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Nagaland govt to write to Centre on AFSPA repeal; Hornbill fest called off

The annual Hornbill Festival, an annual 10-day tourism extravaganza held at Naga Heritage Village in Kisama near Kohima, was scheduled to end on December 10.

People attend the funeral of civilians killed by security forces in Nagaland (AP)

Following the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Mon district over the weekend, an emergency sitting of the Nagaland Cabinet on Tuesday decided to appeal to the Home Ministry to repeal the Armed Formed (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

The meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Tuesday, also decided to call off the ongoing Hornbill Festival and directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to complete its investigation into the incident within a month.

Briefing the media following the meeting, Neiba Kronu, Minister of Planning and Parliamentary Affairs and Nagaland government spokesperson, and Temjen Imna Along, Minister of Higher and Technical Education, said the Cabinet was briefed about the action taken following the killing, including the setting up of the SIT headed by an IG-rank officer and grant of ex-gratia to the next of kin of the 14 victims.

“AFSPA is renewed periodically and it is not a subject matter that is handled by the state. The Centre decides on this in consultation with the state. So, it was decided in the meeting that we will appeal to the Government of India to repeal AFSPA from Nagaland,” said Along.

While attending the funeral of the 14 civilians in Mon town on Monday, CM Neiphiu Rio had backed the demand for a repeal of AFSPA.

The ministers said the Nagaland government was “planning” to hold a meeting of the Core Committee on Naga Political Issues on December 9. Assam CM and Northeast Development Authority chairman Himanta Biswa Sarma is likely to attend the meeting.

“People being killed following a case of mistaken identity or on the basis of misinformation is very unfortunate. The investigating agencies will come out with a report. We have given SIT one month to complete the probe,” Kronu said.

He said 14 civilians have died in the incident, while two with serious injuries are undergoing treatment in Assam, and six are being treated in Dimapur (Nagaland).

On the Hornbill festival, he said, “All activities of Hornbill Festival, 2021, should cease in view of mourning announced for the deceased in the firing incidents in Mon district.”

The annual Hornbill Festival, an annual 10-day tourism extravaganza held at Naga Heritage Village in Kisama near Kohima, was scheduled to end on December 10.

Six civilians – coal mine workers from Oting village on their way home from work in Tiru – were killed in an ambush by security forces in Nagaland’s Mon district. The incident triggered violence in the area Saturday night and late Sunday afternoon, in which eight more civilians (seven on Saturday, and one Sunday) were killed after security forces allegedly opened fire.

A soldier succumbed to injuries in the violence Saturday night, and several others were severely injured.

A suo motu FIR filed on Sunday by the officer in-charge of Tizit police station in Mon said the “intention” of the security forces was “to murder and injure civilians”.

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