Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Hundreds of people have walked 70 km (43 miles) in northeast India to demand the repeal of a controversial act that gives special forces to Indian troops, following a deadly incident last month when soldiers killed more than a dozen civilians.

They started their protest in Dimapur, a city in the state of Nagaland, and walked to Kohima, the state capital, and raised slogans against the Special Forces of the Armed Forces Act (AFSPA).

The law gives the military wide powers to search, arrest and even shoot suspects with little fear of prosecution. Human rights groups have long accused security forces of abusing the law.

Many joined for ends along the trail, with traditional wear and posters.

The road from Dimapur to Kohima is winding and radiant, and often dusty at ends.

“It was a tiring step, but I participated because we want AFSPA removed,” 55-year-old Khamba Konyak said on Tuesday. Khamba is Konyak, a Naga tribe whose 14 young men were killed in December by the Indian Army.

Since the deaths, candlelight vigils and solidarity marches have called for the repeal of AFSPA, which has been looming over the region since 1958 and giving many areas the feeling of occupied territory.

“We are members of a helpless public and we have no other way to raise our voice against AFSPA. We can only contribute with our toil and sweat, ”said the 35-year-old Mopa Konyak.

Under the law, local authorities require federal approval to prosecute army or paramilitary soldiers in civilian courts.

The investigation into the law has grown in the wake of last month’s deadly attack, with the state’s prime minister, Neiphiu Rio, announcing that his government wants to do away with it.

On December 20, Nagaland’s meeting unanimously adopted a resolution demanding the repeal of AFSPA, but the federal government extended the law by six months 10 days later.

Even as people marched in Nagaland, AFSPA was extended for another year in the neighboring state of Manipur on Tuesday.

“I walked this whole stretch because I was worried about the future of our children. AFSPA must be removed, “said 53-year-old Dauyan Lakban.

Kevitho Kera, one of the organizers, added: “We are Nagas, a warrior terrace. But today we leave our machete on the ground and walk peacefully to fight our oppressors with non-violence. How will India respond to our non-violence? Is not the world’s greatest democracy ashamed of this draconian law? ”

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