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Partial lifting of AFSPA a test, says Nagaland Chief Minister

By Purnungba Longkumer Updated: Apr 04, 2022 11:06 pm
Neiphiu Rio giving his keynote address during the consultative meeting on AFPSA at Rhododendron Hall, Chumoukedima on Monday. (DIPR)

Our Reporter
Dimapur, April 4 (EMN):
Amid mixed reaction on the Centre’s decision to reduce the “disturbed areas” under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Monday said that total abolition of the controversial Act might take time and the partial abolishment is “a test” that will determine whether or not to remove it in other areas.

He was speaking during the consultative meeting on AFSPA held with tribal hohos and civil society organisations at Rhododendron Hall in Chumoukedima.

The controversial law had been completely lifted in three Nagaland districts — Tuensang, Shamator and Tseminyu – and partially repealed in Kohima, Wokha, Longleng and Mokokchung, while the remaining nine districts were declared “disturbed areas” for the next six months.

The chief minister told the gathering that the government of India had finally heard the appeals of the people, updated DIPR in a report. He said that AFSPA could be re-instated in the lifted areas if law and order isn’t maintained during this crucial six-month’s period.

While appealing for co-operation with the government to ensure that no untoward incidents occur, Rio also requested the stakeholders to seriously ponder on ensuring peace in the state. “As the Naga solution is for all the Nagas, he appealed that the Nagas should harbour a sense of unity and oneness and not be selfish in their demands. He thanked the CSOs, tribal leaders, and student bodies for always co-operating and supporting the government,” read the update.

TR Zeliang speaking to reporters after the consultative meeting in Chumoukedima on Monday. (EM Images)

Chairman of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) TR Zeliang told reporters after the consultative meeting that the house had a free and frank discussion.

The participants welcomed the idea of partial and complete removal of the Act in parts of the state, he said, adding that they also discussed about taking the next step towards complete removal of the controversial law. 

NPF legislator Imkong L Imchen said that the tribal hohos had expressed resentment over partial lifting of AFSPA, arguing that it had no meaning, while expressing their will towards its total lifting.

However, the state government has a functional role to play in maintaining law and order, which requires support, co-ordination and co-operation from the civil societies, he said, adding that it also depends on the determination and will of the police forces and political leaders.

‘AFSPA could be lifted in more areas’

Meanwhile, DGP Nagaland, T John Longkumer said that he had briefed the gathering about the security aspect of revoking the AFSPA from certain areas and that the partial removal was a pilot experiment. If everything goes well, the Act could be lifted from more areas in the first phase and the removal of the act depends on the (law and order) situation of the state, he asserted.

The DGP said that the consultative meeting was good and a joined response towards maintaining peace in the state. He said some participants had suggested revoking of the Act except in border areas but he maintained that certain parameters and criteria could not be ignored. He said the first step of partial removal of the Act was taken based on statistics of past incidents, crime rate or reports of illegal activities. He added that the Indo-Myanmar border is an area of concern that requires a lot of armed forces, and ‘the original mandate of the Assam Rifles was also to safeguard the international border’.

The police officer expressed confidence that except for the Indo-Myanmar border, the police forces would maintain the law and order situation in the state with a little more re-enforcement.

However, he also agreed with the government of India’s stand that the revocation of the Act should be done cautiously and systematically so that the state does not face any hiccups along the way.

Stating that it should be a community-oriented policing, he urged the police, tribal hohos, NGOs, and student bodies to take it as joint responsibility and work towards a peaceful Nagaland.

Fruitful meeting

Naga Hoho president HK Zhimomi said that the meeting was very fruitful and all stakeholders attending the meeting were in favour of total removal of the Act.

He maintained that there was no reason why the Act shouldn’t be removed (in totality) while ceasefire agreement has been signed between the Naga political groups and the government of India, and peace talks being held.

‘When there is peace in our land, there should not be this Act and in pursuance, to this, we will write to the government of India once again,’ Zhimomi said.

Interacting with journalists after the meeting, Secretary General of Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Neingulo Krome said that all stakeholders expressed their dissatisfaction over the partial removal of AFSPA and the state government also informed the gathering that they would work towards total removal of the controversial law.

When asked if the CSOs rejected the partial removal of the Act, he said that partial removal is good but it should have been a total one, maintaining that such draconian law does not deserve to exist in a democratic country.

However, Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) president, Kekwayhun Tep said that the federation wasn’t satisfied with the partial lifting of the Act and that it would continue not to co-operate with the Indian armed forces, and ensure that Naga people don’t accept any humanitarian aids provided by the so-called ‘friends of the hill people’.

Meanwhile, the NSF president acknowledged the efforts and seriousness of the state government towards the removal of the Act that had been imposed in the state for many decades.

He appealed to all the Nagas and the state government to ensure that the Act is removed from all Naga-inhabited areas.

An update from DIPR said that Home Commissioner, Abhijit Sinha had told the house about the revocation of AFSPA in 15 police stations of the state, which could be as the first step toward total abolition in the entire state.

SIT report on Oting incident

The Eastern Naga Students’ Federation (ENSF) appealed that justice be served to the victims of the Oting incident and the government of Nagaland reminds the Indian government on this.

ENSF is still in non-cooperation with armed forces and will continue to do so until justice is delivered, it was informed.

Other tribal bodies also shared its opinions during the meeting, according to DIPR update.

On this, the chief minister reiterated that the state government had formed a 22-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the Oting incident and had submitted its preliminary report.

While congratulating the SIT for its prompt action in conducting the investigation, Rio said that one the ‘final report is submitted and a case filed, the content of the report will be made known to the public’, updated DIPR.

He added the Centre had also formed its SIT, which had submitted its report.

By Purnungba Longkumer Updated: Apr 04, 2022 11:06:27 pm