New Delhi, Dec 17 (EFE).- Thousands of people protested in northeast India on Friday to demand the revocation of a controversial law that gives sweeping powers to security personnel for counter-insurgency operations, days after soldiers allegedly killed 14 civilians during and after a botched anti-terror operation.
The protest took place in Kohima, the capital of the northeastern state of Nagaland, the president of Nagaland Students Federation (NSF) Kegwayhun Tep told EFE.
“We have almost all the civil society organizations in Nagaland who attended the program today, including all Assam students union,” Tep said.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the army shoot-to-kill powers to fight militants, is in force in several northeastern states and Indian Kashmir.
It also provides the army legal immunity from using force and allows the arrest of suspects without warrants.
Human rights groups accuse the Indian Army of extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions under the controversial law.
The renewed call for the abrogation of the law came after 14 civilians were killed on Dec.4 in Nagaland.
Soldiers opened fire and killed eight villagers, apparently suspecting them to be militants, during an ambush for insurgents near Oting village in Mon district of the volatile northeastern state.
The killings sparked angry street protests.
Security forces then allegedly opened fire in “self defense” to resist the violent mob, some of whom torched three army vehicles.
Six protesters were killed and six injured in the firing by the security forces. A soldier also died, taking the death toll to 15.
Since then, protests have been increasing in the region to demand the repeal of the controversial law.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio described the law as “draconian” that “should be removed.”
“This (the law) has blackened the image of our country,” Rio said on Dec.6.
The restive northeast of India, connected with the mainland by a strategically critical and highly-sensitive narrow corridor called the chicken neck, is spread over seven sister states, including Nagaland.
The region has been battling decades of conflict as several ethnic and separatist groups demand greater autonomy or secession from India.
The conflict has caused nearly 25,000 deaths since India’s independence in 1947.
The conflict has somewhat eased in the past years, but Indian soldiers remain stationed in barracks in urban and rural areas of the region.
India alleges militant leaders hide in the thickly-forested region that stretches up to neighboring Myanmar. EFE