People's Rally demands AFSPA repeal

A large public rally organised by the NSF in Kohima demanded repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act on December 17. (Morung Photo)

A large public rally organised by the NSF in Kohima demanded repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act on December 17. (Morung Photo)

Our Correspondent
Kohima | December 17

A rally to demand the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was held in Kohima on December 17. 

The rally, organized by the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), protested against the draconian act, with special emphasis on the recent Mon killings.

After the rally at Old MLA hostel junction, the students and denizens of the State capital marched towards Raj Bhavan and submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India through the Nagaland Governor’s office.

Signed by NSF President, Kegwayhun Tep and General Secretary, Süpuni Ng. Philo, the memorandum demanded immediate justice for the Oting victims and expedite delivery of justice to all pending cases related to excesses committed by the Indian armed forces on Nagas.

It stated that the prevailing law and order situation in the Naga inhabited areas does not merit the AFSPA, which has only been used as a tool for psychological warfare against the Naga people.

“It is only because of AFSPA that the Indian armed forces continue to operate with impunity while forgetting all values and virtues that inhibits a sober soul,” the NSF stated.

Also urging GoI to expedite Naga political solution, the memorandum stated “the Nagas in the course of standing for our unique history and pursuing our common goal have suffered enough. The sacrifices of many Nagas whether they are dead or alive, is not a struggle for Naga identity alone; it is also a struggle for self determination, a struggle against the imposition of alien culture and values upon us.”

The NSF made clear that economic packages or monetary assistance cannot purchase the rights of the Naga people. “The envisaged solution must be mutually agreed upon on the negotiating table and not an imposed one. Rather, the GOI should not hesitate from allowing the Naga people to retain their legitimate rights,” it stated.

It meanwhile urged the Prime Minister not to compare or subject the Naga issue to any other political issues in the country and that the promise of a unique solution based on the unique history which is inclusive, honourable and acceptable is brought forth at the earliest. (Read full memo on Page 5)

‘Withdraw AFSPA from entire NE’
North East Students’ Organization (NESO) Advisor, Dr Samujjal Bhattacharya said that AFSPA must be withdrawn from whole of the North East.

He further demanded that the Union Home Minister withdraw his “unacceptable” statement on the Mon killings and apologise. “It shows their insincerity, non-commitment towards the people of northeast region. On the other hand, the central government is trying to play divisive politics,” he said.

Bhattacharya added that the NE is “mentally and emotionally one,” adding that AFSPA is a concern for all indigenous people of the NE.

‘Pain of a mother in conflict zones’
Rosemary Dzüvichü, NMA Advisor said despite being in the midst of peace talks, the Naga people are being “treated like enemies.”

“One cannot imagine that the most well trained Indian army can carry bombs and bullets in an ambulance and wait for coal miners to come back from their coal mining and shoot them down,” she said.

She called upon the Government of India to listen to the voices of the old, young, the mothers, wives and sisters. “Let us stand up for our rights. Let us stand up to protect our land and let the tears of mothers be dried by repealing this horrible draconian law,” she added.  

‘No rest until justice is delivered’
NSF President Kegwayhun Tep said that “for so long as AFSPA continues to exist, our lives, our land and our people will always be tormented by fear and uncertainty.”

He said the Government of India must admit to the utter failure of its intelligence agencies and publicly apologize to the Naga people for furthering their subjugation of the Nagas through its policy of militarization.

“Justice should be delivered immediately to the victims of the gruesome Oting incidents and to all the pending cases related to the excesses committed by the Indian armed forces,” he said.

“We shall not rest until justice is delivered and a logical closure is brought about. We demand that this draconian law is repealed once and for all and that human rights are restored in the homeland of the Nagas,” Tep stated.

GNF to forward Oting fact finding mission report to UN
Chuba Ozukum, Convenor, Global Naga Forum (GNF) said that the Naga people must “prepare ourselves to counter in peaceful and democratic ways the oppressive presence of the Indian military.” “In addition, we must be prepared for the psychological and political warfare that will come at us, unabated, through more recruitment, more convoys, more spies, more combing operations, and more appeasements with plump positions, handouts, and economic packages,” he stated. 

Ozukum said that as per Article 36 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation.”

Noting that the current extension of AFSPA in June 2021 for six months will expire on December 30, the GNF appealed to the NESO, NSF and the Naga people to put forth a serious, concerted effort and see that the draconian law is not only extended beyond December 30, 2021, but repealed permanently.

The GNF also appealed to the United Nations and world leaders to question India’s track record of human rights violations.

“The Global Naga Forum will be forwarding our Oting Fact Finding Mission report to expert mechanism channels in the United Nations,” Ozukum informed.
Nagas will never give up the truth of our history: FNR
Dr P Ngully, member of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) said that it is time to realize that humanity must exist together because “as proven time and again that the Nagas will never give up the truth of our history as they define who we are as a people.”

Our Naga people and our leaders must courageously and honestly accept and understand the human elements of fear, greed and desire for power which in ancient times was addressed by the Feast of Merit but today it has viciously fragmented our struggle, Dr Ngully said.

He said it is now pertinent that “we all climb down from our mountain of pride to lift the broken souls in the valleys,” adding “only then can we let their souls rest in peace and thereby we will be able to reach our rightful place through the healing of our spirits.”

Even lawmakers were harassed by AFSPA: NPMHR 
Neingulo Krome, Secretary General, Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights recounted how in the 1980s and 90s, top bureaucrats, even Ministers and top State Police officials were harassed and their rights violated by military forces under the protection of AFSPA. 

Krome questioned, if even these top law makers could not resist or complain, what would be the plight of ordinary Naga people. 
He further pointed out that the Government of India has not listened to even its own committee headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge which recommended repeal of AFSPA. 

He was referring to the Jeevan Reddy committee which recommended repealing AFSPA while terming the act as “a symbol of hate, oppression, and instrument of high-handedness". It had submitted its report in 2005. After 10 years, the Government of India rejected the recommendation made by the committee. 

Let us stand together: ENSF
“Today it happened in Oting village. Tomorrow it might happen in your own kitchen. So let us stand together and fight for this,” said ENSF Vice President, Sepikyu J Sangtam.

“Our life matters. It is high time for Nagas and North East as a whole to join hands and fight against AFSPA. For how long we will live under this law?” he questioned.