Kohima: Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio on Thursday revealed that the state will continue to remain a ‘disturbed area’ under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) till the Naga political issue is resolved. The response was made by the chief minister on the floor of the fifth session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) when MLA Imkong L Imchen raised concern about the extension of the ‘draconian’ law in the state.
Calling the attention of the Leader of the House, Imchen said that at a time when the Naga peace talks are processed at the highest level, the “draconian law” must be withdrawn. To this, Rio recalled how the Naga political issue which was initially “non-violent” became violent, following which the Government of India sent its armed forces into the state, bringing into existence such laws.
“Even after getting statehood, when we look at it, there was also a special power given to governor of the state. Every time, the opinion of the state to further extend Nagaland as disturbed area or not, or whether Armed Forces Special Powers Act, should further be extended or not, it’s more of a formality for the home ministry to ask the state government. Every time, it comes, we say that the situation has normalized and that it should not be extended any further—be it AFSPA or the disturbed area,” he said.
“To what we are informed is, till Naga political issue is resolved, this will remain. Whether we request them, whether we take decision not to extend or to extend, they will take their own unilateral decision and they automatically extend. The public feels that the cabinet is not taking a strong stand and not objecting and preventing for extension. Law and order is a state subject, but the political issue which the government of India has recognized –our Naga issue –is not law and order, it is a political issue. Therefore, till our Naga issue is resolved with the government of India (GoI), this may continue,” Rio added.
Meanwhile, deputy chief minister, Yanthungo Patton, in response to a starred question raised by MLA Dr Chumben Murry, said that the entire area of the state of Nagaland has been excluded from the protected area regime notified under the Foreigners’ (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, initially for a period of one year with effect from January 1, 2011, which has been extended from time to time.
Patton also said that the relaxation has been extended till December 31, 2022 on conditions that: the government of India can withdraw the relaxation at any time in case of security concern; citizens of Afghanistan, china and Pakistan and foreign nationals having their origin in these countries would continue to require prior approval of the Ministry before they visit the state, ensuring g that no entry is allowed without the requisite permit; foreigners visiting the state will have to register with the foreigners registration officers of the state/districts.
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958 is an act of the Parliament of India that grants special powers to the Indian Armed Forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. Nagaland was declared as a disturbed area for six more months under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) with effect from December 30 last year.