The controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, has been extended in Nagaland for six months, PTI reported on Thursday. The state is in a “disturbed, dangerous condition” and thus, the use of armed forces to help the civil power is essential, a government notification read.
The AFSPA gives Army personnel sweeping powers to search, arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”. Several members of civil society and tribal bodies have been demanding the repeal of the Act after 14 civilians were killed by members of security forces in Nagaland’s Mon district on December 4.
In a first information report, the Nagaland Police had said that the Army’s 21 Para Special Force had fired with “intention to murder and injure” the civilians.
On December 20, Nagaland Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution urging the Centre to withdraw AFSPA from the North East region, especially from Nagaland. The resolution was passed condemning the killing of 14 civilians.
The government, on Sunday, had announced the formation of a panel to discuss the repeal of AFSPA from the state, following a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah.
During this meeting, it was also decided that a Court of Inquiry will initiate disciplinary proceedings against the Army unit and personnel who are directly involved in the killings. Besides, the state will offer government jobs to the next of kin of the deceased.
An unidentified officer on Wednesday said that a Court of Inquiry team, with help from witnesses, attempted to understand the sequence of events that took place on December 4. The Army has also requested residents to cooperate and share information about the assault.
On December 4, the Army’s 21 Para Special Force had opened fire at a pick-up van carrying coal miners from Tiru to Oting in Nagaland’s Mon district, killing six on board. They had apparently mistaken the group of workers for insurgents.
Angered by the killings, a crowd of protestors then set fire to the vehicles belonging to the Army. They opened fire again, killing seven more civilians.
The violence spilled over into December 5 after locals entered a camp of the Assam Rifles in the district headquarters of Mon. At least one more person was killed after security forces fired back at protestors.