On 4th December, 14 villagers were brutally shot dead by central armed forces in the district of Mon in Nagaland. First, the armed forces attacked a pickup truck carrying coal miners returning to their village, resulting in the death of six workers. In order to justify this as an act of “counter-insurgency”, the army men tried to dress the dead coal miners in the uniform of insurgents. When people gathered in protest outside the army camp to condemn this gruesome incident, they were fired upon, resulting in the death of eight more villagers.
The Home Minister of India has claimed that the killings were the result of wrong intelligence. He has said that the armed forces asked the truck to stop, and when it did not do so, they opened fire. This story has been repudiated by eyewitnesses. It is a blatant attempt to cover up the crime committed by the central armed forces.
Following these murders, people of Nagaland have once again come onto the streets, demanding punishment to the guilty armymen and the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). All the organisations of the people of Nagaland have united around this demand. This notorious law is modeled after a law which the British colonialists promulgated in 1942 to suppress the anti-colonial liberation struggle of the Indian people. In 1958, the Nehru government passed the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958) through parliament, to impose Army rule over the areas inhabited by the Naga people and crush their struggle for national rights. Since then, the Naga people have been forced to live under the jackboots of the armed forces.
This notorious law is in force at the present time in Nagaland, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Assam, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. It legitimizes brutal army rule, in violation of basic human rights. People are routinely murdered in fake encounters and declared as “terrorists”. Women are gang raped. Civilians including children are used as “human shields” in counter insurgency operations. The homes and properties of people — in fact entire villages — are periodically razed to the ground.
The Extrajudicial Execution Victim Families Association of Manipur (EEVFAM) filed a case in 2012 in the Supreme Court which documented 1528 instances of unlawful murders by the armed forces in Manipur. Till now, none of the accused personnel have been tried for these crimes. They are protected by AFSPA.
In all the states where AFSPA has been promulgated, Army rule has effectively replaced civilian rule. The elected governments in these states have virtually no powers and are subordinate to the armed forces. AFSPA and army rule serves the capitalist monopoly houses who dominate the Central state, to impose their rule of plunder over the nations and nationalities that constitute the Indian Union. It is an instrument to crush the struggle of various nations and peoples for their national rights.
Whenever people demand the repeal of AFSPA, it is rejected by the Central Government. The reason given is that repeal of this law would have a negative effect on the “morale of the armed forces”. The impression is created that the armed forces are fighting a difficult battle against enemy forces in these areas, so this law is justified. In actual fact, imposition of AFSPA is used by the Central Government to deprive the people of their national rights.
There is no justification for the reign of terror maintained by the Government of India in Nagaland, Manipur, Kashmir and other places where AFSPA is operational. There is no justification for continuing with this colonial-era anti-democratic law. The demand for its immediate repeal is entirely just and deserves the wholehearted support of all progressive and democratic forces.