA from the state of Nagaland.”
The chief of the Nagaland unit of the BJP, Temjen Imna Along, told reporters that the decision of making an appeal to the Centre to repeal the AFSPA was taken “irrespective of party lines”.
“It is up to the central government to understand the feelings of the people of the state today,” Along said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the state Cabinet also decided to call off the ongoing Hornbill Festival, PTI reported. The annual 10-day festival is a tourist attraction and held at the Naga Heritage Village of Kisama near the state capital Kohima. It was scheduled to end on December 10.
Meanwhile, Nagaland Minister for Planning and Coordination Neiba Kronu, who was also present at the press briefing, said that the state government supports the demands raised by the Konyak Union and will look into them.
The Konyak Union, which represents the Konyak Naga tribe – to which most of the deceased civilians belonged – has requested that an independent inquiry committee be set up to investigate the killings. The tribal body has also demanded that two members of the Special Investigation Team, which was constituted on Sunday, should be from Naga civil society organisations.
In a memorandum submitted to the state government, the Konyak Union has demanded that the all the soldiers involved in the killings be punished and the details of the actions taken against them be made public within 30 days.
NHRC sends notice to Centre, Nagaland
The National Human Rights Commission on Tuesday said that it has taken suo motu cognisance of the Nagaland killings and has issued notices on the matter to the Centre and the state government.
The human rights body has asked the Union defence secretary, Union home secretary, Nagaland’s chief secretary and the state director general of police to submit a detailed report within six weeks.
“The commission has also observed that it is incumbent upon the security forces ensuring proper precaution with a humane approach even if it involved the militants,” the NHRC said in a statement.
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 Nagaland’s Mon district, killing six on board. They mistook the group of workers for insurgents.
After the ambush, 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 killings. At least one more person was killed after security forces fired back at protestors.
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”.