Shillong, Dec 9: The North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) has asked the state governments of the North East to take up with the Centre the need to repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958.
The stand of NESO was made clear during a sit-in-demonstration by the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) in protest against the killing of 14 villagers by the security forces in Mon district of Nagaland, on December 4.
Leaders and activists of the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People, Hynniewtrep National Youth Front, Hynniewtrep Integrated Territorial Organisation, Shillong Bar Association as well as other Northeast social organisations also took part in the protest.
Protesters also carried placards which read: “Repeal AFSPA”, “Demilitarized NER”,“GOI if you can repeal farms laws why not repeal AFSPA & CAA”, “Indian Army stop killing innocents”, “remove all military establishments in Shillong”.
The sit-in protest held amid tight security was followed by a candlelight vigil (in picture) in front of the Kiang Nangbah Monument at Barik, to pay respect to the victims and to express solidarity with the bereaved families, in their fight for justice.
NESO chairman Samuel B Jyrwa criticised the Centre for not listening to the pending demand of the people of North East for repealing the AFSPA from the region.
“Instead of repealing this act, the GOI instead continued with the imposition of this draconian law. Therefore, the time has come we should call upon the GOI that if it thinks that NE is part of India then its first step should be to repeal AFSPA from the whole of the NE region,” he said.
“If the GOI does not listen to the voice of the NE people, it only shows two things that it treats the NE region as a colony and not as part of the nation or the country and at the same time it wants to impose this draconian law in order to suppress and oppress the voice of the people through military might but this will have an after effect, it will further alienate the indigenous people of the NE region”, he said.
The NESO chief cited the operations in Assam and the suppression and oppression by the armed forces in Tripura and the bombing in Aizawl in Mizoram in 1966 by the Indian Air Force.
“The act committed by the security forces has further been emboldened by the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958,” he said
He recalled that AFSPA was first imposed by the British government in August 1942 to suppress the Quit India movement.
He added that the very same government, after attainment of independence, is imposing the same colonial law upon its own people in the NE region.
KSU chief Lambok Starwell Marngar asked the Centre to listen to the voice of the people and immediately repeal the AFSPA as well as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and instead implement the Inner Line Permit (ILP) in the entire NE region.
“Otherwise a time will come when the youths will reply back,” he said. Stating that the protest will continue, Marngar also warned, “If the Centre continues to use the army to wipe out the indigenous people of the region, we will also not hesitate to take up arms.”
The FKJGP general secretary Dundee C Khongsit flayed the double standard of the Centre.
“When we ask for implementation of ILP in the state, the answer given to us is that we are anti-Indians. We are a microscopic community compared to communities in other states across the country,” he said.
He also urged NESO to further intensify the agitation in all the NE states for the immediate repeal of the anti-tribal people’s law from the region.
‘Why not AFSPA in Maoist areas’
Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF) chief Sadon K Blah questioned the failure of the Centre to declare imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 in the Maoists and Naxalites affected districts of the country.
The Indian government, since the inception of the naxalite movement and the maoist movement, never dared to declare AFSPA in the 96 districts, Blah said.
He said it is a big question as to why AFSPA was not implemented in spite of the fact that Maoists and Naxalites used to kill about 70-80 police and army personnel adding this reflects the step-motherly treatment by the Centre.
Blah criticised the union home minister Amit Shah for claiming that the Nagaland firing incident was a case of mistaken identity.
“You (Shah) cannot conclude by saying it is a case of mistaken identity. Suppose you come to Meghalaya and we beat you as a home minister and we say it was a case of mistaken identity, you cannot take it lightly by saying that it was a case of mistaken identity,” he said.
The North East is disturbed since India got its independence, Blah said adding the GOI has further disturbed the region by imposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in spite of strong opposition by all quarters.
“CAA is another form of aggression and another form of making us a minority in our own land and they have the AFSPA to silence us with bullets, it is a two or three ways of aggression that the Indian government has prepared for us,” he said.