In what can be a huge relief for the people of Meghalaya, the Center has removed the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya and reduced it to eight police stations in Arunachal Pradesh.
An official said: “AFSPA was totally withdrawn from all areas of Meghalaya from April 1. In Arunachal, it is down from 16 police stations to eight.”
According to a report in IANS, the Act has however been extended by another six months in three eastern districts of Arunachal Pradesh — Tirap, Longding, and Changlang — which border Myanmar and specific areas under eight police stations of seven other districts bordering Assam. The three districts have been under the AFSPA since January 2016.
Citing human rights violation and other misuses of the act, rights groups in the north-east and Jammu and Kashmir have been demanding its withdrawal. The ‘draconian’ act was withdrawn from Tripura in 2015.
The act is effective in the whole of Nagaland and Assam, while in Manipur, it is effective in 53 Assembly constituencies off the 60. The state governments of Assam and Manipur now have the powers to keep or revoke the Act.
What is AFSPA?
AFSPA, which was enacted in 1958, gives armed forces the power to bring under control what the government of India considered ‘disturbed’ areas. Under this act, security forces can open fire to kill if they feel a person is in contravention of the law. For mere suspicion, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search a premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms. It also protects them from legal processes for actions taken under the act.
The state or central government considers those areas as ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”