by Kaka D. Iralu
A long fifty two years have passed since the AFSPA was first introduced into Nagaland in April 1958. This Act was first introduced into Naga soil in order to crush the Naga struggle to defend their declared independence which was declared on August 14, 1958. The political and historical situation in which the Act was introduced was therefore, a situation of war. This was clearly described by the then Director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau B.N. Mullik in his book,”My years with Nehru.” Mullik wrote:
“Troops moved into Tuensang by Oct. 1955, and the war with the Nagas started from then.”
About the number of troops deployed at this stage of the war, he wrote:
“Ultimately, nearly two divisions of the army and thirty five battalions of the Assam Rifles or armed police were in operation in the Naga Hills and Tuensang Frontier Divisions and in the adjoining areas.” (BN. Mullik, My years with Nehru, pp308, 312)
About this number of troops deployed; two Divisions means 18000 troops and thirty five Battalions means 35000 troops which totals into 53000 troops. These troops were assisted by the Indian Air Force, heavy artillery and light armored tanks.
Very soon, more then six hundred Naga villages were burned to ashes and hundreds upon thousands of Nagas died from bullets, bombs, starvation and disease.
The Indian Government however, desperately tried to project the war as a law and order break down. But it was very much a war in which tiny Nagaland was desperately trying to defend its declared independence while India tried its best to impose its declared independence on the Nagas. This was done through brutal military might.
In this war, this draconian law was preceded by the equally heinous Assam maintenance of Public order Act of 1953 and the Disturbed Area Act of 1955.These acts would later on be followed by similar Acts like the Nagaland Security Regulation Act of 1962 and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. But however hard India had tried to stamp out Naga nationalism and Naga Independence from the face of the earth, it has failed so far. This is because the national identity of a nation is indestructible and unchangeable.
The ASPA which gives the Indian soldiers sweeping powers like searching without search warrants, arresting without arrest warrants, and even shooting to death on mere suspicion is a most illegal act enacted in the annals of human legal history. In fact it is an Act that negates and even nullifies the very concept and principles of law. This is because here is an act that says a person can be shot to death on mere suspicion when the Law says “A person is innocent until proven guilty.” This extra judicial law is sanctioned by Indian Law, protected by Indian Law and is even immune from legal prosecution- “except with previous sanction of the Central Government.” This Act in short is an act that amounts to state sponsored terrorism. And the sponsorer of this heinous law is the central Government of India through its Parliament.
The grounds on which this Act can be promulgated is of course based on the Disturbed Area Act of 1955. According to the procedure, when a State Government has declared an Area to be disturbed, then the AFSPA can come into operation. (This was amended in the 1972 AFSPA amendment and now the Central Government can bypass the concerned state and declare the Act from over the State’s head.)
Now, since all these heinous Acts and regulations were promulgated from the context of a war situation in Nagaland in the 1950’s, let us go back to 1955 and ask the question, Who disturbed who in 1955? Did the Naga National Council (NNC) or the Naga army go down to the plains of Assam and started burning Assamese villages and killing Assamese villagers in 1955 to necessitate the promulgation of AFSPA? So far as the verifiable records go, Nagas were simply defending their declared independence from within their ancestral territories. They were simply fighting against the 53,000 Indian invasion forces that had come into their land with the totally false claim that Nagas were Indians and Nagaland was Indian Territory. Prior to this spirited defense of their rights, all historical, political and cultural facts showing that Nagas were not Indians and would not join the Indian Union of 1947 had been furnished to both the departing British government and the incoming Indian government before 1947. This was done in the form of submitting six memorandums to the British Government and ten memorandums to India right from Jan. I, 1929 to 14 August 1947. (For details read the book, The Naga Saga.)
In all these peaceful endeavors, all that the Nagas had asked was that India and the rest of the world leave the Nagas alone so that they could politically and economically develop themselves according to their own genius. Who then was disturbing who in 1955 that that the Indian Government was compelled to promulgate acts like Disturbed Area Act and AFSPA to check law and order breakdown with tanks aero planes and artillery???
In the subsequent years, when the Naga nation took up arms to protect their houses from being burnt and their sisters from being raped and their people from being butchered, another act called the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967 was again slammed on the Nagas. Now, Nagas would like to ask the Indian government this second question: Is self defense activities against invasion, domination and persecution- unlawful activities in your legal understanding? If these activities are unlawful activities according to you, then your whole struggle against British imperialism and colonization from 1857 to 1947 were also unlawful activities.
Now in review and conclusion, allow me to state the following:
1. In 52 long years of implementing and exercising this heinous AFSPA, all that the Indian Government has achieved is alienating not only the Nagas but all the peoples of the whole North east region of India. This work of alienation is now being extended to the people of Jammu and Kashmir where it is also in operation now.
2. A second achievement of the AFSPA is that it has insulted as well as shamed Mahatma Gandhi and all the good people of India. Consequently, in the annals of human history, it will be recorded that the Indian government used this most unlawful law to persecute and kill people for over half a century. With its renewal on Oct. 20, 2010, it remains to be seen how much further the GOI wishes to extend this black record to smear India’s democratic face before the world for all times to come.
As for the Nagas and Meiteis as well as other North Eastern peoples who have all suffered under this inhuman law, it will also be recorded in the annals of history that they had done all that they could do to oppose this law. Their record will be written in the following manner:
1. They first took up arms to defend themselves against this life nullifying act. For more then a century, they fought against it in their villages and also in their jungles and were hunted like animals all their lives. They even marched across international boundaries into Pakistan and China to carry on the fight. Yes, their men folk did what a man and a father was supposed to do to defend their national honor as well as their family’s honor.
2. As for their womenfolk, they even stripped naked before the Indian soldiers to protest against this heinous law because under its protective umbrella thousands of women had been raped. One of their women even resorted to hunger strike and went for a fast on to death for ten years. But even these desperate actions were all ignored by the government of India.
In the end, the people who have suffered under this cruel law are only left wondering as to whether the Indian government is trying to force them to become human suicide bombers. On their part, they do not want to resort to this kind of protest because if a people are reduced to a state of hatred, then hatred destroys both “The hater” as well as “The hated.”