Struggle Against AFSPA
It didn’t come as a surprise when the government of India on Wednesday declared the entire state of Nagaland as a “disturbed area” for six more months under the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. 1958, which gives security forces the power to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without any prior warrant. Rather, the official announcement was predictable as it was exactly six months on June 30 after the “disturbed area” tag was enforced on the state on December 30 last year. This practice has been repeated for decades now without a break despite allegations of fake encounters and extra-judicial killings. The controversial law has been in force in parts of the Northeast since it was enacted in 1958 and it has been in Nagaland ever since it attained statehood in 1963. Civil society organisations, civil rights activists and intellectuals have been repeatedly demanding the Central government to repeal this draconian law but it has fallen on deaf ears to this day. So, it won’t come as a surprise if it is extended once again, come December, to remind the people that peace hasn’t arrived in the state yet and their rights could be undermined anytime.
The Ministry of Home Affairs in its latest notification said that “the Central government is of the opinion that Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”. It may have been true a few decades ago but certainly not today. Violent incidents have dramatically decreased after the signing of ceasefire agreement between the Government of India and Naga insurgent groups in 1997. It was supplemented by peace talks to solve the protracted Naga political issue, which subsequently led to the signing of the so called “historic” Framework Agreement in 2015 and Agreed Position in 2017. The final solution is still pending but the positive outcome of talks is clearly reflected in the fewer (negligible) number of conflicts between armed groups over the years. Today, the region is as peaceful as most Indian states if not more. If violence is the reason for imposing this repressive law, which empowers the armed forces to use force even to the causing of death against any person who they think is acting in contravention of any law or order, India should revoke it immediately and allow its citizens to live without fear. This draconian law has already caused enough hardships to the innocent civilians and the world’s largest democracy can’t afford to create more mistrust. Political will is necessary to scrap the archaic law once and for all.