New Delhi, April 23 (NDTV/newsin.asia): In a highly significant political move on Monday, the Indian government removed the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA, from all areas in Meghalaya and parts of Arunachal Pradesh in North Eastern India.
The measure may also be reflecting a change in the political situation with the two States becoming hospitable to the Hindu nationalist and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies, as expressed in the recently held State Assembly elections.
The AFSPA is meant to enhance the effectiveness of security forces while operating in a hostile environment by muting civilian legal implications. Rights activists in locations where the AFSPA has been imposed have criticized the law as being too harsh to be used on the country’s own civilians.
The decision to remove AFSPA has been taken due to a “significant improvement of security situation in the two states”, a person with direct knowledge of the matter in the Home Ministry said.
In Arunachal Pradesh, the AFSPA will remain enforced under eight police station limits — from 16 areas earlier — near the border with Assam, and in three districts — Tirap, Changlang and Longding — near the border with Myanmar.
The AFSPA has been in force in Nagaland, Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir for several decades, and since the early 1990s in Assam.
Rights groups in the north-east and Jammu and Kashmir have been demanding withdrawal of the AFSPA as they claim the law gives “sweeping powers” to the security forces to act against civilians.
The AFSPA was not withdrawn from Nagaland even after a framework agreement on peace was signed in August 2015 by the Naga armed group NSCN-IM and the government.
Since 1997, the intensity of insurgency in the north-east has been on the wane, and civilian and security forces’ casualties were the lowest in 2017, government data shows.
Military and intelligence assessments have strongly indicated that insurgency has been wiped out from Tripura and Mizoram and there has been a marked improvement in the security situation in Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur, said the Home Ministry official who asked not to be identified.
(The featured image at the top shows a group of well-armed Naga insurgents in North East India)