AFSPA puts Modi, Nehru on same page in Naga hills of poll-bound Manipur

Law is focal point of rally by NPF held in Manipur

February 16, 2022 11:26 pm | Updated 11:29 pm IST - GUWAHATI

The NPF is contesting from 10 of Manipur’s 60 Assembly seats where Nagas are a deciding factor. File

The NPF is contesting from 10 of Manipur’s 60 Assembly seats where Nagas are a deciding factor. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu


The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has put Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on the same page in the Naga-inhabited hills of poll-bound Manipur.

The repeal of the AFSPA, said to give the armed forces personnel the license to kill, has been a major poll issue in the Naga areas of Manipur. As expected, the controversial law was the focus of a rally to launch the campaign of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) in Manipur’s Senapati on Wednesday.

The NPF is contesting from 10 of Manipur’s 60 Assembly seats where Nagas are a deciding factor.

A burning issue

The party’s candidates and senior leaders said they were committed to ensuring the withdrawal of the AFSPA from Manipur. Some said the law underscored the similarities of the BJP and Congress.

The NPF is an ally of the BJP in Manipur, but did not go for a pre-poll pact.

“The AFSPA was introduced in 1958 when Nehru was the Prime Minister. The law was made to crush the Naga people. When Modi took over as Prime Minister in 2014, he promised to settle the Naga political issue in 18 months,” Nagaland-based NPF working president Huskha Yepthomi said.

The Naga political issue pertains to the peace process between New Delhi and the Naga extremist groups, primarily the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland. The peace process has been hanging fire for 25 years now.

“But nothing has been done in the eight years of his reign. He is a big liar,” Mr. Yepthomi said, slamming the Prime Minister for meeting the Pope at the Vatican but maintaining silence over the vandalism of churches and attacks on Christians across India.

‘AFSPA may remain’

Campaigning for the NPF, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said the AFSPA may remain if the Naga political issue was not resolved. “But it is up to the Naga people to make sacrifices and ensure law and order prevails,” he said.

He said the Nagaland government has been pushing for the repeal of AFSPA since the armed forces personnel gunned down 14 civilians in Mon district’s Oting on December 4-5, 2021.

“We want the AFSPA to be removed except [along] the international border and problematic interstate borders. We can achieve this, but if insurgency continues the AFSPA may remain,” Mr. Rio said.

Mr. Rio is a senior leader of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), which was a rival of the NPF until it joined his Nagaland government in 2021. The BJP is a minor partner in his United Democratic Alliance government.

“I am grateful to NPF for inviting me to launch its election campaign. Both NDPP and NPF are allies of the BJP and members of the National Democratic Alliance, but there should be no restriction to come and campaign for the NPF in Manipur,” he said.

The NPF, born in Nagaland, has been contesting polls in Manipur since 2011 to “protect the identity, culture, tradition and religion” of the Nagas. The party had won four seats in the 2017 polls.

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