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Nagaland: Walkathon organised against AFSPA

Event was first mooted on social media
The walkathon participants with a banner in Dimapur on Monday

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati   |   Published 11.01.22, 01:08 AM

A two-day walkathon got under way in Nagaland on Monday, seeking the withdrawal of the contentious Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 and justice for the victims of the Oting massacre that took place last month.

The 74km march from Dimapur to Kohima, which started at 6.30am and would conclude on Tuesday afternoon with the submission of a memorandum to the state governor, is the latest in a series of protests triggered by the death of 14 civilians in a botched counter-insurgency operation at Oting in Mon district and its aftermath in early December.

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There has been a widespread demand for the removal of AFSPA that gives sweeping powers to security personnel to search, arrest and shoot in areas designated as disturbed under the Act, which was initially imposed to check Naga insurgency. 

Naga Mothers’ Association adviser Professor Rosemary Dzuvichu and social activist Kevitho Kera told The Telegraph that the public march involved people from all walks of life and organisations with the objective of getting the AFSPA removed and justice for the Oting victims.  

The participants were hosted by the local residents and organisations of Medziphema and Piphema for lunch and night stay, respectively, reflecting the involvement of the Naga people in the march as a whole. 

The AFSPA has never been lifted from Nagaland even though peace talks with rebel groups started in 1997. The Act is currently also imposed in Assam, Manipur (barring Imphal municipal areas) and three districts and eight police stations of Arunachal Pradesh.  

Rosemary tweeted: “People’s March against Armed Forced Special Powers Act... Nagaland on the move, from Dimapur to Piphema today. Tomorrow, Piphema to Raj Bhavan Kohima registering demand for repeal of AFSPA and justice for victims of army atrocities, Oting massacre and others.”

Though a little over 200 people took part because of Covid restrictions, people were seen lining up the route at several places to express their solidarity with the cause of the marchers who had lunch at Medziphema, about 34km from Dimapur, and halted for the night at Piphema, about 16km from Kohima.

The walkathon was first mooted on social media, sources said.

Kera said: “It is a peaceful march. We have two demands — AFSPA has to go from Nagaland and justice and adequate compensation for the victims of the Oting massacre. We want those involved in the Oting massacre in a civil court. People have come out spontaneously to be part of this march. Everyone is part of the march and everyone is supporting this march.”

Marching in a single file, the participants were seen carrying placards that read, “Is Nagaland still under Colonial rule, Repeal this Colonial Act- AFSPA” and “Justice by any and all means necessary”. The Act has its origins in the colonial era.  

There march is seen as a message to the Centre which had extended the “draconian law” for six more months in December amid widespread demand for its repeal from the state.  The peaceful march is good way to mobilise the masses to sustain the protest, sources said.  

The Opposition-less Nagaland Assembly had also unanimously sought its withdrawal last month with the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), which heads the Nagaland government of which the BJP is a constituent, urging the Centre to “revoke and reconsider” the MHA notification extending the “unpopular” law, “especially” when there is a “mass movement” against the contentious law.

Leading organisations such as the Naga Hoho, Naga Mothers’ Association, Konyak Union, Naga Students’ Federation have also hit out at the extension. The Nagaland government had also constituted an SIT to probe the botched operation carried out by the 21 Para SF personnel. 

The Union home ministry had in December extended the AFSPA by declaring the entire state a “disturbed area” after setting up a high-powered committee on December 26 to consider the repeal of the Act and removal of the disturbed area tag. The committee has been asked to submit its report within three months.

The AFSPA has never been lifted from Nagaland even though peace talks with rebel groups started in 1997. The Act is currently also imposed in Assam, Manipur (barring Imphal municipal areas) and three districts and eight police stations of Arunachal Pradesh.  

Rosemary tweeted: “People’s March against Armed Forced Special Powers Act... Nagaland on the move, from Dimapur to Piphema today. Tomorrow, Piphema to Raj Bhavan Kohima registering demand for repeal of AFSPA and justice for victims of army atrocities, Oting massacre and others.”

Though a little over 200 people took part because of Covid restrictions, people were seen lining up the route at several places to express their solidarity with the cause of the marchers who had lunch at Medziphema, about 34km from Dimapur, and halted for the night at Piphema, about 16km from Kohima.

The walkathon was first mooted on social media, sources said.

Kera said: “It is a peaceful march. We have two demands — AFSPA has to go from Nagaland and justice and adequate compensation for the victims of the Oting massacre. We want those involved in the Oting massacre in a civil court. People have come out spontaneously to be part of this march. Everyone is part of the march and everyone is supporting this march.”

Marching in a single file, the participants were seen carrying placards that read, “Is Nagaland still under Colonial rule, Repeal this Colonial Act- AFSPA” and “Justice by any and all means necessary”. The Act has its origins in the colonial era.  

There march is seen as a message to the Centre which had extended the “draconian law” for six more months in December amid widespread demand for its repeal from the state.  The peaceful march is good way to mobilise the masses to sustain the protest, sources said.  

The Opposition-less Nagaland Assembly had also unanimously sought its withdrawal last month with the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), which heads the Nagaland government of which the BJP is a constituent, urging the Centre to “revoke and reconsider” the MHA notification extending the “unpopular” law, “especially” when there is a “mass movement” against the contentious law.

Leading organisations such as the Naga Hoho, Naga Mothers’ Association, Konyak Union, Naga Students’ Federation have also hit out at the extension. The Nagaland government had also constituted an SIT to probe the botched operation carried out by the 21 Para SF personnel. 

The Union home ministry had in December extended the AFSPA by declaring the entire state a “disturbed area” after setting up a high-powered committee on December 26 to consider the repeal of the Act and removal of the disturbed area tag. The committee has been asked to submit its report within three months.



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