Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan, 8 December, 2021
Caption: Coffins of the civilians killed on December 4 in Mon district of Nagaland
With great anger, Lok Raj Sangathan denounces the unprovoked murder of twelve innocent people and grievous injury to scores of others by the military in Nagaland on 4th and 5th December 2021. These heinous crimes have once again underlined the urgent need to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 (AFSPA). This Act is in force for decades on end in Kashmir and several parts of Northeast India including Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh, and provides immunity from prosecution for members of the armed forces from the most heinous of crimes like gang rape and mass murder.
It is no surprise that the most unjust AFSPA has been in force in precisely these areas for the past few decades – for these are the areas where people have been fighting relentlessly for their national and democratic rights. Many or most of the people from these areas never accepted the unilateral amalgamation of their regions into the Indian Union which came into being with the transfer of power from the British colonialists to their Indian counterparts. Experience has shown that the political systems which were put into place after this transfer of power have ensured that the richest of the rich, who in fact control political power, have indeed grown even more richer at the expense of the ordinary people. Oppression of workers, women, people of the Muslim and other faiths, Dalits, tribal people and others has grown greatly.
In the regions where people didn’t even accept the transfer and their forcible incorporation into the Indian Union, virtual martial law has been imposed on them for decades. The army and various other military and paramilitary forces, whose primary purpose is to said to be the defence of the Indian people from external aggression, are in fact used to subdue the people of their own country! The fact that local police forces are considered incapable of dealing with the discontent is because these often share the same sentiments in respect of their region and its’ assimilation into the Indian Republic. Hence military and paramilitary forces from far away, who do not identify themselves with the history and sentiments of the people of the region, are brought in. This is really no different from the manner in which aggressing countries use their armies to subdue and control regions occupied by the conquering powers, committing crimes against humanity!
In the recent incidents, a most unacceptable “justification” is being dished out that a few army men and some family members were killed in Manipur in November 2021 and that there was “intense pressure” on the armed forces to “deliver”. What were these military men doing in Manipur in the first place? And how could it ever justify the cold-blooded murder of six mine workers returning after work to their village in Nagaland on Saturday 4th December, or the killing of at least seven more who were protesting against these gruesome killings? Or the grievous injuries of scores of other people protesting against these killings in other parts of Nagaland and the Northeast? The killing and injury of people of these areas needs to be strongly condemned.
Numerous atrocities including rapes, torture, forced ‘disappearances’, and even mass murder have been reportedly committed by the armed forces in these regions over the decades. The AFSPA is an additional instrument of oppression, since it provides total immunity from prosecution to the most heinous of such crimes to those perpetrating them. The demand for the repeal of AFSPA needs to be voiced even more vigorously!