A two-day 'walkathon' protest against the Armed Forces Special Protection Act has been enacted in the north-eastern state of Nagaland on Monday, with protestors joining the 70 km march from Nagaland's commercial hub Dimapur to state capital Kohima. The protestors are demanding the law be repealed after the death of 14 civilians in a botched encounter by security forces in the Mon district in December.
The two-day walkathon was spearheaded by various Naga Civil Society Organisations after a massive social media campaign for it for the past few weeks. Various other protestors joined the march on its first day before the protestors halted at Piphema overnight.
Once the procession reaches Kohima, leaders of the protest are expected to submit a memorandum to the state's acting Governor Jagdish Mukhi. Eastern Naga Students Federation President Chingmak Chang said that the peaceful walkathon is being organised to remind the central and state governments to repeal the AFSPA at the earliest.
We would continue our programmes in various manners until the government respond positively towards our demands," Mr Chang told the media, adding that the aim was to repeal the AFSPA and protect the dignity of civilians living in the state.
The fact that the government had extended the AFSPA rule in the state for a further six months after December 30, 2021 was 'intolerable', Chang said.
On December 4, an army operation was set into motion near the coal mines of the Guru valley on the tip-off that terrorists were active in the area. However the army shot dead a truck full of coal miners instead, leading to protests by villagers in the area who attacked and torched the security forces vehicles. 14 people were killed in total.
A special enquiry was ordered into the incident with the Army admitting it had erred in its actions. Condolences were offered by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, but anger against the AFSPA continued to broil, culminating in protests by the Naga People's Front (NPF), Naga Students' Federation (NSF) and the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP).