Union Home Minister Amit Shah today told Parliament the centre regretted the deaths of 14 civilians in Nagaland after a botched Army op. Mr Shah read out statements in both Houses as opposition MPs shouted objections and demanded repeal of AFSPA.
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“Government of India expresses regrets over the incident and condolences to those killed… a SIT has been formed and has been directed to complete investigation in a month. Situation is tense but under control. All agencies have to ensure such incidents do not happen in future,” Amit Shah told the Lok Sabha.
An hour later he read out a similar statement in the Rajya Sabha as opposition MPs screamed “nahi chalegi, nahi chalegi”(this won’t do, this won’t do). “The centre has examined the situation and reached the conclusion the incidents such as this – where innocent villagers were killed – shouldn’t be repeated,” Mr Shah said.
As he spoke (and as their Lower House colleagues had done), opposition Rajya Sabha MPs kept up a steady din demanding a debate on AFSPA and the Nagaland violence. They also protested the suspension of 12 of their colleagues for the winter session.
In the Lok Sabha, after Amit Shah made his statement, furious opposition MPs protested the perfunctory nature of the Home Minister’s speech and reiterated demands for a discussion on the Nagaland violence, as well as repeal of the contentious AFSPA.
In protest, particularly over AFSPA, the Congress, the DMK, the Samajwadi Party, the BSP, and the NCP walked out. The Congress had demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi be present for this, but PM Modi stayed away from this session.
This morning the Prime Minister met with senior members of his cabinet, including Mr Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, to discuss the situation and the centre’s response. The centre has been attacked over the civilians’ deaths amid strong demands, including by the Nagaland and Meghalaya chief ministers that AFSPA be repealed.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio slammed the centre for extending AFSPA. “Every year the centre extends AFSPA in Nagaland, saying it is a ‘disturbed area’… but all armed groups are in ceasefire and part of peace talks. So why extend it?” he asked.
Opposition to AFSPA also came from political parties in Assam, where too the law is in force. Veteran CPI(M) leader Hemen Das called it “state terrorism”. Assam Jatiya Parishad General Secretary Jagadish Bhuyan said: “GoI should SCRAP AFSPA and allow NE people to live as dignified citizens of the country…”
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, has been in force in Nagaland and parts of the northeast for several decades. Under this legislation, security forces can conduct operations anywhere in the state where the law is in effect and arrest anyone without any prior warrant.
14 villagers and a soldier died in Nagaland’s Mon district over the weekend after an Army op went horribly wrong. A police FIR has said the Army’s 21 Para Special Forces “blankly opened fire”. The Army yesterday expressed deep regret for the “unfortunate loss of lives” and said the matter would be investigated at the “highest level”.