Terming the extension of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, (AFSPA) in Nagaland for another six months an act of "adding salt to the already wounded injury," the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) expressed their shock over the Centre’s notification on Thursday, 30 December, which declared the entirety of Nagaland as a "disturbed" area under the AFSPA.
The extension comes in the aftermath of the killings of 13 civilians, who were gunned down by the Indian armed forces in a case of "mistaken identity."
Expressing shock over the same, the state’s apex tribal body, the Naga Hoho, said on Thursday, "It is a direct challenge and a message from the Government of India to keep on crushing the inalienable rights of the Nagas."
Home Minister Amit Shah had established in a meeting on 23 December that a new committee to examine the withdrawal of the AFSPA would be constituted by the central government.
The meeting, held in New Delhi, was attended by the chief ministers of Nagaland and Assam, Neiphiu Rio and Himanta Biswa Sarma, Nagaland Deputy CM Y Patton, and NPFLP leader TR Zeliang.
After the meeting on 23 December, the Nagaland CM, Deputy CM, and leader of NPF Legislature had issued a signed statement in a press conference, expressing gratitude to Shah for taking up the matter with "utmost seriousness, and positively responding to the voices of the people."
However, in a move being seen as a betrayal, the Centre extended the controversial law, which allows for armed forces to be conferred with sweeping powers to operate in areas designated as "disturbed", and grants them immunity from prosecution without the Centre's sanction.
'Utter Disregard for Northeast India'
The NPF, in a press statement on Thursday, said, "This extension is a manifestation of the utter disregard the Central government has for the voices of small states, particularly in Northeast India, considering that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly had convened a special one-day session on 20 December, and had unanimously resolved to demand its (AFSPA's) repeal.”
Meanwhile, in a press statement released by the Naga Hoho, the tribal body said:
"If India is truly a democratic country, then the voices of the people should have been heard. On the contrary, the dignity and rights of the Naga people are simply not respected. They are not considered as fellow human beings."
Referring to the killings of 13 civilians in Nagaland's Mon district, the tribal body stated, "Even after slaughtering Naga brothers on 4 and 5 December at Oting village, the Government of India still continues to ignore the pain and cries of the Naga people. It is a proven fact that the extension of AFSPA for another six months in Nagaland in the midst of the people protesting against the inhuman act is nothing but an act to dehumanise the Naga people."
Further, the Naga Hoho called upon every Naga citizen to stand "in united voice and be prepared for any eventuality in the days to come."
The statement concluded, "Our identity and our lives cannot be compromised by the Indian security forces. We must stand up for our God-given rights. We will decide our destiny, not the Government of India."