NEW DELHI, 24 April 2018 : With insurgency-related 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in the northeast region down by 85% from the levels recorded at the peak of militancy two decades ago, the Centre has withdrawn the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) totally from Meghalaya as well as from eight out of 16 police stations in Arunachal Pradesh, with effect from March 31, 2018.
AFSPA, which gives special powers and immunity to the armed forces deployed in areas declared “disturbed” under the Act, had been in force in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh for almost 27 years. A Union home ministry official told TOI that areas of the two states bordering Assam were declared “disturbed” in 1991 to avoid a spillover effect of insurgency by Assam-based outfits like the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa).
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.
Assam too may reduce AFSPA area
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act will now be in force in the whole of Assam and Nagaland, all of Manipur (except Imphal municipal area) and in three districts and eight police station areas of Arunachal Pradesh. Nagaland has been under AFSPA for almost six decades. Other than the northeast, 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.
Human rights activists in the northeast have been agitating for withdrawal of AFSPA and even scrapping of the law, a demand that became louder in the wake of the rape-cum-murder of Manipuri woman Thangjam Manorama in 2004 for which the locals blamed Assam Rifles personnel.
While the review for Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland is still handled by the Centre, Assam and Manipur governments have been notifying ‘disturbed’ areas — a prerequisite for imposing the law — on their own since last year.
A decline in insurgency is visible across the northeast with. The year 2017 recording the lowest insurgency incidents and casualties since 1997. As compared to 1,963 incidents in 2000, only 308 were reported in 2017 (down 85%). There was also a 96% fall in casualties of civilians and security forces.
In Assam, sustained operations against the proscribed NDFB (Songbjit) saw 63 of its cadres neutralised and 1,052 arrested between December 2014 and March 2018. The heat was turned up on the outfit NDFB(S) after its alleged role in killing around 80 tribals in December 2014.
Courtesy : Times of India