Two days after a botched ambush by para commandos in Nagaland’s Mon district , Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has called for scrapping the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act .
He reminded the Centre of the criticism India has earned globally for the “ draconian Act ” after laying a wreath on the mortal remains of 14 civilians in district headquarters Mon on Monday.
The coffins were later transported to the respective villages of the deceased, including Oting near where six coal miners were killed in the “ambush” and the rest in the violent aftermath. One soldier was also killed in the violence.
The funeral was conducted amid a six-hour shutdown across the Naga-inhabited areas, called by the Naga Students’ Federation to protest the killings.
“Human rights bodies in India and beyond are debating the contentious AFSPA that gives unbridled powers to the security forces. They can visit your house, conduct frisking and arrest people without a warrant. While doing this, if they kill someone, there won’t be any case. That is AFSPA,” Mr Rio said.
He reminded the Centre about the global criticism India has earned for continuing with the Act despite being the largest democracy.
“They (world) are demanding its repeal. As you demand, I also say that this has to go,” the Chief Minister told the gathering of hundreds of people at the Mon helipad.
He criticised the Centre for extending the “disturbed area” tag on Nagaland every year to prolong the AFSPA despite a ceasefire agreement for almost 25 years.
“How is Nagaland a disturbed State? All groups are in a ceasefire. There is peace. Even if the State government writes to Centre stating Nagaland is no longer a disturbed State, Delhi extends the period of disturbed area tag,” Mr. Rio said.
His Meghalaya counterpart Conrad K. Sangma also demanded the repeal of the AFSPA as did Raijor Dal president and MLA Akhil Gogoi and the Asom Jatiya Parishad.
Mr Rio said the Centre and the State government have announced a total ex-gratia of ₹16 lakh for each of the deceased and ₹1.5 lakh for each injured. The cash compensation assuaged tempers to an extent but the Konyaks, the dominant Naga community in Mon, have decided to continue protesting.
Wangno Konyak, the secretary of Konyak Union, said Mon will shut down on Tuesday to protest the killings and the district will observe seven days of mourning. “There may not be any shutdown beyond Tuesday,” he told The Hindu .
The rest of Nagaland continued to simmer. Locals in State capital Kohima obstructed the vehicles of senior officers of the paramilitary Assam Rifles, asking them to get out of Nagaland. Officials, however, said the protests were limited to slogan-shouting and blocking the roads to prevent vehicles of the armed forces from moving.
The Nagaland government, in view of Saturday’s incident, suspended all cultural performances of the popular Hornbill Festival on Monday as a mark of respect to the slain civilians. The 10-day festival had begun at Kisama Heritage Village near Kohima on December 1, the day when Nagaland became a State in 1963.