Government forms panel on AFSPA after Nagaland\'s plea to junk law

The decision to constitute the committee was taken at a meeting chaired by Union home minister Amit Shah

New Delhi: Just days after Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio urged the Centre to remove the operation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from the state, the Union home ministry has decided to form a panel to look into the suggestion, said the Nagaland government.

In a statement issued in Dimapur, the Nagaland government said Union home minister Amit Shah had on December 23 held a meeting to discuss the present scenario in the state. The meeting was attended by Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio, Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, Nagaland deputy CM Y. Patton, and Naga People’s Front Legislature Party leader T.R. Zeliang.

“At the meeting, it was decided that a committee will be instituted to look into the withdrawal of AFSPA in Nagaland,” the state government said. The state government has also urged the MHA to replace the Assam Rifles unit in Mon with immediate effect. The MHA is yet to make a formal announcement in this regard.

“Briefed the media with regard to the meeting chaired by Hon’ble @HMOIndia Shri @AmitShah on Dec 23, 2021 in New Delhi. Grateful to Amit Shah ji for taking up the matter with utmost seriousness. The State Govt appeals to all sections to continue to maintain a peaceful atmosphere,” Mr Rio tweeted.

According to the Nagaland government’s statement, the committee will be chaired by the additional secretary looking after the Northeast in the Union home ministry and will include the chief secretary and director-general of police of Nagaland. Other members of the panel will be IGP of Assam Rifles (North), and representatives of the CRPF. The committee has been asked to submit its report within 45 days and the withdrawal of the Disturbed Areas Act and AFSPA from Nagaland will be based on the recommendations of this committee.

The Nagaland government has said that a court of inquiry will initiate disciplinary proceedings against the Army unit and its personnel who were directly involved in the Oting incident and that “action will be taken on the basis of fair inquiry and the identified persons who will face inquiry will be placed under suspension with immediate effect”.

The Indian Army had on December 20 announced an inquiry into the Oting incident. In addition, the state government has set up a Special Investigation Team to investigate the killings and fix responsibility.

The state government said it will provide jobs to the next of kin of the persons who died during the firing by security forces on December 4 when 14 civilians were shot dead at Oting village of Mon district in what is seen as a botched-up anti-insurgency operation. The chief ministers of Nagaland and Meghalaya had written to the Centre seeking withdrawal of the AFSPA and sought action against the security personnel involved in the incident.

“The state government appeals to all sections to remain calm and to continue to maintain a peaceful atmosphere. The democratic and peaceful nature of civil society groups, tribal “hohos” and mass-based organisations in our collective quest for justice and truth have been well received and has created a positive image of the Naga people to the rest of the global community,” the statement said.

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