No excuse for Nagaland killings

No excuse for Nagaland killings

A counter-insurgency operation that went horribly wrong resulted in the killing of at least 14 people, including a jawan, in Mon district in Nagaland

People attend a mass funeral of civilians that were mistakenly killed by security forces, in Mon district. Credit: Reuters Photo

A counter-insurgency operation that went horribly wrong resulted in the killing of at least 14 people, including a jawan, in Mon district in Nagaland. The Assam Rifles, which conducted the operation on Saturday, and the Union Home Ministry have ordered investigations and the Nagaland police have filed an FIR for murder. It is necessary to find out how and why the operation went wrong, and responsibility needs to be clearly fixed and action taken. Military and counter-insurgency operations have gone wrong and even rogue in the North-East and they have caused disaffection and deepened the sense of alienation among the people there. Incidents like last week’s killings had not happened in Nagaland or elsewhere in the recent past. There is widespread anger across the state and elsewhere. There are protests and reports of violence. The incident is bound to have an impact even beyond the security situation in Nagaland and other states.  

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The repercussions are likely to be felt on the Naga peace process, which is even otherwise in a state of stalemate. The groups that are in talks with the Centre may come under pressure to keep away from the process at least for some time. Since the operation was conducted by the armed forces, the situation will be interpreted as a confrontation between the Nagaland people and India. There are many militant factions operating in the state. Some of them who opposed the peace process had been persuaded to join the talks in recent months, though an agreement has been held up for many reasons. Some factions are reportedly in favour of an early agreement but others, including the NSCN (IM), which had signed the 2015 Framework Agreement, have stuck to hard positions. The incident may strengthen their position and make it difficult for other groups to continue with the talks.

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The killings would remind the people of the trigger-happy ways of the security forces which have operated under draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir. A forum of seven Naga insurgent groups called the Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), which had supported the peace talks, has blamed the impunity enjoyed by the armed forces under AFSPA for incidents like the Mon killings. Successive governments have been insensitive to such criticism. The Nagaland incident has happened soon after the killing of seven personnel of the Assam Rifles by an insurgent group in Manipur, a state that had largely been peaceful in recent years. The North-East region is a complex tapestry of racial, linguistic, religious and other identities and there are historical, geographical and economic factors that have led to alienation, militancy and insurgency in the region. A security-oriented approach will not help in dealing with such situations. The Centre should focus on the political path, and it should begin by repealing AFSPA.

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