Centre extends AFSPA

10/11/2016 551 Security Issues | Internal Security | View Recent Current Affairs

  •  The Centre has decided to extend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh. It is being extended in the districts of Tirap, Changlang and Longding, all bordering Assam.
  • The three districts were being declared as “disturbed area” under Section 3 of the AFSPA as “Naga underground factions including NSCN-IM and NSCN-K continue to indulge in extortion, area domination, recruitment of locals and inter-factional rivalry.”

About AFSPA: Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958

  • The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was enacted in 1958 to bring under control what the government of India considered ‘disturbed’ areas.
  • As of now, according to the home ministry, six more states come under the ambit of this law under various conditions.
  • This is applicable in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (except the Imphal municipal area), Arunachal Pradesh (only the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts plus a 20-km belt bordering Assam), Meghalaya (confined to a 20-km belt bordering Assam) and Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Section (3) of the AFSPA Act empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification on The Gazette of India, following which the centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid. It is still unclear whether the governor has to prompt the centre to send in the army or whether the centre on its own sends in troops.
  • Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.
  • The state governments, as in Tripura’s case, can suggest whether the Act is required to be enforced or not. But under Section (3) of the Act, their opinion can still be overruled by the governor or the centre.
  • This act is not uniform in nature. Originally, it came into being as an ordinance in 1958 and within months was repealed and passed as an Act. But, this was meant only for Assam and Manipur, where there was insurgency by Naga militants. But after the northeastern states were reorganized in 1971, the creation of new states (some of them union territories originally) like Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh paved the way for the AFSPA Act to be amended, so that it could be applied to each of them. They may contain different sections as applicable to the situation in each state.

Analysis:

  • This act is required because government (either the state or centre) considers those areas to be ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.”
  • The army is opposed to the withdrawal of Afspa. Many argue that removal of the act will lead to demoralising the armed forces and see militants motivating locals to file lawsuits against the army.
  • Critics say the undemocratic act has failed to contain terrorism and restore normalcy in disturbed areas, as the number of armed groups has gone up after the act was established. Many even hold it responsible for the spiralling violence in areas it is in force.
  • The justice Jeevan Reddy Committee was set up in 2005 to review Afspa and make recommendations. It recommended that Afspa should be repealed and the Unlawful Activities Protection Act strengthened to fight militancy. However, no steps were taken to repeal or reform the act.

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