Nagaland Political Parties, Tribal Groups ‘Aghast’ at AFSPA Extension
Image Courtesy: AP
Nagaland political parties and tribal groups have denounced the decision to extend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976, (DAA) by another six months and declare the entire state as a “disturbed area” almost a month after 15 civilians and a soldier were killed in a botched ambush by the 21 Para (SF) and retaliatory violence.
The state’s political parties are “aghast” at the decision since it was decided at a meeting chaired by Union home minister Amit Shah on December 23 that the Centre would form a high-level committee to examine the possibility of withdrawing the draconian law.
Several political parties and organisations, including Naga People’s Front (NPF), Naga Students Federation (NSF), Naga Hoho and Rising People’s Party (RPP) denounced the Centre’s decision.
“This extension is a manifestation of the utter disregard the Central government has for the voices of small states, particularly in Northeast India, considering that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly has convened a special one-day Session on December 20 to deliberate on AFSPA and the House had unanimously resolved to demand its repeal,” the NPF, which is part of the all-party United Democratic Alliance (UDA) government in Nagaland, said in a statement issued on Thursday.
Criticising the December 23 meeting, where chief minister Neiphiu Rio, his deputy Yanthungo Patton and NPF Legislature Party leader TR Zeliang had expressed gratitude to Shah “for taking the matter with utmost seriousness”, the NPF said that “any discerning person is made to wonder if there is any modicum of coordination or even communication between the executive and legislative branches of the Central government”, The Indian Express reported.
Pledging that it would “not stay idle till the Central government reconsiders its decision”, the NPF said that it would pursue democratic means to repeal AFSPA in Nagaland.
Holding the UDA coalition—Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and NPF—responsible for the extension of AFSPA, the RPP said that the decision has shocked the mourning people of the state.
“This extension is nothing but the abject failure of the NDPP, BJP and NPF coalition to convince the government of India that post-Oting massacre, it is capable of handling the law and order situation in the state with or without AFSPA,” the RPP said in a statement.
Asking the UDA whether it even objected to the extension of DAA, the RPP also sought clarification from the state government if it has given any written assurances to the ministry of home affairs guaranteeing that it will uphold law and order in the state since it is a state subject.
The NSF termed the Centre’s decision an insult to the Nagas at this time of grief. “It is another attempt to rub more salt to the wounds caused by the botched Army operation at Oting,” NSF president Kegwayhun Tep and general secretary Siipuni Ng Phio said in a statement.
Reiterating its earlier stand that the Naga people sever all ties with the armed forces, the NSF said that their attempts to further their “selfish agenda” in the guise of humanitarian acts will not be entertained. The NSF warned that it will protest the extension of AFSPA and DAA through a series of democratic agitations.
The Naga Hoho, the state’s apex tribal body, said it is “extremely shocked” by the Centre’s attitude for “ignoring the voice of the Naga people”. Naga Hoho president HK Zhimomi said that by extending the AFSPA, the Centre has invited the wrath of the Naga people.
“It is a direct challenge and a message from the government of India to keep on crushing the inalienable rights of the Nagas. If India is truly a democratic country, then the voice of the people should have been heard. Whereas, on the contrary, the dignity and rights of the Naga people are simply not respected neither they are considered fellow human beings,” the group said in a statement.
A senior leader in the Nagaland government told The Indian Express that the reaction from legislators across the board was “explosive” and “people feel betrayed… while this is a normal exercise undertaken every six months, it comes at a time when emotions are high”. “Many feel that the operation of AFSPA should have been kept on hold till the committee submitted its report,” he added.
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