KOHIMA: Various Naga civil society groups, state government officials and opposition parties have expressed displeasure over the extension of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 in Nagaland by another six months.
The Centre issued a notification on December 30 last year extending the law in Nagaland till July-end which empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without any prior notice.
The Union Home Ministry had said in the notificiation that the central government is of the opinion that the area comprising the whole state of Nagaland is in such a "disturbed and dangerous" condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.
However, state government officials, Opposition and organisations like Naga Hoho, Naga Mothers Association (NMA), Naga Students' Federation (NSF) and Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) have expressed resentment over the move.
The state government always objects to the extension of AFSPA in Nagaland as and when the Union government seeks the state's opinion before declaring Nagaland a 'disturbed area', but the law is extended every year and now it has become a routine exercise, a top government official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
"As the state government, we have been objecting to the extension of AFSPA and even this time we did so when the Union Home Ministry sought our views.
"The state government doesn't want AFSPA but we are not aware if the Centre is looking at wider issues unknown to the state," the official said.
Opposition leader and former chief minister, TR Zeliang sarcastically said Nagas got the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 as a "Christmas gift" instead of peace accord between Naga groups and the Centre and now extension of AFSPA has come as a "New Year's package".
Naga Hoho general secretary K Elu Ndang said AFSPA is not relevant anymore in a civilised society and its applicability has no place in the modern world.
"AFSPA is only a means to terrorise and create fear among innocent people," he said.
India being the largest democracy must live on the values of democracy and in the true spirit of secularism, Ndang said.
NMA president Abei-u Meru told PTI, "I don't see any reason or situation why AFSPA was extended in Nagaland. Is it to please the security forces?" The NSF media cell condemned the move in a statement.
"A peaceful state like Nagaland is painted in a picture of chaos and lawlessness by the Centre's notification, as the world is witness to the fact that Nagaland is not what it is made to look by the ill-intended notification of the central government.
"The extension of AFSPA is not for the maintenance of law and order in Nagaland but only a diabolic attempt of the Centre to further the suppression of the Naga people through militarisation and to encourage the numerous abuses and serious human rights violations by the armed forces which have been ongoing for many years," it said.
The NSF also questioned "the overarching approach of the central government in extending the inhumane Act as law and order is the subject matter of the state government."
The federation also reiterated its long-standing view that the AFSPA violates the Constitution as infringes upon the fundamental rights of the citizens and that the law must be repealed.
NTC general secretary Nribemo Ngullie, when contacted, said, "What NTC is confused is that Nagas are passing through the political negotiations with the Government of India (GoI) and according to the commitment given by the GoI, settlement should have already been made but it is getting delayed because of one or the other technical reasons.
" He said that extension of AFSPA while giving hope for a settlement of the Naga political issue is "like handing over an olive branch or a piece of bread on one hand with a stick on the other."
"When we want peace... there should be total peace but the Nagas have been continuously threatened by AFSPA for the past 70 years, and the fear psychosis continues.
"There is no peace in our minds under the draconian law and it is time that the GoI thinks how to soften AFSPA," Ngullie added.