Naga plethora shouts it to India: Time to Bury AFSPA!
‘We’re no longer ignorant; today, we know what our rights are’
KOHIMA, AUGUST 11 : Led by the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), students and community leaderships on Thursday conducted a public rally to press the Government of India to immediately repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Area Act (DAA).
The protest rally was also held simultaneously in all the eleven district headquarters, initiated by the apex tribal students’ body of respective district, it was informed. Besides, similar rallies were conducted in Dimapur and in Manipur’s Chandel and Tamenglong district.
In the state capital, students and representatives from various non-governmental organizations, expected to be over 15,000, thronged Kohima local ground to extend their solidarity to the NSF in their demand for repealing AFSPA.
Leaders of Naga mass-based organizations including the Naga Hoho, the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) and the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), among others, attended the event.
Over the years, the Naga have been demanding from the Indian government immediate repeal of the AFSPA. Even on Thursday, the demand to repeal the ‘draconian law’ was ‘loud and clear’ with iteration that the Indian government must recall the armed forces from Naga-inhabited areas.
The placards read of the demand: “Enough is enough. Repeal AFSPA. Go back Indian army Nagas are peace loving people, so allow us to live in peace with dignity and honour.”
The message was amply clear at Khuochiezie as students in uniform joined the NSF in shouting slogans, that it was time that the draconian law AFSPA be not only repealed but also be ‘buried for good.’
It’s been 58 years since the imposition of AFSPA in Naga inhabited areas in 1958. Ever since its imposition, the Naga have suffered the brunt of military atrocities.
The various speakers of the event who addressed the mammoth gathering also reiterated the demand of the Naga public in protesting against the continued imposition of the black law.
In his address, the general secretary of the Naga Hoho, Mutsikhoyi Yhobu, said that the AFSPA had ‘overstayed’ and that it was time for it to go.
“As long as it (AFSPA) continue to be imposed, crimes like killing of innocent civilians, fake encounters, tortures, unwarranted detentions and harassment of innocent people will go on,” Yhobu said. He termed the AFSPA as a repressive draconian law and an obsolete law which has no place in modern societies.
While stating that the Naga civil society has time and again highlighted the atrocities committed by the armed forces on the Nagas, Yhobu, a former president of the NSF, lamented that the government of Nagaland had also maintained a stoic silence till date.
“The Judicial Inquiry Commission set up by the state government to report the facts of the Wuzu incident. But even after a lapse of more than one year, the report is yet to be tabled,” Yhobu said while he went on to say that AFSPA had been withdrawn from the State of Punjab after a 14 years (From 1983 – 1997). He added that AFSPA had also been withdrawn from Tripura.
NMA president Abeiü Meru also urged the Indian government to prove its commitment to true peace and peaceful negotiations, and further ensure the repeal of AFSPA and the withdrawal of DAA at the earliest.
“We cry for peace in our land and an early settlement of our political issues which will bring an end to violence and violations of our rights by occupational forces,” the NMA president said.
“Our Naga history has seen the deaths of thousands at the hands of the Indian army,” she said adding that the Nagas, over the years, had been indiscriminately treated by the armed forces under the pretext of AFSPA.
Meru, on behalf of the Naga mothers, also urged Chief Minister TR Zeliang and the Governor of Nagaland PB Acharya to stand up for the Naga people and recommend repeal of the AFSPA.
“The Nagas today are aware of our democratic rights, and if our voices are not heard, it may herald more disturbances among the younger generation. We need to let our children live in peace,” the NMA president said maintaining that “this is just the beginning of a movement for renewal of our demand of justice.”
The secretary general of NPMHR, Neingulo Krome, also highlighted a number of cases of arbitrary killings by the armed forces. He said that the civil society has ‘exhausted almost every means of peaceful and democratic protest.’
“On the part of the Indian government, trying on the patience of the civilian population beyond its limits, may not be the best answer. I also wonder if the GoI is aware that AFSPA is not only killing the victims, but is also taking away the very humanity of all Indian soldiers who are serving under the provisions of the Act,” Krome said.
Delivering the presidential address, NSF president Subenthung Kithan vehemently condemned AFSPA and urged the Indian government and the Indian military “to give peace a chance.”
“We don’t want atrocities and brutality anymore. Stop pointing your gun barrel to our promising and innocent students. We don’t want our sisters get raped and our brothers beheaded,” he said.
With the ongoing political negotiation and peace process between the GoI and the Naga underground groups, the NSF president asserted that any policy that harms the ‘atmosphere of trust and confidence should be summarily repealed at the earliest.’
After the rally, the leaders of the Naga frontal organizations also headed to the Raj Bhavan to submit a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi through the Governor of Nagaland.
The representation was jointly signed by the Nag frontals. It questioned the Indian government was it was continuing with the imposition of the draconian law ‘in the midst of ceasefires and the Naga peace process and ongoing negotiations.’
Terming this day, the 11th of August as a ‘black day of protest against AFSPA’, the mass-based organizations urged upon the government to repeal the AFSPA and withdraw the DAA ‘to allow the Naga to live in peace with dignity and respect, as the Naga await the early settlement of the Naga political issue.’
‘Call back all armed forces from the Naga inhabited areas, taking into consideration, the availability of thousands of our own police personnel to maintain law and order in our land,’ the three-point memo demanded.
It demanded ‘accountability and severest punitive action on those armed forces responsible for the Wuzu massacre and other war crimes and fake encounter killings of unarmed civilians, over the decades of our political history and struggle for self determination, in consonance with respective United Nations Security Council resolutions.’
Dimapur on Thursday saw a big response from the students’ community against the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). They rallied at the City Tower and the Agri Expo in Dimapur separately.
About 5, 000 students from 42 schools and colleges, according to the estimation of the Dimapur Naga Students Union (DNSU), assembled at City Tower with black badges. They demanded that the government of India repeal the AFSPA from Nagaland.
DNSU President Sungkum Aier addressed the gathering. He remarked that although the government has the right to protect its citizens and ensure measures to eliminate terrorism to protect their nationals, it does not give the country the right to take away the right to life or violate human rights guaranteed under the India constitution and international laws.
“Nagaland is considered as a stepchild and a threat lurks before our future and this is the time we share our collective ideas on this Act and build a powerful resistance movement in Nagaland” Aier said. He also questioned on why the Act was put into operation only in Jammu & Kashmir and Northeast India ‘when there were many Maoist affected areas where the act was more necessary.’
The central government is insecure and forcing Naga to live in fear psychosis society, the student leader said.
“Nagaland wants peace and early solution of Indo Naga political issues when different NPG’s has agreed to ceasefire and talks initiated. Why is the government insisting on imposing this Draconian law in Nagaland” concluded Aier.
The general secretary of Naga Women Hoho Vimenuo Liegise broke down with emotion during her address. She questioned the government why the AFSPA was being implemented when a peace process was going on. She remarked that the innocent people of Nagaland were ‘being cheated time and again.’
The editor of Tir Yimyim K Temjen Jamir also spoke during the day’s event. He suggested to the students to write a letter to the center and Nagaland’s chief minister requesting to repeal the act. The former student leader was addressing the student community at Agri Expo organized by the Diphupar Naga Students Union (DNSU).
Jamir asserted that the Nagaland government should not visit Delhi only for funds or other ‘numerous peace talks’ but seek the GOI to repeal the Act from the state.
“Nagaland is not disturbing India but rather it is India disturbing the state. AFSPA also exists in the neighboring states like Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur but in the areas inhabited by Nagas and if GoI (government of India) says Nagaland is a disturbed area, it is a big lie from its part” Jamir said.
There is not even a single Naga family that hasn’t been touched by the brutality of the Indian army under an Act that was passed despite the opposition of many parliamentarians when the bill was first introduced on August 11 of 1958 Jamir said.
Commenting on the Naga political issue, he said that the center always tried to ‘suppress the Naga spirit but it never succeeded and despite having ceasefire agreements the Centre allowing such anti-people Act to prevail doesn’t give a positive sign and rather shows that solution might not be nearing.’
Citing the example of Tripura where the AFSPA was lifted after the intervention of the state government, he expressed the hope that if Tripura could do it, so can the government of Nagaland if it also opposes the Act. He also questioned the ability of the Nagaland government and their stand on the Act being put into operation in Nagaland.
‘Permission to AFSPA given my state CM’
A similar protest rally was organized in Chandel and Tamenglong of Manipur by the Zeliangrong Students’ Union of Manipur under the aegis of the NSF. A press release from the organizers on Thursday informed that students of 10 schools participated in the event.
AFSPA bill was passed in the Parliament on 11th September 1958.
“In Naga Areas, this draconian Law was already enforced 5 years before passing of the bill. That is where rape, torture, custodial deaths, arrest and prolonged detention began. There are more than 40 million people of our country residing in the North East are forced to live under a military rule and an undeclared Emergency,” a copy of the speech of the All Naga Students’ Association of Manipur stated. The speech was given during the Tamenglong event.
‘This military rule has been carried on without a break for more than 60 years. Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which came into being in 1958 sanctions that even a non commissioned army officer of the lowest rank has the power to shoot to kill anybody, to forcibly enter any house, to destroy any building and to arrest anyone without a warrant.’
“That to take such action the officer needs no permission from a superior and is not answerable to anyone. That people have no right to approach the court and launch prosecution for atrocities committed by any such officer,” the gathering was told.
The permission for enforcement of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state is given by the chief minister of the state, the statement said.
“As of today, there are 15000 (army and Assam Rifles) in the hills of Manipur of which 6,000 troops are on patrol at any point of time without any clarity on the directions for an end result. In the valley, there are 6400 (army and AR) and there is no cease fire and AFSPA is not enforced in the municipal areas.”
It stated further that in spite of nineteen years of ceasefire and efforts towards peace between the Government of India and the NSCN, the army is still deployed in the Naga areas.
“The total no. of armies and Assam Rifles deployed in Naga areas in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur is 54,000 (fifty four thousand),” it added.
Demanding repeal of the AFSPA, the NSF and the Naga Students’ Union Chandel (NSUC) and its federating units organized a mass rally in protest against the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) of 1958 at Chandel district of Manipur today.
The mass rally commenced from Mini Indoor Stadium via Japhou Bazar toward DC Lamkhai.
A large number of students’ leaders, CSO leaders and students from schools in and around the district headquarter took part in the protest rally.
Placard with anti-AFSPA slogans were held up during the event: “Repeal the AFSPA, Indian armies leave us alone, AFSPA – License to kill the innocent public, AFSPA – Murdered of Human Rights, AFPSA State Sponsored Terrorism, etc.”
Prior to the mass rally, a public meeting was also held at the mini Indoor stadium where various Naga students leaders spokes about the Armed Forces Special Power Act and its affect on the Naga people and on the Naga inhabited areas.