The Centre’s decision to extend the stringent Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act by another six months has raised the hackles of prominent Naga outfits, which said the measure was “unacceptable” and taken with the intention to “suppress Nagas for generations to come”.
The Centre on Thursday declared the entire state of Nagaland a “disturbed area” for six more months with effect from December 30 under the AFSPA, while terming the situation there as “disturbed and dangerous”.
The move came days after the Union government constituted a high-level committee to examine the possibility of withdrawal of the controversial law from Nagaland.
“(The) Government of India has ignored the wishes of the Naga People…All Naga people have been pleading with the GoI and constantly pressing for repeal of the Act. Naga people don’t accept it. We will go to any extent to press the GoI to repeal the Act,” said K Elu Ndang, general secretary of Naga Hoho, an influential body of Naga tribes in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland.
He wondered why the AFSPA was extended despite peace prevailing in the state.
“As long as the Army is empowered to shoot and kill innocent people, there cannot be a peaceful environment in our land,” he said, and alleged that the armed forces and not the common people or Naga political groups were creating law and order problems in the state.
Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) president R Tsapikiu Sangtam said the outfit has called a meeting on January 7 to discuss the extension of AFSPA.
Convenor of Global Naga Forum, Chuba Ozukum, a former president of Naga Students’ Federation, said protests against the law have been like “shouting in the wilderness”.
He said the Naga political issue would not have lingered for so long had the Centre been serious about resolving it, and claimed the killing of civilians earlier this month in Oting in Mon district by security forces was aimed at “breaking the ceasefire” but it did not succeed.
“Now, their (GoI’s) intention is not to settle the political problem. They want to suppress our people for generations to come,” he alleged.
Ozukum claimed the AFSPA was extended to “undermine the rights” of the Nagas.
Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) advisor Prof Rosemary Dzuvichu lamented the extension, saying it should not have happened amid protests by civilians and the ongoing investigation into the killings in Mon district. She insisted the extension of AFSPA was avoidable. “The measure amounts to challenging the Nagas,” she said.
“We are shocked because this is an insult, especially to the grieving mothers, women and to all of us who have suffered under AFSPA for generations. We are the third generation to be reeling under the Act. It’s time for Nagas to rethink our position with regard to the GoI,” she said.
AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without a warrant. It also gives certain immunities to the forces if they shoot someone dead.
No senior state government official was immediately available for comments.
Naga civil societies and political organisations have been demanding repeal of the AFSPA in the aftermath of the killing of 14 civilians on December 4-5 by security forces.