Views & Reviews
AFSPA and Raksha Bandhan Are Incompatible
The Global Naga Forum feels duty-bound to respond to the recent public statement put out by the 44 Assam Rifles at Tamenglong, titled “Rakshabandhan: Clarifying doubts regarding viral video of Tamenglong.”
The 44 Assam Rifles gives three reasons for celebrating Raksha Bandhan with local women.
First, the ritual is “observed as a symbol of duty between brothers and sisters” where “a sister ties a rakhi on the wrist of her brother and wishes for his prosperity, health and well-being.” “The brother in turn promises her to rescue her from any harm and injustice.” The Assam Rifles soldiers “who were missing their [biological] sisters found them among locals” in Tamenglong.
Secondly, for the Assam Rifles mutual trust and friendship between “locals and security forces” is important and Raksha Bandhan celebrates this bond between Nagas and the Indian Armed Forces.
The third reason is Raksha Bandhan is a good occasion to celebrate India’s “diversity” and “Unity at the same time” because, according to the Assam Rifles, despite India’s different cultures, traditions, religions, we are “all collectively connected with each other.” After all, “India is a universe unto itself with colors, sounds, smell, taste and feels and awakens a sense of happiness and peace.”
The Assam Rifles can say these things about themselves and India’s “unity in diversity,” following the Indian all-embracing yogic vision of the universe as one, a theory honoured only in its breach in Indian realpolitik.
The view from the other side of the Assam Rifles is different. “A sense of happiness and peace” is not what Nagas get, smell, taste, feel, and awaken to at the sight and mention of the Assam Rifles and other Indian “security forces” in our homeland. The Naga homeland has been under continuous Indian military occupation for so long, since the mid-1950s, most Nagas today know of no other reality. The extra judicial law, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was passed by the Indian parliament in 1958, and was extended this year, June 2021. By every legal standard in the civilised world, a land where a military law like AFSPA has prevailed for so long is incontrovertible evidence in itself that the land and the people are under military occupation. This is so whether or not they realise their own oppression as a result of being conditioned into subjection for too long.
In Tamenglong area alone, where the 44 Assam Rifles is stationed, there are 16 army camps, 3 battalions, and 13 outposts. Why this heavy Indian military presence in a small area? Whom are they protecting, against what or whom? The Indian armed forces are there to prevent Nagas from exercising our human right of self-determination. The Assam Rifles are in Tamenglong not to protect the Naga women or rescue them from “harm and injustice” from Naga men. If the Assam Rifles soldiers are missing their biological sisters, why don’t they go home and be with them? Instead, they want to celebrate Raksha Bandhan with Naga women to establish a “bond of trust and friendship between Nagas and the Indian armed forces”?
The Global Naga Forum believes Nagas have the right to turn down the invitation, after what the Indian armed forces, including Assam Rifles personnel, have done for decades. Murdered, tortured, and raped innocent Naga women and men, and they are still here in our lands, without apology, unwelcomed. And all these violations of the Naga people’s very humanity because we want political self-determination — to live together in our own lands and figure out for ourselves how best to govern ourselves as one people with a common future? And now the Assam Rifles are demeaning our story of human rights and taking the high moral ground of India’s unity in diversity? Nagas believe in cultural diversity; we celebrate and thrive in cultural practices — ours and other people’s. We don’t need to be preached to about India’s cultural diversity by India and the Assam Rifles. We believe in cultural exchange. We are not opposed to Raksha Bandhan as such. We oppose the Assam Rifles’ hypocrisy. Naga women are not their sisters; they are not tools for their use as substitute sisters and false political propaganda.
The GNF also reacts with great concern the visit of the BJP National Secretary Mahila Morcha and the President, Dimapur District BJP Mahila Morcha, leading their team to the 1st MGR, North Assam Rifles for tying Rakhis on Raksha Bandhan. Through this activity, they have brought shame on Naga women, victims of rape and killings by the Indian armed forces, who will never see justice as long as the Draconian law (AFSPA) remains in force in the Naga areas. These politically motivated women and their BJP party must understand that the war on Nagas of genocide and inhumane violations of human rights must see justice at the earliest.
What then is the Question at issue here? Nagas oppose the Indian government’s political oppression and denial of our basic human right to self-determination; we oppose GOI’s use of its Armed Forces to repress the Naga movement for our indigenous right to be a people; we oppose the militarisation and occupation of our homeland. We want the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) repealed immediately. Nagas don’t want to celebrate Indo-Naga friendship and loyalty with the ritual of Raksha Bandhan.
India can tell its versions of the 75 years old Indo-Naga story as it wants to the rest of the world, but the blood and tears perpetrated in the Naga homeland by AFSPA since 1958 cannot be washed away by the Indian Army and a few Nagas celebrating Raksha Bandhan.
AFSPA and Raksha Bandhan are incompatible.
Global Naga Forum