DIMAPUR, JANUARY 10: A little over 40 km covered on foot today; 34 more to be walked tomorrow ~ the distance is from Dimapur to Kohima. But the message is intended to travel much farther, all the way to the power centre at New Delhi.
The duration of the walk is ‘only’ two days. But Naga people have been walking this road since 1958.
On Monday morning, around 200 Nagas from different walks of life began a 2-day march ~ called Walkathon ~ from the Super Market area at Dimapur and headed for Kohima with one voice, demanding the repeal of Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA) and justice for the 14 civilians killed by Indian Army personnel in Mon district on December 4 and 5 last.
After marching for 40 km, they reached Phiphema at around 6.30 p.m., where they were scheduled to halt for the night. At 6 a.m., on January 11, they will resume their walk till Kohima where they will submit a memorandum to the Centre through Governor Jagdish Mukhi.
Addressing the gathering at Super Market before beginning their march, one of the participants, RukuwezoWetsah said that they have initiated the walk to express resentment over AFSPA and to reassert “our dignity as human beings”.
He pointed out that even as the State Government had convened a special session of Nagaland Legislative Assembly and rejected the AFSPA, the Central Government has arbitrarily imposed the Disturbed Area Act in the whole of Naga areas again.
“So the public are coming together to show our resentment and our displeasure against this draconian Act and also say that our State Government and Police are more than capable of handling law and order situation in our State. We don’t need colonial era laws, which the AFSPA is”, he said.
Wetsah said that the public march will be peaceful and they will march silently till the end. He also requested the participants to abstain from any form of violence, not instigate anyone and listen to the authorities.
The participants also observed a minute’s silence in the honour of the victims of the Mon incident.
Member of Forum for Naga Reconciliation, Rev. Dr. Ellen Konyak offered prayers after which the Walkathon began. The participants marched from Super Market singing We Shall Overcome, the universal protest anthem.
At Phiphema, one of the co-ordinators of the walk, Kevitho Kera told journalists that the response from the citizens was overwhelming.
He said that the first day’s march should not be judged by the number of participants because of the COVID-19 SOPs. “A lot of people wanted to turn up today but they had to back out because of the SOP guideline given to us by the authority”, he added.
However, there were plenty of gestures and expressions of support along the way for the participants.
“What surprised us was the amount of support that we received along the way. People, various village unions, various organisations belonging to totally tribes, they showed their support by giving us refreshments, by encouraging us, cheering us along the way”, said Kera.
He also shared that the two key points of their memorandum to the Governor. “First of all, we are stressing on justice for the victims of Oting massacre. The guilty, the perpetrators must be charged under criminal procedure and tried in civil court, adequate compensation has to be made to the victims’ families and the injured. Another point is complete repeal of AFSPA”, he said.
On New Delhi’s decision to extend the Disturbed Area Act in Nagaland, Kera said that the presence of military and AFSPA in the State are rather “very disturbing to our peace, sleep and sanity”.
“For India, a country built on such sound principles, AFSPA is a mockery of what it was built on. What happened at Oting is such a shame, a blot, in the history of India”, he maintained.
(Page News Service)