Nagaland: What Is Unfolding In This Northeastern State Of India

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Nagaland
Image Source: Wikimedia

Tension seems to have become a permanent resident in the Northeastern state of India. With the recent killing of 14 civilians by the Indian soldiers in the state of Nagaland, this has become even more evident. 

The army has made a rookie mistake which has cost families their loved ones. The army called these civilian killings a “case of mistaken identity.” 

What really happened?

On 4th December, 6 civilians, coal miners returning to their villages for their usual weekend rest were killed in an open fire by the army. The army opened fire on the truck carrying the labourers thinking they were militants. A statement given by the army states that the team had received credible intelligence inputs about insurgency taking place in the area. The army was positioned along the border with Myanmar in the Mon district as a part of their counter-insurgency operation. The operation was led by Assam Rifles, an Indian army unit that is an elite para-commando battalion.

This ‘unreasonable killing’ as the locals call it, raised tension towards the army. This led to a clash between the locals and the troop, further killing seven more locals and an Indian soldier. The Sunday that followed led to the killing of one more civilian by the forces after protestors attacked an army camp. 

To restore peace and calm in the region, Section 144 of the CrPC was imposed. The gathering of more than 5 people was banned and restrictions on the movement of vehicles were imposed as well. Internet and SMS services too were suspended by the state government to further prevent any kind of violence and incitement. 

On December 6, the whole of Nagaland, other naga-inhibited regions and neighbouring states observed a lockdown. It was a sign of protest demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA, a law that gives unlimited power to the military forces to carry out operations. 

Most of the Northeastern states of India are troubled by this controversial act. 

But what is AFSPA?

Introduced in the year 1942, AFSPA or Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act lets the armed forces of the country exercise certain special powers in areas that have been designated as ‘disturbed area’ either by the Centre or the Governor of a state or Union Territory’s Administrator. 

The special powers of the Act include allowing the armed forces to use force or open fire against anyone who violates the law for the time being even if it leads to death. Under this act, anyone can be arrested on reasonable suspicion of having committed or about to commit a cognizable offence without any arrest warrant. AFSPA also permits the armed forces to enter any premises and carry out search operations without a warrant. Further, it grants the armed forces to destroy settlements or places of shelter from where attacks take or are likely to take place. 

Civilians of the Northeatern states where AFSPA has been imposed, have been demanding to repeal it as it gravely violates human rights and is draconian in nature. Many unlawful and hineous incidents have been blatantly occuring under the garb of this ‘protective’ law like authorities committing rape, murdering people under encounters, kidnapping civilians after putting them under detention, etc. 

Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur (with the exception of seven Imphal assembly constituencies), Assam, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh are presently under AFSPA. 

The fresh killings of 14 civilians in Nagaland have yet again resurfaced the fight for repealing the draconian law but the state’s CM himself urging the centre to repeal it. 

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