THE ARMED FORCES (SPECIAL POWERS) ACT, 1958 (AFSPA) will soon be completed lifted from the North Eastern region as the peace returns, PM Narendra Modi said this while addressing the ‘Peace, Unity and Development Rally’ in Diphu, Assam. AFPSA was withdrawn from Tripura in 2015 and Meghalaya in 2018. It is now in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (except Imphal municipal area) and in three districts namley Tirap, Longding and Changlang ,and eight police station areas of Arunachal Pradesh.

What is AFSPA?

AFSPA empowers the defence forces with special powers to bring law and order to the “disturbed areas” in the North Eastern Region. The section 3 of the act provides provisions for the center to declare certain areas of the State or the Union Territory as ‘disturbed’ or dangerous. In the disturbed areas, the Indian Armed Forces can aid the civil police in restoring law and order.

The act is applicable to the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.

Special provisions of the act

Accroding the act any commissioned officer of the Indian Military Force can

  • use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order in the disturbed areas
  • destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made or are attempted to be made.
  • arrest, without warrant, any person who has committed a cognizable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence and may use such force as may be necessary to effect the arrest;
  • enter and search without warrant any premises to make any such arrest as aforesaid or to recover any person believed to be wrongfully restrained or confined or any property reasonably suspected to be stolen property or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances believed to be unlawfully kept in such premises, and may for that purpose use such force as may be necessary

Why was AFSPA enacted?

Originally, this act was applicable only for Assam and Manipur. After the States Reorganization Act, 1971 which created new states like Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, the Act was amended to include these states.

Since the independence of India, seperatists groups started operating in North East region. Naga leaders claimed independence from the British government even before India became independent. Angami Zapu Phizo was a Naga seperatist leader who tried to create violent conflicts in the region. He led a seperatists organization called as Naga National Council(NNC). On 14th August 1947, Naga National Council declared independence for Nagaland. Indian Armed Forced was immediately brought into action. The insurgency in the region was brought in control. An agreement was signed by the Governor of Assam State, Akbar Hydari and the NNC ,famously known as Naga-Akbar Hydari Accord. The agreement recognizes the right of the Nagas to develop themselves according to their freely expressed wishes. But the sepratists organization were working against the people of the region. An armed conflict between these illegal organizations and the Army began. In this circumstances, the Government of India deemed it necessary to enact special provisions to the dangerous areas in the region. In an attempt to restore peace, several Peace Accords were signed by the Government of India with the insurgent groups.

Certain provision of the act violate the human rights of the people of the region. There have several protests from women and human right organizations to repeal the law. In the recent past, with the efforts from the central and the state governments, peace has been restored in the region. There was no instance of any violence in the region in the last couple of years. The government’s initative to repeal the law completely from the entire region is applaudable.

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