In a major outreach to the Northeast, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has announced reduction of the disturbed areas imposed under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur after decades.
A home ministry spokesperson, however, said the decision does not imply that the AFSPA has been completely withdrawn from the three insurgency-hit states but will continue to be in force in some areas of the three states.
A very welcome decision. The leadership of PM Narendra Modi has brought a new era of peace, progress and security to the North East. Reduction in areas under AFSPA will further create a conducive environment for fast-paced growth in the region, Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal was quoted as saying by ANI
The AFSPA has been in force for decades in the three Northeastern states to assist the armed forces operating there to tackle insurgency.
The AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant besides giving immunity from arrest and prosecution to the security forces if they shoot someone dead. There have been protests and demands for the complete withdrawal of the law from the Northeast as well as Jammu and Kashmir for its alleged “draconian” provisions.
What is the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act?
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) was preceded by the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance 1958. The Ordinance gave the armed forces certain special powers in the ‘disturbed areas’ of Manipur and Assam.
It was replaced by AFSPA on September 11, 1958. Currently, AFSPA is applicable to the seven states of the North-East, i.e. Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura.
AFSPA empowers the governor of the state, or the central government to declare any part of the state as a ‘disturbed area’, if in its opinion there exists a dangerous situation in the said area which makes it necessary to deploy armed forces in the region.