Kohima: Thousands of people took to the streets of Kohima on Friday protesting against the killing of 14 civilians in Mon district on December 4-5, intensifying the demand for justice and repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
Dubbed as the Peoples’ Rally organised by Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), the rally saw residents of Kohima march to the Raj Bhavan from the heart of Kohima town where a memorandum was submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through the Nagaland Governor.
Ahead of the march, a formal ceremony was held at the Old MLA junction as thousands joined in solidarity. Addressing the gathering, NSF president Kegwayhun Tep said, “At this time of the year, where it is supposed to be the season of light, of hope, and healing, the Indian armed forces acting on behalf of the state have unleashed terror and fear in the hearts and minds of the peace-loving citizens in our Naga homeland.”
The student leader condemned the “extrajudicial and mindless act of terrorism” committed by the armed forces on the peaceful civilians.
“Their death will not be in vain. We the Naga youths and the upcoming generation shall continue to honour their memories by carrying forward the aspirations of the Naga people through generations to come,” he said, as he shared that the rally was called to voice out the resentment of the Nagas against the “draconian and oppressive Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)”.
Tep said that so long as AFSPA continues to exist, the people will be tormented by fear and uncertainty.
Professor Rosemary Dzüvichü, Advisor, Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), said, “For those of us who live in these urban areas, we will not and cannot imagine the kind of violence and atrocities committed by the Indian army in all the borders and far-flung areas of our Naga areas and the Northeast region. Today, let this be the end of losing more lives, children, rape, molestation of our daughters. We are yet to see justice, justice for the decades of militarisation in our Naga homeland.”
She said that AFSPA has been harassing the people everywhere as there is no border for the Indian army to carry such atrocities. The professor said that AFSPA violates every human rights law that is in existence. “We cannot afford to be threatened, manned, killed in our own homes by strangers who comes to our land,” she added.
Dzüvichü reiterated the NMA demands made to the Governor on December 7 that sought withdrawal of all army camps from civilian areas and repeal of AFSPA.
“Let this be the end. There must be peace in our land,” she said as she appealed all “armed brothers” to also listen to the people. She also urged the people to unite and fight for justice committed under the AFSPA.
Samujjar Bhattacharya, Advisor of the North East Students’ Organization (NESO), said, “The Nagas are not alone. The indigenous people of the Northeast are with the Nagas.” He said the Central government must change the mindset about the region and repeal AFSPA.
He said that exemplary punishment should be made to those personnel who killed the innocent people in Oting. Reacting to Union Home Minister Amit Shah‘s statement, he said the statement made in the Parliament cannot be accepted and must be withdrawn.
“How many lives do you want before you repeal AFSPA?,” he questioned, saying that if more lives are to be taken, he should be the “first”.
Thousands of school students in uniform and residents in traditional attires held placards and shouted slogans such “We Want Justice”, “Stop killing innocent Nagas”, “Go back, Indian Army”, “Remove AFSPA from Northeast”, among others.
In the memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister through the Governor’s office, the NSF demanded immediate justice for the Oting victims and expedite judgement and delivery of justice in all pending cases related to excesses committed by the Indian Armed Forces upon Nagas, immediate repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958; and to expedite the Naga Political Solution.
The memorandum was signed by president Kegwayhun Tep and general secretary Süpuni Ng Philo.
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