Differing voices on reducing AFSPA

THERE HAS BEEN a vocal demand for the repeal of AFSPA since the unfortunate incident that resulted in the death of fourteen innocent civilians in Mon district of Nagaland on 4 December, 2021. In this context, the honourable Union Home Minister, Amit Shah tweeted on 31 March, 2022, “In a significant step, GoI under the decisive leadership of PM Shri @NarendraModi Ji has decided to reduce disturbed areas under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the states of Nagaland, Assam and Manipur after decades.” Since then, many Chief Ministers of North-Eastern states have quickly expressed their gratitude to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister for their positive statement in social media to reduce the areas under the Armed Forces (Special Powers Act),1958 in north-eastern India.

Neiphiu Rio wrote, “Grateful to GoI under the leadership of @PMOIndia Shri @narendramodiji & @AmitShah ji for reducing disturbed areas under AFSPA in the states of Nagaland, Assam & Manipur. This is a significant development towards bringing stability, security & prosperity to the North East region.” Taking to Twitter, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the move “marks the beginning of a new chapter in Assam’s future”. N Biren Singh, the CM of Manipur, told Republic TV, “After the BJP has come into power, North-East is becoming a part of mainland India. I’m proud to be a BJP member. This decision will bring oneness and unity in all Northeast States.” The Chief Ministers of Nagaland, Manipur and Assam felt politically ecstatic regarding the Government of India’s decision to ‘reduce the areas’ of AFSPA in their respective states.

However, many intellectuals, thinkers and human rights activists in the region do not consider the partial lifting of the Disturbed Area Act (DAA) or reducing areas of AFSPA as a significant step towards achieving lasting peace. They want AFSPA to go away from the region in toto. Atina Pameisaid, “The CM of Nagaland was quick to acknowledge the partial lifting of the DAA/AFSPA. If he is genuinely concern for the people of the state, he should not have applauded the decision, but stand firm to his call for the total removal of the act from the state! How sad.”  In the same vein, Asen Niumai said “The people of the region have not been begging for relaxation of the areas under the AFSPA, but have been fighting and sacrificing dignity and life against the Act itself.” Paul Pimomo asked and answered, “What does “reducing” disturbed areas under AFSPA in Nagaland, Assam, and Manipur mean? 1. AFSPA has not been repealed. DAA is still in place. 2. Indian Army’s presence in the camps, establishments, troops are still there just as they were before this “reduced” death sentence. Nothing has changed.” “GOI should stop playing with Nagas and our sentiments. The demand is for the repeal of ASFPA, nothing less”. Rosemary Dzuvichu, H Inato Jimomi Naga opined that reducing disturbed areas of AFSPA is a joke and fooling around the people and feels that the “fight must go on democratically till the draconian Act of AFSPA is absolutely repealed….”Kevitho Kera said, “Until AFSPA is removed fully from all Naga areas, we must not remain silent nor be happy with the selective lifting of the Act done by GoI. We must voice out against this treacherous and half hearted effort done by GoI. AFSPA must be removed in toto from all Naga areas.” H. K. Zhimomi (President, Naga Hoho), stated, “We have been asking for the removal of the AFSPA from the entire northeast, not partially. Things would have been different had there been no ceasefire. The partial withdrawal makes no sense when a ceasefire is on. Today’s announcement [31/03/2022] is yet another message that the Government of India cannot be trusted even if it gives assurance in black and white. This is why the Indo-Naga peace process is not progressing after 24 years.” 

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Some people see the partial removal of AFSPA as a potential decision to create more problem than solving it. According to Chuba Ozukum, this can create confusion when he writes, “GOI has no shame to make big announcement for reducing AFSPA because this law is draconian in nature….wondering how they are going to categorised the provisions of law under AFSPA in places where it is reduced.” Nepuni Pikuaptly put it thus the GoI has created “Another tool to further divide.” Hopesonsaid, “There is a ceasefire with both Nagas and Kukis in the Manipur hills, but no ceasefire with the Meiteis’ underground in the Imphal Valley. However, they withdrew AFSPA only from Imphal Valley.” Lolly Moses said, “What is this, a game of politics here again by the Mittai politicians. The hill people are desperately demanding for the withdrawal of AFSPA. Our Nagas’ demands have been totally neglected but a child who was in a comfort zone has been offered Lollypop is really a step-motherly treatment by the Biren Singh government.” N. Kayinabelieves that legislators should take up the responsibility to repeal the draconian act when he saysAll the elected Naga legislators be it in Manipur, Nagaland or Arunachal Pradesh should voice out our people’s objections to being treated unjustly once again. It is us Nagas who have suffered the most under AFSPA whereas, communities who have hardly experienced what it means to live under the shadow of guns benefits from the demand for the repeal of this draconian act. Political party affiliations irrespective, all the elected people’s representatives should voice out now if one still have a drop of Naga blood.” Imphal Free Press concludes its editorial note by saying, “The Act remains in force in all the hill districts irrespective of whether it adjoins the international boundary. So, the reduction of AFSPA is discriminatory.”

The various dissenting voices from activists in the social media gives a clear picture that ‘reducing the areas’ of AFSPA does not and cannot solve any problem until the Act is repealed in toto. It does not in any way, guarantee security, peace, oneness, unity and stability in the region. Oting like incidents will continue to take place wherever AFSPA is enforced. Hence, it is a miscalculation on the part of the GoI and our CMs (including Nagaland RS MP) to think that they can achieve significant progress by reducing the areas under AFSPA.

Z. K. Pahrii Pou. Views are personal.  

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