Nagaland tribe body lists 5 demands after botched anti-insurgency op
The Nagaland tribe, which accounted for the most civilian fatalities in a failed anti-insurgency operation, has submitted a presented its demands to the government. The Konyak Union urged fast and stern punishment for culpable security forces and called for the revocation of special powers granted to them. The move came after Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke about the civilian killings in Parliament Monday.
Why does it matter?
- The recent killings have reignited debates on the Armed Forces Special Rights Act (AFSPA), a statute that grants the armed forces vast discretionary powers over civilians.
- On Saturday, an anti-insurgency operation in Nagaland went awry killing, triggering violence. Fourteen civilians and a soldier were killed.
- The army said the locals were "mistaken" for insurgents after "credible" information of their presence.
What did the Union body demand?
The Konyak Union has demanded a probe by an impartial committee under the supervision of a competent investigating body. Two members of the Naga civil society must be on the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the case, it said. Further, the culpable personnel must be arrested and prosecuted, the Assam Rifles must be removed, and the AFSPA be repealed in northeast India, it added.
What is AFSPA?
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) gives the Indian Armed Forces special powers to maintain peace in "disturbed areas" in northeastern India. Security personnel can carry out operations and make arrests everywhere the law is in existence, according to this legislation. Notably, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma have also sought the repeal of AFSPA.
Why is AFSPA criticized?
The AFSPA has been labeled a "draconian act" as it awards the armed forces unrestrained power. Under it, the forces may shoot to kill or destroy a building based solely on suspicion. The Justice BP Jeevan Reddy Committee appointed by the Centre had recommended a complete repeal back in 2004. It had called AFSPA a "symbol of hate, oppression, and an instrument of high-handedness."
What did the government say?
On Monday, Shah told Parliament that the incident was a case of "mistaken identity," adding that security forces had later fired in "self-defense." "Government of India expresses regrets over the incident and condolences to those killed," Shah said. An SIT has been formed to complete its probe in a month, he said, adding, "The situation is tense but under control."
What happened during the anti-insurgency op?
The Indian army's special forces were preparing for an anti-insurgency operation in Nagaland's Mon district. On Saturday afternoon, they had set up an ambush near Oting village after receiving information about the likely movement of insurgents. The forces reportedly opened fire at a truck carrying villagers. Six villagers died on the spot and two more died on the way to the hospital.
Enraged locals rebelled; forces opened fire
After the incident, enraged citizens encircled the armed officers. Reports said the soldiers then opened fire at the mob in "self-defense," killing five people and injuring six more. A soldier was killed and three vehicles belonging to the personnel were torched. Angry demonstrators encircled the Assam Rifles camp in Mon town in the evening. The violence resulted in the death of another man.
What did the Army say?
"Based on credible intelligence of likely movement of insurgents, a specific operation was planned to be conducted in the area of Tiru, Mon District, Nagaland. The incident and its aftermath are deeply regretted," the army said in a statement Sunday.
What is the current scenario?
In Nagaland's Mon district, public gatherings of more than five individuals have been outlawed. Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibits the transportation of any non-essential vehicles, including commercial vehicles. The matter has been handed over to the crime branch of the police department. The Nagaland Cabinet also called off the ongoing Hornbill festival Tuesday.