Following the death of several civilians by the security forces in the Mon town last weekend, an emergency sitting of the Nagaland cabinet decided to appeal to the Home Ministry to repeal the Armed Formed (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) today, even though Union Home Minister Amit Shah had explained yesterday that the incident had occurred due to “mistaken identity”.
The Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio-chaired meeting decided to call off the ongoing Hornbill Festival and directed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to complete its investigation into the incident within a month.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Nagaland Minister of Planning and Parliamentary Affairs Neiba Kronu (also the state government’s spokesperson), and Minister of Higher and Technical Education Temjen Imna Along said the cabinet had been briefed about the action taken following the killing, like the institution of an SIT headed by an IG-rank officer and the decision to grant an ex-gratia amount to the next of kin of the 14 victims.
“AFSPA is renewed periodically and it is not a subject matter that is handled by the state. The union government decides on this in consultation with the state. So, it was decided in the meeting that we will appeal to the Government of India to repeal AFSPA from Nagaland,” said Along about the law made way back in 1958.
While attending the funeral of the 14 civilians in Mon town on Monday, Chief Minister Rio had backed the demand for a repeal of AFSPA.
The ministers said the Nagaland government was planning to hold a meeting of the Core Committee on Naga Political Issues on 9 December. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also the Northeast Development Authority chairman, is likely to attend the meeting.
“People being killed following a case of mistaken identity or on the basis of misinformation is very unfortunate. The investigating agencies will come out with a report. We have given SIT one month to complete the probe,” Kronu said.
The Nagaland minister of planning and parliamentary affairs said 14 civilians had died in the incident, while two with serious injuries are undergoing treatment in Assam, and six are being treated in Dimapur (Nagaland).
On the decision to stop the Hornbill festival, he said, “All activities of Hornbill Festival, 2021, should cease in view of mourning announced for the deceased in the firing incidents in Mon district.”
The Hornbill Festival, an annual 10-day tourism extravaganza held at Naga Heritage Village in Kisama near Kohima, was scheduled to end on 10 December.
Six civilians, who were coal mine workers from Village Oting on their way home from work in Tiru, were killed in an ambush by security forces in Nagaland’s Mon district. The incident triggered violence in the area Saturday night and late Sunday afternoon, in which eight more civilians (seven on Saturday and one the next day) were killed after security forces allegedly opened fire.
A soldier succumbed to injuries in the violence two nights ago while several others were severely injured.
The officer in charge of the Tizit police station in Mon filed an FIR suo motu on Sunday. He said the “intention” of the security forces was “to murder and injure civilians”.
Nagaland Hornbill Festival
The Hornbill Festival is a celebration held every year from 1 to 10 December, in Nagaland, Northeast India. It is also called the “Festival of Festivals” locally.
The state of Nagaland is home to several tribes, which have their own distinct festivals. More than 60% of the population of Nagaland depends on agriculture and therefore most of their festivals revolve around agriculture. The Nagas consider their festivals sacred, so participation in these festivals is essential.
To encourage inter-tribal interaction and to promote the cultural heritage of Nagaland, the Government of Nagaland organizes the Hornbill Festival every year in the first week of December. The first festival was held in 2000.
The festival is named after the Indian hornbill, the large and colourful forest bird which is displayed in the folklore of most of the state’s tribes.