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Armed Forces Special Powers Act: Revoked in Meghalaya.

Context:

AFSPA revoked in Meghalaya and restricted in parts of Arunachal Pradesh after 27 years.

What is AFSPA?

1)The AFSPA gives power to army and central forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone acting in contravention of law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and provide cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without Centre’s sanction.

2)As per Section 3 of the AFSPA, it can be invoked in places “where the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.”

3)Tripura withdrew AFSPA in 2015

4)In 2017,  Home Ministry gave up its power and asked the Assam government to take a decision on continuing AFSPA in the State.

Present Status:

AFSPA is enforced in Manipur,Assam, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

Recent Changes:

1)The Centre has revoked The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya.

2)In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA has been reduced to eight police stations instead of 16 police stations and in Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts bordering Assam.

3)Protected Area Permit (PAP) for foreigners visiting Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland has been reduced. The PAP will be valid for five years, but residents from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China will not be allowed to visit these areas.

Against AFSPA:

1) Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy committee(2004-05), appointed to review AFSPA, recommended repealing of the Act.It said that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 should be modified to clearly specify the powers of the armed forces and the Central forces.

2) 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.

3) Irom Sharmila recently ended her 14 years fast and took to the democratic route of elections to work towards repealing AFSPA

Why insurgency in the North East?

1) Multiple insurgent groups with varied demands

2) Porous international borders provide arms and ammunitions and escape route

3) Connected to mainland through a narrow siliguri corridor

4) Difficult terrain

5) Lack of infrastructure

Terrorism in the rest of the country:

1) Maoism in the red corridor

2) Terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990, similar to AFSPA is in place.

3)Sporadic terrorist incidents throughout the country- for example: 26/11 Mumbai attacks, attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, Amarnath Yatra attacks in 2017 etc

Way forward:

1) Experience has shown that AFSPA has only been counterproductive. Constant presence of armed forces has led to hostility and misuse of power.

2) A recent enquiry by the Supreme Court revealed that all the encounters were fake and carried out to achieve personal ends.

3) AFSPA  hinders development and alienates people. The recent act is a step in the right direction.

4) It should be supplemented by various efforts to bring about socio-economic development of the region.

5) Community people should be roped in to reduce and tackle terrorism so as to bring about inclusive growth.

Conclusion:

The Home Ministry should timely conduct a “security audit” in the Northeast and chalk out a plan to reduce the number of Central armed police force personnel deployed there and state police must be entrusted responsibility for regular law and order and patrolling duties. This will help in gradual withdrawal of AFSPA act and ensuring peace and security in disturbed areas.

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