Kohima: Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio on Monday said that the total removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the state may take time, and that partial lifting of AFSPA is a test.

During a consultative meeting with the Tribal Hohos and organizations at the Rhododendron Hall in Chumoukedima, Rio said that at this crucial period, if the law and order situation cannot be controlled, AFSPA may be reinstated. 

The CM sought cooperation from the civil societies to ensure that no untoward incidents occur across the state. He also appealed to all the stakeholders to seriously ponder how to maintain law and order in Nagaland. 

Rio also said that Nagas should harbor a sense of unity and oneness and should not be selfish in their demands.  

With the partial lifting of AFSPA, he said that the cry of the people to repeal the draconian law has finally been heard by Government of India. The public outcry to repeal the Act gained momentum following the killing of 14 innocent civilians in Mon last year. 

Rio told the gathering that following the incident, the Nagaland government had formed a 22-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the Oting incident. He acknowledged the members of the SIT for their prompt action in conducting investigations and submitting their preliminary reports. 

Once the report is submitted and a case is filed, the contents of the report will be made known to the public, he said. The Centre also formed its SIT and they have also submitted their report, Rio added. 

Chief Secretary of Nagaland J Alam briefed the gathering saying that after almost three decades, AFSPA was lifted from certain areas of Nagaland. AFSPA has been removed completely in three districts and partially removed in four districts. The CS expressed hope that further progress will be seen in the days to come. 

Chairman of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), TR Zeliang, said that partial lifting of AFSPA is an experimental phase, the end goal is to completely remove AFSPA from the State. He called on for joint responsibility and co-operation to maintain law and order in the state.  

Home Commissioner Abhijit Sinha informed that the previous notification on AFSPA issued in December last year has been withdrawn and a fresh notification has been issued on the same. 

Out of 72 police stations, AFSPA has been withdrawn in 15 police stations. This can be seen as the first step toward the total abolition of AFSPA in the state, he said 

Sinha also added that Tribal leaders, leaders of Apex bodies, Hohos, CSOs, and student bodies will have to play an important role and will have to take responsibility for keeping the peace as AFSPA may be reinstated if law and order situation in the state arises. 

Director General of Police (DGP) John Longkumer, shared that once AFSPA is removed, the responsibility of law and order & maintaining peace will fall on the Nagaland Police. He informed that IRB personnel have been deployed at strategic locations to ensure the maintenance of Law and Order. 

The Eastern Naga Students Federation (ENSF) appealed for total justice to be delivered to all victims of the Oting incident. The ENSF said that it is still in non-cooperation with the armed forces and will continue to do so until justice is delivered. 

Meanwhile, the Konyak Union (KU), apex tribal body of the Konyak Nagas, boycotted the meeting. It said that the Union is disheartened by the failure of the State and the Centre Government to remove the Armed Force Special Power Act (AFSPA), 1958 from the districts of Nagaland state even after witnessing the very recent reckless misuse of the law. 

“The AFSPA is an archaic law, and it has now only become a tool for the Government to cover up its hypocrisies and failures,” it said. 

The KU said that AFSPA should be replaced with sincere peace building and peace keeping Initiatives if the ceasefire and peace talks with Naga Political Groups are genuine.

The tribal body said that to revoke AFSPA at the earliest, the State Government must make firm decision and commitment to strengthen the existence of law enforcement agencies in different parts of the State, and activate and use the State Police Force to maintain law and order. 

AFSPA has no relevance and will have no achievements, it said. The declaration of disturbed areas under AFSPA, it said, is only the declaration of the failure of the State Government in its obligation to maintain law and order. 

The Union also reiterated its demand for Justice for the Oting Victims and the immediate repeal of AFSPA.

Also read: Nagaland’s first woman RS MP S Phangnon Konyak takes oath

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