Liberty to Kill

The army has the divine right to violate human rights and kill innocent people with impunity. They are accountable to none. On 4th December, 2021, 14 coalminers from Mon district of Nagaland, were murdered in cold blood by Indian special forces. They were gunned down in the most gruesome manner with no affirmation that these people were armed or posed as threats to the state. The army men are allowed to shoot or arrest anybody suspected of being a ‘militant’. In truth the atrocities committed by the armed forces in North Eastern States and Kashmir far outweigh the ‘order’ they set out to achieve. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, gives army men the liberty to kill civilians without any repercussions or legal action. This Act owes its origin to the British-Indian ordinance promulgated during the wartime to suppress freedom fighters. The brown sahibs who have inherited the British mantle are happy to continue the Whiteman’s legacy to silence and terrorise their own people. In addition to AFSPA they frequently use the notorious Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to put dissenters behind bars without any trial for years. Their patent allegations of anti-national activities are anything but manufactured lies. Speaking up against injustice cannot be anti-national but silencing people is. The entire security machine works overtime to create false cases and brutalise ordinary people while mocking at the judiciary in this biggest showpiece of democracy.

AFSPA has long shielded the armed forces from responsibility for grave abuses and denied justice to the families harmed. The National Socialist Council of Nagalim ( I-M ) which is part of the on-going peace process to end the decades-old Naga insurgency condemned the government’s indiscriminate use of AFSPA against Nagas .The people of Nagaland had the “bitter taste of this act” on numerous occasions in the yester years. The central government routinely denies permission for civilian prosecution of military personnel. The Congress government did it and now the saffron dispensation is following the same rule when it is the question of prosecution of soldiers. The military bureaucracy never really prosecutes army men and officers for gross violation human rights and murder of the innocent.

After the Mon incident the cries of sorrow and grief ring throughout the state of Nagaland. They mourn over the multitude of innocent lives lost. Now is the time to emphatically say ‘no’ to AFSPA and come together as concerned citizens to bring permanent change for peace.

As long as AFSPA remains in force its misuse will continue unabated. Peace will never return to the so-called disturbed areas. The peace process has come a long way in Nagaland since the signing of the Shillong Accord in 1975 whereby the Naga rebels agreed to accept India’s constitution and surrender their weapons but after 46 years the situation is far from normal. The New Delhi authorities talk of peace only to escalate war creating more insurgents. AFSPA is actually destroying unity and integrity of the country. The Indian army is behaving like an occupying force in the North East. AFSPA provides soldiers with effective immunity from prosecution. And it is the crux of the matter. Human Rights bodies across the world have critcised the government of India for utilising AFSPA while urging the authorities to repeal the Act without delay.

Pledges by Home Minister Amit Shah to investigate the army action in Mon will come to nothing unless those responsible are prosecuted. Blood and peace talks cannot go together and the prolonged peace negotiations are likely to suffer a setback if the government continues to protect the guilty. Political parties in opposition are trying to cash in on the tragedy as a Congress delegation was not allowed by the Jorhat district administration in Assam to go to Nagaland to meet the families of the victims. Ironically Congress never raised the issue of repealing AFSPA despite systematic killing of people in the name of curbing militancy and terrorism. After all it was the Congress government that enacted this draconian law to suppress legitimate movements for justice and peace.

For one thing Naga insurgency is now the oldest insurgency in the country, forcing the government to see reasons in their demand of self-determination and preservation of their ethnic assertion. Originally they demanded a separate province but New Delhi declined to oblige forcing the Nagas to resort to violent campaigns. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel.


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Vol 54, No. 26, Dec 26, 2021 - Jan 1, 2022