Nagaland Army Op Deaths: Always Opposed AFSPA, Should Be Repealed

Neiphiu Rio is the Chief Minister of Nagaland (File)


Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has slammed the central government over the continued imposition of the hugely controversial AFSPA – Armed Forces Special Powers Act – in the state.

Mr Rio told reporters today he had a detailed discussion with Home Minister Amit Shah on this subject, and underlined his state’s long-standing opposition to AFSPA.

“Nagaland and the Naga people have always opposed AFSPA. It should be repealed,” Mr Rio said amid fury over the killing of eight civilians during a botched Army op in the state’s Mon district over the weekend. Six more civilians, and an Army soldier, died in retaliatory violence.

“This draconian law needs to go… there are laws to take care of the situation… but this law is hitting the image of our country,” the Chief Minister said.

Mr Rio also said the centre had announced Rs 11 lakh compensation for the families of those killed and Rs 1 lakh for those who had been injured.

Earlier Mr Rio told reporters the deaths of the 14 villagers from Oting village in the district was a “black day for entire Nagaland”. “No one will forget this day… this is a big sacrifice,” he said.

“Our brothers have been killed by security forces. We are here to show solidarity. In the world there is a rule that good days are there and also bad days. These civilians were innocent… they were not guilty, but they had to die. The world will not forget this,” Mr Rio said.

The Nagaland Chief Minister then mounted a searing attack on AFSPA, demanding to know why it was being extended when all armed groups in the state were part of ongoing peace talks.

“Every year the centre extends AFSPA in Nagaland saying it is a ‘disturbed area’… but all the armed groups are in ceasefire and part of peace talks. So why extend it?” he demanded to know.

“AFSPA was imposed for insurgency… but where is the insurgency now?” the Chief Minister asked.

“AFSPA gives immunity to them (the armed forces) … this law is being debated even in international forums. We are the biggest democracy, and a lot of people are demanding it be removed,” he said.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, has been in force in Nagaland and parts of the northeast for several decades. Under this legislation, security forces can conduct operations anywhere in the state where the law is in effect and arrest anyone without any prior warrant.

In June the Home Ministry declared the whole of Nagaland a “disturbed area” for a further six months, which allows the centre to extend AFSPA for that period.

AFSPA remained even after a framework agreement in August 2015 by NSCN-IM General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and then-government interlocutor RN Ravi in the presence of PM Modi.

Mr Rio wasn’t the only chief minister of a northeastern state to attack AFSPA. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma posted a one-line tweet: “AFSPA should be repealed.”

This morning opposition MPs urged the government not to invoke this law to protect those guilty. Home Minister Amit Shah made a brief statement in the Lok Sabha.

14 villagers and a soldier died in Nagaland’s Mon district over the weekend after an Army op went horribly wrong. A police FIR has said the Army’s 21 Para Special Forces “blankly opened fire”.

The Army has expressed deep regret for the “unfortunate loss of lives” and said the matter would be investigated at the “highest level”. Today the Army said the violence began after a member of the elite 21 Para Special Forces believed there was a hunting rifle in the truck carrying the civilians.

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