| A soldier fires teargas shells in the air to disperse a mob in Imphal on Friday. Picture by Eastern Projections
Kohima/Dimapur, July 16: Roads were deserted and normal life was paralysed in almost every part of Nagaland and Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur as the 24-hour bandh took effect from 6 this morning.
The Naga Students Federation (NSF) called the bandh in protest against imposition of tough anti-terror laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Area Act by the Centre to tackle growing insurgency and terrorism in the Northeast.
Last evening, the fate of the bandh hung in the balance after the Tuensang and Mon Students Federation wanted it postponed saying they were not consulted. However, NSF sources said the matter was resolved last night and the students from the two districts also joined the strike.
The Tuensang deputy commissioner also confirmed that the bandh was being observed in the district.
On the advice of the NSF, the residents chose to remain indoors except for emergency services.
Nagaland’s largest commercial town Dimapur wore a deserted look right from early morning and all movement on the otherwise busy National Highway 39 came to a standstill.
Several NSF volunteers were seen blocking key access routes with garden chairs and stopping vehicles to check the identity of the occupants. Even movement of security vehicles was thinner than usual.
Reports of minor incidents trickled in from various parts of Dimapur but sources said there were no untoward incidents. In view of the bandh, all flights to and from Dimapur were cancelled.
NSF president Achumbemo Kikon said the bandh would be imposed throughout the state. He has advised “the general public to co-operate with the federation and not to come out in the open but to confine themselves in their houses for 24 hours, unless for some emergency cases.”
The NSF president, iterating that the Naga integration is a common issue, which has even been accepted through resolutions in the Assembly three times by different governments, expressed the hope that even the government would understand and co-operate with the bandh.
Maintaining that everybody supports the bandh, Kikon said the duration of the bandh was cut down from 48 hours to 24 after consultation with the Naga Hoho and the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC).
Speaking about the aim of the bandh, Kikon said, “We are demanding the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas under one umbrella for unification of the Nagas; simultaneously, we are demanding revocation of draconian laws such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 and the Disturbed Area Act.”
The NSF leader said the draconian Special Powers Act violates the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of the citizens. “This act is to crush and suppress by military might what the Indian government describes as ‘insurgencies’ and ‘militancy’ in these areas”.
“Integration of Naga-inhabited areas is an issue of the Nagas. However, the revocation of the 1958 law is an issue for all peace-loving people, as it threatens the lives and properties of the ordinary citizens and that is why we have been demanding its immediate repeal,” Kikon said, urging support from all sections of society.
In Mon, the bandh was partial as a day earlier the Tuensang Mon Students Federation had urged the NSF to defer the protest for the two districts as there was not enough time to organise the strike. Later, they decided to go ahead with the bandh.
The Naga Hoho, the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights and the Naga Mothers Association extended support to the bandh.