Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Total repeal of AFSPA may take time: CM

Staff Reporter/DIPR

Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio on Monday said that the total abolition of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) may take time, but the partial abolishment was just a “test”.
In his key note address at the consultative meeting on AFSPA with tribal hohos and civil society organizations held at Rhododendron Hall, Police complex Chümoukedima on Monday, Rio appealed to all stakeholders to seriously ponder how to maintain law and order in the state and sought their co-operation to ensure that no untoward incidents occur, a DIPR report stated.
He acknowledged that the Centre had finally heard the plea of all stakeholders for the abolishment of the draconian law- AFSPA. As the Naga solution is for all the Nagas, Rio appealed that Nagas should harbor a sense of unity and oneness and not be selfish in their demands.

“All stakeholders need to seriously ponder on how to maintain the law and order”

On the December 4 Oting incident, Rio said that once the SIT report is submitted and a case is filed, the contents of the report will be made known to the public. The Centre also formed its SIT and they have also submitted their report, he added. He thanked the CSOs, tribal leaders, and student bodies for always cooperating and supporting the government. Representatives form over 20 organisations attended the consultative meeting.
Interacting with media persons after the meeting, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) chairman TR Zeliang claimed that the meeting was held in a positive manner with free and frank discussion. For the Act to be completely repealed form the State, he said cooperation of all sections of the society was important. He also clarified that if Nagaland, with around 20,000 policemen, could implement ceasefire ground rules and maintain law and order, the question of reimposing the Act did not arise.
“If the government and people support the police, we can implement the ceasefire ground rules,” he added.
Director general of police (DGP) T John Longkumer, who also attended the meeting, said he briefed the meeting on the security aspect vis-à-vis withdrawal of AFSPA from certain areas.
He said the committee formed to review repeal of AFSPA from Nagaland had in its report suggested withdrawal of the Act from the State except in border areas.
He revealed that partial removal of the Act was a pilot experiment, assuring that if everything went well, it could be lifted from more areas in the second phase. He however clarified that removal of AFSPA would depend on the situation in the State.
The DGP said the committee took into consideration certain parameters and criteria, which could not be ignored. He explained that based on statistics like rate of crime the first step of partial removal of the act was taken.
Acknowledging that the Indo-Myanmar border was an area of concern and required armed forces, he said the original mandate of Assam Rifles to secure the international border was also in place. Except for the Indo-Myanmar border areas, Longkumer said he was optimistic that the police force would be able to tackle law and order situation throughout the State. “With a little bit of more support and strengthening of the police force, we should be able to handle the situation,” he added.
He however agreed with the Central government’s stand that revocation of the Act should be done in a cautious and phased manner so that there were no hiccups along the way.
Terming the consultative meeting with CSOs, tribal hohos and student bodies as a great initiative, he said it had led to a joined response towards maintaining peace in the State and not to give any reason for reimposing the Act.
Senior NPF legislator Imkong L Imchen said the meeting took note of the ongoing Naga peace process and discussed how to expedite it to usher in a final solution.
Asked about the State government’s views on the partial lifting of AFSPA, he mentioned that the government had welcomed this, but the tribal hohos expressed their resentment on the ground that the partial lifting had no meaning and called for its total withdrawal from the State.
Mentioning that he too was in favour of total lifting of the Act, Imchen added that the State government had a role to maintain law and order, for which support and cooperation was required from the CSOs. He expressed the confidence that Nagaland Police would be able to handle the law and order situation.
Naga Students’ Federation president Kekwayhun Tep said he was dismayed at the partial lifting of AFSPA.
Acknowledging the efforts and seriousness of the State government vis-à-vis removal of the Act, he noted that it had been imposed in Nagaland for many years and appealed to all Nagas in general and the State government to join hands to ensure that it was removed completely.
On his part, Naga Hoho president HK Zhimomi termed the meeting as very fruitful since all those present were in favour of total removal of AFSPA from the peaceful Naga-inhabited areas.
Amidst the ceasefire agreements between the Central government and Naga political groups and also the ongoing peace talks he maintained that there was no reason why the Act should not be withdrawn.
Stating that all stakeholders had expressed their dissatisfaction at the partial removal of the Act, Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) secretary general Neingulo Krome admitted that the State government had expressed its views for total removal of the Act.
When asked if the civil society organizations (CSOs)rejected the partial removal of AFSPA, he clarified that they did not fully reject the move, but had stressed on its complete removal my pointing out that such draconian law had no place in a democratic country.
Eastern Naga Students Federation (ENSF) appealed for total justice to be delivered to all victims of the Oting incident and that the State government should remind the Centre in this regard.
They said that the ENSF was still in non-cooperation with armed forces and would continue to do so until justice was delivered.
Also addressing the meeting, Home Commissioner, Abhijit Sinha stated that apex tribal body leaders, hohos, CSOs, and student bodies would have to play an important role and take responsibility for keeping the peace as AFSPA may be re-instated if law and order problems arise. This is a combined responsibility of all stakeholders involved, he added.
Earlier, chief secretary J. Alam, who chaired the meeting, welcomed all the members and briefed them that after almost three decades, AFSPA was lifted from certain areas of Nagaland.
He expressed the hope that further progress will be seen in the days to come. The concluding remarks was delivered by Commissioner Nagaland Rovilatuo Mor.


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