New Delhi: The call for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) regains momentum in the northeastern states following the killings of 13 civilians in Mon district of Nagaland on Saturday. Two days after an Army unit in Nagaland mistook a group of villagers for insurgents and opened fire, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma and Opposition political parties in Assam on Monday demanded the removal of AFSPA.
AFSPA is in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (excluding Imphal Municipal Council Area), Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh and in areas falling within the jurisdiction of eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam. Civil society groups, rights activists and political leaders of the region have been demanding the withdrawal of the “draconian” law for years, alleging excesses by security forces under the cover of the Act.
After attending the funeral of civilians killed in the firing incident at Oting village in Nagaland’s Mon district, Rio said, “I have spoken to Union Home Minister, he is taking the matter very seriously. We have given financial assistance to affected families. We are asking the Central government to remove AFSPA from Nagaland. This law has tarnished the image of our country.”
Voicing his protest, Rio said the law has tarnished the image of the country, while Sangma tweeted, “AFSPA should be repealed.” In Assam, Raijor Dal president Akhil Gogoi, Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) president Lurinjyoti Gogoi, AIUDF MLA Ashraful Hussain too pitched for revoking AFSPA. Gogoi condemned the firing and demanded immediate arrest and punishment of all involved in it.
Veteran CPI(M) leader Hemen Das joined the opposition parties in their demand for scrapping AFSPA. In a tweet on Sunday he condemned the incident and wrote, “This is state terrorism. Scrap AFSPA.” The CPI staged a demonstration in front of its party office here on Sunday demanding revocation of the Act and justice for the victims and their families.
What Happened In Mon District Of Nagaland?
Earlier on Saturday, some Naga youth were reportedly killed in Oting village of Mon district when they were allegedly fired at by security forces, who suspected them to be terrorists. Reportedly, irked villagers torched vehicles of security forces and some people were reportedly shot when security forces opened fire to control the irate mob.
The Indian Army has expressed regret over the incident and said it is being investigated at the highest level. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Sunday ordered a high-level probe into the reported killings of civilians.
A day after the incident, the Nagaland government on Sunday prohibited all mobile internet, data services, bulk SMS of all providers in the entire area of Mon district with immediate effect.
What Is AFSPA?
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) allows security forces the power to search, arrest and open fire to maintain public order in four of India’s seven northeastern states.
Under AFSPA, the armed forces are given the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. The powers also includes the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, use force or even open fire after giving due warning if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and approved by the President on September 11, 1958. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 came into force amid rising violence in the northeastern states then.
Current Status Of AFSPA In North East
On June 30, the Ministry of Home Affairs extended the AFSPA in Nagaland for another six months. According to a notification by the MHA, the Act will remain in effect in Nagaland until December 31.
In 2019, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju in a written reply in Lok Sabha said, “At present, there is no proposal to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958.”
“Presently, AFSPA, 1958 is operational in entire States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (except Imphal Municipal area), three districts namely Tirap, Changlang and Longding of Arunachal Pradesh and the areas falling within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations in the districts of Arunachal Pradesh, bordering the State of Assam.
The notification declaring Manipur and Assam as “Disturbed Areas’ have been issued by the State Governments. State Government of Nagaland has not supported extension of notification declaring Nagaland as ‘Disturbed Area’ under AFSPA, 1958,” he had said.
(With PTI, ANI inputs)