AFSPA goes from Meghalaya

With insurgencyrelated incidents in the northeast region down by 85% from the levels recorded at the peak of militancy two decades ago, the Centre has withdrawn the Armed Forces Special Powers Act totally from Meghalaya as well as from eight police stations of Arunachal Pradesh with effect from March 31, 2018.

AFSPA, which gives special powers and immunity to the armed forces deployed in areas declared as ‘disturbed’ under the Act, had been in force in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh for almost 27 years. A home ministry official said that areas of the two states bordering Assam were declared as ‘disturbed’ in 1991 to avoid a spillover effect of insurgency by Assam-based outfits like Ulfa.

Earlier in 2015, the Tripura government had lifted AFSPA from the state after 18 years. Until September 30, 2017, all areas falling within a 20 km-belt in Meghalaya bordering Assam were notified as ‘disturbed’ areas.

Effective from October 1, 2017, this was reduced to a 10 km belt. However, on March 31, 2018, it was decided that given the improved situation, AFSPA need no longer be in force even in this 10 km stretch.

Following the total or partial rollback of AFSPA in some north-eastern states, the Act is now in force in the whole of Assam and Nagaland, all of Manipur except Imphal municipal area as well as in three districts and eight police stations of Arunachal Pradesh. Nagaland has been under AFSPA for almost six decades.

Other than the northeast region, AFSPA is applicable in J-K. Sources said the review of ‘disturbed’ areas list under AFSPA is part of a larger process to curtail the area of enforcement of the law — seen by many as ‘draconian’ — in the northeast, given the improved security situation. With insurgency levels in Assam too at a record low, the state government is expected to decide soon on withdrawal of AFSPA from some districts.

The review of ‘disturbed’ areas list is undertaken every six months or earlier by either the Centre or state government, in consultation with each other, the Army and other security agencies. Human rights activists in the northeast have been agitating for withdrawal of AFSPA and even scrapping of the law.

While the review for Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland is still handled by the Centre, Assam and Manipur governments have been notifying ‘disturbed’ areas on their own since last year.

No comments: