NEW DELHI: In the wake of the Nagaland incident in which 14 civilians were, National People’s Party (NPP) MP Agatha Sangma on Tuesday said it is time that “the elephant in the room be addressed” and the “draconian” Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act be repealed.
Speaking during the Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, Sangma, who is an MP of BJP-ally NPP in Meghalaya, said that an “unfortunate and condemnable” incident took place in the Mon district of Nagaland in which “14 civilians were shot dead by the armed forces in a so-called counter insurgency operation”.
She said that this was not the first time that an incident like this had taken place where innocent civilians had to bear the brunt of “draconian laws” like AFSPA.
“It also reminds us of an incident that took place in Manipur in 2000, in Imphal, which is known as the Malom massacre in which over 10 civilians were shot dead and it prompted a 28-year old Irom Sharmila to go on a 16 year-long hunger strike,” Sangma said.
She noted that various political leaders cutting across party lines spoke about this issue and condemned this on Monday.
Even Home Minister Amit Shah gave a statement regarding this incident and informed the House that an SIT will probe this issue, she said.
“But I also believe that it is time that the elephant in the room be addressed, which is that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) be repealed,” Sangma said.
She pointed out that the incident has been condemned by every possible student union from the Northeast.
“My own political party NPP has condemned this. Even the Jeevan Reddy Committee committee had recommended that this act be scrapped.
Therefore, on those lines, I would like to say that in the North east there have been procedures where the armed forces within themselves can address these issues and a lot of prosecutions have taken place,” she said.
Sangma said that the reason why AFSPA was enacted in 1958 was to ensure that insurgency be stopped in the Northeast but it has not been able to do that.
The insurgency issue has not been helped by the enactment of AFSPA and instead what it has done is that it has caused civilians to be unfairly tortured, raped and killed, she alleged.
“Therefore, I take this opportunity not just on behalf of my party, but also on behalf of the people of Northeast, that this act be repealed,” Sangma said.
The 14 civilians were killed in related incidents of firing on Saturday and Sunday.
The first incident, in which six civilians were killed, occurred when Army personnel mistook coal mine workers returning home in a pick-up van on Saturday evening for insurgents belonging to the Yung Aung faction of the banned NSCN(K).
After the workers failed to reach their homes, local youth and villagers went to look for them and surrounded Army vehicles.
In the ensuing clash, one soldier was killed and Army vehicles burnt.
Soldiers were claimed to have fired in self-defence, killing seven more civilians.
Rioting spilled over into Sunday afternoon when mobs vandalised the offices of the Konyak Union, an influential group of the Nagas to which the victims belonged, and an Assam Rifles camp in the area.
At least one more person was killed as security forces repulsed the attackers.
The Indian Army has ordered a court of inquiry headed by an officer of major general rank into the Nagaland incident.
Expressing regret over the Nagaland firing incident, Shah on Monday said a probe by an SIT will be completed within a month and asserted that all agencies must ensure such happenings do not recur while taking action against insurgents.