The Naga People’s Front (NPF), which is part of the all-party United Democratic Alliance (UDA) government in Nagaland, said in a statement that it was “aghast and affronted”, especially because the extension came days after the December 23 meeting, which was chaired by Union Home Minister Shah.
In the meeting, which was attended by Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, Deputy Chief Minister Yanthungo Patton and NPF Legislature Party leader T R Zeliang, as well as Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, it was decided that the Centre would institute a high-level committee to examine the possibility of withdrawing AFSPA from Nagaland.
“This extension is a manifestation of the utter disregard the central government has for the voices of small states, particularly in North-east India, considering that the Nagaland Legislative Assembly has convened a special one-day session on 20th December to deliberate on AFSPA and the House had unanimously resolved to demand its repeal,” said a statement by the NPF, issued on Thursday.
The House resolution came days after an uproar in the state following the death of 14 civilians, 6 of whom were killed in a botched-up Army operation in Mon district on December 4.
Criticising the statement signed by Rio, Patton and its own party’s leader, Zeliang, where the three had expressed gratitude to Shah “for taking the matter with utmost seriousness” in the December 23 meeting, the NPF said “any discerning person is made to wonder if there is any modicum of coordination or even communication between the Executive and Legislative branches of the Central Government”.
It said it would pursue democratic means to remove AFSPA from Nagaland, and that it would “not stay idle till the central government reconsiders its decision”.
A senior leader in the Nagaland government told The Indian Express that the reaction from legislators across the board was “explosive”.
“People feel betrayed… while this is a normal exercise [extension of ‘disturbed area’ status] undertaken every six months, it comes at a time when emotions are high,” he said, adding that the high-powered committee’s report would be “extremely crucial”.
“Many feel that the operation of AFSPA should have been kept on hold till the committee submitted its report,” he said.
The Naga Hoho, the state’s apex tribal body, said it was “extremely shocked” by the attitude of the Centre for “ignoring the voice of the Naga people”.
“It is a direct challenge and a message from the Government of India to keep on crushing the inalienable rights of the Nagas. If India is truly a democratic country, then the voice of the people should have been heard. Whereas, on the contrary the dignity and rights of the Naga people is simply not respected neither considered as fellow human beings,” the group said in a statement.
It also called upon every Naga to “be prepared for any eventuality in the days to come.”
Government sources said the latest extension would only intensify protests against AFSPA. Massive rallies calling for the Act’s repeal had earlier been held in capital Kohima as well as the Eastern Nagaland districts.
The Naga Student Federation (NSF), the state’s apex student body, said they would protest the notification through a series of democratic agitations. “Going by the adamant attitude of the GOI, the Naga people must be prepared to face them head on this new year,” the NSF said in a statement.