Updated: December 17, 2021 9:56:18 pm
After eastern Nagaland, thousands took to the streets to participate in a ‘Peoples’ Rally’ in Kohima to demand justice for the 14 civilians killed by security forces in Oting village earlier this month. The protesters also demanded the scrapping of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
The rally, which was organised by the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), the apex Naga students body, saw the participation of the umbrella student organisation of the Northeast, the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) as well as the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and other civil society and tribal organisations of Nagaland. In neighbouring Manipur, the All Naga Manipur Students’ Association, along with the NSF, also held rallies in Ukhrul district.
The rally, which covered a distance of about 2.5 km, had protestors carrying signs that read ‘Repeal AFSPA’, ‘Leave Nagas alone to live in peace’, ‘How many times must bullets be fired before repealing AFSPA’ among others. It began at the town’s Old MLA Hostel Junction and ended at Governor’s residence at Raj Bhavan, where the organisers handed over a memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The letter listed three core demands, including immediate justice for the Oting victims, repeal of AFSPA and an “inclusive, honourable and acceptable solution” for the Naga political problem. The memorandum also listed out chronologically a number of incidents since 1960 that reflected the “sorry state of affairs of the Naga people under AFSPA” because of “major atrocities perpetrated by the ruthless Indian armed forces, while being shielded by the repressive AFSPA.”
Several Northeastern states have faced the brunt of AFSPA, which was brought as a law in 1958, giving sweeping powers to the Indian military to maintain law and order in “disturbed areas”. Allegations have often been made against security forces of fake encounters, mass killings and rape.
The memorandum also said that the Special Investigation Team being set up by the Nagaland government “will not do justice to the wilful acts of the Indian Armed Forces under the protection of the repressive AFSPA”. It demanded that the Centre admit to the “utter failure of intelligence agencies” and “publicly apologise to the Naga people for furthering the subjugation through its policy of militarisation”.
On the Naga political problem, it said that the “envisaged solution must be mutually agreed upon on the negotiating table and not an imposed one”.
The Naga movement is considered India’s longest-running insurgency. In 1997, the Centre signed a ceasefire agreement with the largest Naga rebel group, National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM). In 2015, renewed negotiations for a solution to the Naga political problem began between NSCN-IM and the Centre under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While formal talks are said to have concluded in October 2019, they are yet to yield a final agreement with the NSCN-IM.
Friday’s rally comes just a day after thousands participated in a mass agitation in the five eastern districts of Tuensang, Mon, Longleng and Kiphire and Noklak by the influential Eastern Nagaland Peoples’ Organisation (ENPO). The organisation has declared “non-cooperation” with the armed forces in the eastern districts until the forces involved in the killings are booked and justice is delivered.
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