The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was completely removed from Meghalaya and partially revoked in Arunachal Pradesh by being reduced from 16 to eight police stations in the state, CNN-News 18 said. The Act has been removed from all areas of Meghalaya from 31 March and the decision has been taken due to a significant improvement of security situation in the state, a Home Ministry official said.
The Act gives special rights and immunity to security forces in carrying out various operations in “disturbed” areas. It gives security personnel the power to search premises and arrest without warrant, to use force even to the extent of causing death.
There have been demands from various organisations in the north-east as well as in Jammu and Kashmir for repealing the act, which, they say, gives “sweeping powers” to the security forces to act against “civilians”.
On 2 April, Centre extended AFSPA in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh and eight police station areas bordering Assam by another six months, PTI said.
According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh and eight police stations bordering Assam were declared “disturbed” areas under the AFSPA, 1958.
The eight police stations are Balemu and Bhalukpong police stations in West Kameng district, Seijosa police station in East Kameng district, Balijan police station in Papumpare district, Namsai and Mahadevpur police stations in Namsai district, Roing police station in Lower Dibang Valley district and Sunpura police station in Lohit district.
According to The Hindu, Congress member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh Ninong Ering has been opposing the extension of the AFSPA in some parts of the state, saying it was “misused by the army”. Ering said that in the name of the Act, the army “harassed and tortured” villagers.
In March, Union minister Hansraj Gangaram Ahir had said that the government has no plans to withdraw or amend “the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990”. Ahir, however, said in the Lok Sabha that a proposal is under consideration to make the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 more operationally effective and humane.
In February, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had ruled out revoking the controversial AFSPA in Kashmir “due to the prevailing situation” and asserted that the Indian Army is the “most disciplined” force in the world.
The AFSPA has been in force in Nagaland for several decades and in Assam from the early 1990s. It was not withdrawn in Nagaland even after a framework agreement was signed on 3 August, 2015 by Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and government interlocutor RN Ravi in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Another official said there has been a substantial improvement in security situation in the north-eastern states over the last four years. The year 2017 recorded the lowest insurgency incidents and casualties among civilians and security forces during the last two decades since 1997. While insurgency has been wiped out from Tripura and Mizoram, there has been a marked improvement in security situation in Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur, the official said. In Assam, sustained counter-insurgency operations against NDFB (S) have resulted in killing of 63 cadres and the arrest of 1,052 cadres/linkmen besides recovery of huge arms and ammunition between December 2014 and March this year.
With inputs from PTI