Centre to form panel to look into withdrawal of AFSPA from Nagaland, says CM

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Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Sunday said that the Centre has decided to constitute a five-member committee to look into the withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 or AFSPA from the northeastern state.

The committee will be headed by the Ministry of Home Affairs additional secretary (Northeast), and will include the chief secretary and director general of police of Nagaland, besides inspector general of Assam Rifles (North) and a representative of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF),

The panel will submit its recommendations within 45 days, based on which the decision on whether to continue designating Nagaland as a “disturbed area” or withdrawing AFSPA from the state will be taken, a joint statement issued by Rio, Deputy Chief Minister Y Patton and Leader of Naga Peoples’ Front Legislature Party T R Zeliang here said.

The decision was taken during a meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on December 23 to discuss the present situation in Nagaland.

Besides the trio that issued the statement, the meeting was also attended by North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

“A court of inquiry will initiate disciplinary proceedings against the army unit and personnel who were involved in the Oting incident, and action will be taken against on the basis of a fair probe. The identified persons facing the investigation will be placed under suspension with immediate effect,” the statement said.

Fourteen civilians were killed by security forces in firing incidents in Mon district earlier this month, giving strength to demands in Nagaland to withdraw AFSPA from the northeastern state.

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Government jobs will be provided to the next of the kin of the deceased, and Mon superintendent of police and deputy commissioner will carry out necessary procedures in consultation with the village councils concerned, it said.

In line with the Konyak peoples’ demand, the Nagaland delegation impressed upon Shah to replace the Assam Rifles unit in Mon with immediate effect, the statement said.

The three Nagaland leaders expressed gratitude to Shah for taking up the matter with utmost seriousness, and appreciated the Centre for taking steps towards ensuring justice and also positively responding to voice of the people.

They appealed to all sections of the Naga society to remain calm and maintain peace.

“The democratic and peaceful nature of the civil society groups, tribal ‘hohos’ and mass organisations in our collective quest for justice and truth has been well received and has created a positive image of the Naga people to the rest of the global community,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, noting that its inquiry is progressing expeditiously and it is fully cooperating with the Nagaland government’s SIT, the army urged the people of the state to have patience and wait for the findings of the probe, and assured them that action will be taken as per law to ensure justice.

“The inquiry ordered by Army is progressing expeditiously and all efforts are being made to conclude it at the earliest. We have taken out notices for people to come forward & assist us in the inquiry by providing any information including videos, photos or any other material from original sources and will be grateful for the same. This can be conveyed on Whatsapp Messenger at +916026930283 or Army Exchange Helpline +913742388456,” the army said in a statement.

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“The Indian Army is also fully cooperating with the Special Investigation Team (SIT) inquiry ordered by State Govt & required details are being shared in timely manner. We request all brothers and sisters of Nagaland to be patient and wait for the findings of the Army inquiry. We assure you that action will be taken in accordance with the law to secure justice for all.

“The people of Nagaland have always cooperated and assisted the Security Forces in maintaining peace & tranquillity over the last many decades. We share a deep bond of brotherhood, trust and friendship with you. Let us work together for a brighter & better future,” it added.