Hundreds of Nagas from different walks of life on Monday joined the two-day walkathon from Nagaland’s commercial hub Dimapur to state capital Kohima, a distance of more than 70 km, demanding the repeal of AFSPA, and justice for the 14 civilians who were killed by security forces in Mon district.
The walkathon, which stemmed out of social media posts following the Mon killings, has gained the support of various tribal bodies and civil society organisations in the state.
It began at the Super Market area of Dimapur with volunteers and participants holding placards, demanding the repeal of the “draconian” Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and justice for the victims.
Rukewezo Wetsah, one of the coordinators of the walkathon, said it was a peaceful, silent and democratic measure to convey the resentment of the people over AFSPA, and reassert “our dignity as human beings”.
“Not paying heed to the demand of the people in the aftermath of the Mon incident, the Centre on December 30 extended AFSPA for six more months,” he lamented.
“The public has come together to express their displeasure against the Centre’s decision,” he said.
Fourteen people were killed by security forces in a botched anti-insurgency operation in Mon district over December 4 and 5, leading to nationwide outrage and renewing the demand for repeal of AFSPA.
Maintaining that the state government and its police force are more than capable to handle the law and order situation, Wetsah said Nagas don’t need the colonial-era law — AFSPA.
The participants also observed a minute’s silence in honour of the victims of the Mon incident. Member of Forum for Naga Reconciliation Rev Dr Ellen Konyak offered prayers, after which the walkathon began.
As the march crosses villages and towns on its way to Kohima, more people are expected to join, Wetsah said.
The participants would spend the night at Piphema, halfway to Kohima, before re-starting the march on Tuesday morning for the state capital. They would submit a memorandum to the Centre through Governor Jagdish Mukhi.
The Konyak Union, the apex body of the tribe to which the victims belonged, had demanded that justice be done by January 10.
It had also declared non-cooperation with the security forces till justice is delivered. It is scheduled to hold a crucial meeting on January 14 to decide the further course of action.