- GS-2: Federalism and Challenges
- GS-3: Internal Security
Withdrawal of AFSPA from major parts of North East
Context: Recently, Union government significantly reduced the footprint of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 in the Northeast.
- It is withdrawn entirely from 23 districts in Assam.
- It is partially withdrawn from seven districts in Nagaland, six districts in Manipur, and one district in Assam
What is AFSPA?
- Colonial Legacy continued: The Act in its original form was promulgated by the British in response to the Quit India movement in 1942. After Independence, government decided to retain the Act, which was first brought in as an ordnance and then notified as an Act in 1958.
- Power of imposition: AFSPA can be imposed by the Centre or the Governor of a state, on the state or parts of it, after it is declared “disturbed’’ under Section 3. The Act defines these as areas that are “disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary’’.
- Special Power to Armed Forces: The Act, which has been called draconian, gives sweeping powers to the armed forces. It allows them to open fire’, even causing death, against any person in contravention to the law or carrying arms and ammunition. It gives them powers to arrest individuals without warrants, on the basis of “reasonable suspicion”, and also search premises without warrants.
- Immunity to Armed Personnel: The Act further provides blanket impunity to security personnel involved in such operations: There can be no prosecution or legal proceedings against them without the prior approval of the Centre.
Why is the recent decision significant?
- The Northeast has lived under the shadow of AFSPA for nearly 60 years, creating a feeling of alienation from the rest of the country.
- Once the decision is notified in the gazette, AFSPA remains in force in parts of these three states as well as in parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.
- The move is expected to help demilitarise the region
- It will lift restrictions of movements through check points and frisking of residents.
- It will also help the Centre calm the anger over the Mon killings in Nagaland and help aid the Naga peace process.
After being in force for many years, why has AFSPA been withdrawn now?
- The decision has come as the result of a combination of circumstances.
- Over the last two decades, various parts of the Northeast have seen a reduction in insurgencies
- A number of major groups were already in talks with the Indian government, and these talks received traction in past few years.
- In Nagaland, all major groups — the NSCN(I-M) and Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) — are at advanced stages of concluding agreements with the government.
- In Manipur, insurgency as well as heavy militarisation have been on the decline since 2012.
Connecting the dots: