Amidst Outrage After Army Killings, Union Extends AFSPA in Nagaland for 6 Months

Ever since the army shot dead civilians in Mon district, voices against the controversial law have been growing louder.

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New Delhi: The Union government on Thursday declared the entire Nagaland as a “disturbed area” for six more months with effect from December 30 under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act while terming the state’s condition “disturbed and dangerous”.

The move came days after the Union government constituted a high-level committee to examine the possibility of the withdrawal of the controversial AFSPA from Nagaland. The AFSPA has been operational in Nagaland for decades.

“Whereas the Central government is of the opinion that the area comprising the whole of the State of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.

“Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (No.28 of 1958) the Central Government hereby declares that whole of the State of Nagaland to be ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months with effect from December 30, 2021, for the purpose of the said Act,” a home ministry notification said.

Also read: AFSPA Killed the Naga Coal Miners in Mon

The notification was issued by the additional secretary in the home ministry, Piyush Goyal, who has been named the member secretary in the panel to examine the possibility of the withdrawal of the AFSPA. The committee is headed by secretary-level officer Vivek Joshi.

The high-level committee has been set up apparently to soothe the rising tension in Nagaland over the killing of 14 civilians.

Protests for the withdrawal of the AFSPA have been going on in several districts of Nagaland ever since an Army unit killed 14 civilians in the state’s Mon district earlier this month, mistaking them as insurgents. Local BJP leaders too have been unhappy with the Union and state leadership’s response, while people have been expressing their anger through protests and burning Union home minister Amit Shah’s effigy.

The AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant. It also gives immunity to the forces if they shoot someone dead.

Reacting to the decision, the state-based regional party Naga People’s Front (NPF) issued a statement on December 30, stating that it was “aghast and affronted” at it. This past December 23, NPF leader and former state chief minister T.R. Zeliang was a signatory to the joint statement along with chief minister Neiphu Rio and state home minister and BJP leader Y. Patton stating that the Union ministry of home affairs had formed a committee to look into removal of AFSPA from Nagaland.

The NPF press statement said, “The extension (of the term of AFSPA in the state) is a manifestation of the utter disregard the central government has for the voices of small states, particularly in North East India, considering that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly has convened a special one-day session on December 20, 2021, to deliberate on AFSPA (1958) and the House had unanimously resolved to demand its repeal.”
The party, which now supports the NDPP-BJP coalition government in the state, highlighted that though the chief minister had this past December 23 expressed his gratitude to the Union home minister Amit Shah for forming the committee as per the demand of the people of Nagaland, “Any discerning person is made to wonder if there is any modicum of coordination or even communication between the Executive and Legislative branches of the central government.”

(With PTI inputs)