The cabinet of Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Tuesday decided to call off the ongoing Hornbill Festival in protest against the killing of 14 civilians by security forces, official sources said.
The state government has also decided to write to the Centre demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, they said.
The 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.
The 10-day annual programme brings all the 17 tribes of the state on a platform and facilitates the promotion of their culture to the rest of the world.
The first edition of the Hornbill festival, named after the Indian hornbill and also called as the “festival of festivals”, was held in 2000.
The 22nd edition of the annual event started on December 1 amid much enthusiasm, which took place after one year’s gap owing to pandemic-related restrictions.
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.
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”.
Critics have maintained that the controversial law gives the armed forces to act with impunity,
AFSPA [Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act]
The Act, which has been called draconian by critics, gives sweeping powers to the armed forces.
It allows them to open fire’, even causing death, against any person in contravention to the law or carrying arms and ammunition. It gives them powers to arrest individuals without warrants, on the basis of “reasonable suspicion”, and also search premises without warrants.
The Act also provides blanket impunity to security personnel involved in such operations, leading to human rights violations. There can be no prosecution or legal proceedings against them without the prior approval of the Centre.
The Act in its original form was promulgated by the British in response to the Quit India movement in 1942. After Independence, the Indian government decided to retain the Act, which was first brought in as an ordinance and then notified as an Act in 1958.
The controversial law is in force in Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, J&K, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.