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Nagaland calls off Hornbill Festival over civilian killing, cabinet seeks repeal of AFSPA

Nagaland Killings

Coffins of the 13 people, who were allegedly killed by Armed Forces buried during their funeral in Mon district on December 6, 2021. PTI photo

Kohima: The cabinet headed by Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Tuesday called off the ongoing Hornbill Festival in protest against the killing of 14 civilians by security forces. The state government also decided to write to the Union government demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

The 10-day Hornbill Festival, the state's largest tourism extravaganza held at Naga Heritage Village in Kisama near the state capital, was scheduled to end on December 10.

During an emergency meeting, the cabinet was briefed about the action taken following the killing, including setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by an IGP rank officer and grant of ex-gratia to the next of kin of the deceased by the state and central governments, ministers Neiba Kronu and Temjen Imna Along later told reporters. The cabinet has directed the SIT to complete the investigation within a month, they said.

Kronu said that altogether 14 civilians have died in the incident, while two seriously injured are undergoing treatment in neighbouring Assam, and six are being treated in Dimapur.

The firing incidents took place in Oting-Tiru area on December 4 and Mon town on December 5.

"All activities of Hornbill Festival 2021 should cease in view of mourning announced for the deceased in the firing incidents in Mon district," Kronu said.

After the announcement, the tourism department, the main organiser of the festival, held a solemn closing ceremony at the Naga Heritage Village. The state government had cancelled the day's event at the venue on Monday. Several tribes from eastern Nagaland and other parts of the state had suspended all activities at their respective Morungs over the killing in Mon district.

On the appeal of civil society groups, especially the Naga Students' Federation, to convene a special assembly session to pass a resolution demanding the repeal of the AFSPA, Along said that the state government can only appeal while it is up to the Union Government to take the final decision on repealing the Act.

CM Rio, while attending the funeral of the 14 civilians in Mon town on Monday, had joined a growing chorus of demands seeking the repeal of AFSPA that gives special powers to security forces in "disturbed areas".

A report submitted to the state government on Sunday claimed the army made no attempt to ascertain the identity of the civilians returning from work on a pick-up truck before shooting them in Nagaland's Mon district on Saturday.

Critics have maintained that the controversial law gives the armed forces to act with impunity, leading to human rights violations.

The joint report by the state's Director General of Police (DGP) T John Longkumer and Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor quoted eyewitnesses, who said the Army's special forces tried to "hide" the bodies of six people by wrapping and loading them on a pick-up van with the intention of taking them to their base camp.

Meanwhile, the Indian Army has ordered a court of inquiry headed by an officer of major general rank into the Nagaland firing incident in which 14 civilians were killed, PTI reported quoting official sources

Quoting sources, the report also said that an officer of major general rank would head the court of inquiry to probe the operation of the 21 Para Special Forces that took place in the state's Mon district on Saturday evening. The inquiry will focus on the "intelligence" and the "circumstances" on which Saturday's operation was based on.

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TAGS:Nagaland KillingsHornbill festival
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