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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 23 July 2024

Nagaland: Central govt extends AFSPA for another six months

The decision came in the middle of a clamour to withdraw the contentious law in the aftermath of a botched army operation that led to the killing of 14 civilians

Umanand Jaiswal, Imran Ahmed Siddiqui Guwahati, New Delhi Published 31.12.21, 03:29 AM
The AFSPA gives the armed forces unfettered powers to search, arrest and shoot in areas designated as disturbed.

The AFSPA gives the armed forces unfettered powers to search, arrest and shoot in areas designated as disturbed. File photo

The Union home ministry on Thursday extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act for another six months in Nagaland by declaring the entire state a “disturbed area”.

The decision came in the middle of a clamour to withdraw the contentious law in the aftermath of a botched army operation that led to the killing of 14 civilians.

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In a bid to soothe the rising tensions in Nagaland, the Centre had set up a seven-member committee to examine the possibility of lifting the AFSPA from the northeastern state. “The high-level committee will submit a report in three months and that’s why the extension was done till the time the report is submitted,” a source in the Union home ministry said.

The AFSPA gives the armed forces unfettered powers to search, arrest and shoot in areas designated as disturbed.

The Nagaland government, which had passed a resolution in the Assembly seeking repeal of the AFSPA, is yet to officially react to the development. The National People’s Front (NPF), a constituent of the state government, assailed the Narendra Modi government’s “utter disregard” for “the voices of smaller states, particularly in” the Northeast.

The influential Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) called the decision an “insult to Nagas at this time of grief” caused by the messed-up Oting operation by the army.

In a notification issued on Thursday, the Union home ministry said: “The Central government is of the opinion that the area comprising the whole of the State of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.”

It added that in exercise of powers conferred under Section 3 of the AFSPA, “the Central government hereby declares that whole of the State of Nagaland to be ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months with effect from December 30, 2021 for the purpose of the said Act”.

Other than the Nagaland government, civil society organisations and tribal and students’ groups have sought repeal of the AFSPA following the massacre in Oting, Mon district, on December 4-5 in the botched encounter and its aftermath.

The continuance of the AFSPA was announced a day before the expiry of the earlier extension in June, made through a notification issued by the Union home ministry.

Nagaland officials told this newspaper that the state government had sent its inputs to the Centre in November-end opposing any extension of the AFSPA. They said the state government had been opposing the extension for “many years now” on the ground that the law-and-order situation was “good”.

The officials said the Nagaland government, led by BJP ally Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDDP), had sought repeal of the “draconian” law soon after the Oting carnage.

The Nagaland Assembly, which is without an Opposition, had adopted a unanimous resolution on December 20 seeking withdrawal of the AFSPA, specifically from the state, to strengthen the efforts to find a peaceful political solution to the decades-old Naga insurgency.

In a statement to The Telegraph, the NSF said the Union home ministry notification claiming that the whole of Nagaland was “disturbed” and extending the “draconian” AFSPA was an “insult to Nagas at this time of grief” caused by the “botched” Oting operation.

Rejecting the notification’s contents outright, the NSF said the state government should also do so based on the resolution adopted at the special Assembly session. The outfit iterated its stand that the “Naga people should altogether sever ties” with the Indian armed forces.

“The Federation shall come all out against the notification through a series of democratic agitations, the nature of which will be decided in the emergency presidential council meeting of the Federation,” the statement by NSF president Kegwayhun Tep and general secretary Siipuni Ng Philo said.

The NPF said it was “aghast and affronted” to learn about the AFSPA extension, which had added “further salt to injury” coming as it did in the “immediate aftermath” of a December 23 meeting with Union home minister Amit Shah in Delhi where the decision was taken to form a committee to look into the possibility of the withdrawal of the AFSPA.

It said the party was “committed” to the removal of the AFSPA from all Naga-inhabited areas through democratic means and would not “stay idle” till the Centre “reconsiders” its decision.

The AFSPA has been in force in the Northeast since 1958 to check insurgency in the Naga Hills when it was part of undivided Assam. It has never been lifted from Nagaland, which attained statehood in 1963.

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