Updated: May 29, 2015 8:27:50 am
Tripura has withdrawn the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), but the law continues to be in force elsewhere in the Northeast, besides in J&K. Tripura imposed AFSPA in February 1997 after a spate of killings and kidnappings by the National Liberation Front of Tripura, bringing two-thirds of its then 42 police station areas under its provisions. As the Left Front government made its decision on Wednesday, AFSPA was in force in only 26 of the state’s 74 police station areas.
NAGALAND: Older than state
AFSPA was enacted in 1958, before the birth of Nagaland in December 1961. AFSPA came in the context of the Naga rebellion in what was then the Naga Hills district of Assam — and has refused to leave more than 50 years after the new state was created, thanks to continued insurgencies by multiple rebel groups. But the situation has changed dramatically since the NSCN(M) — “the mother of all insurgencies” — began peace talks over 14 years ago, and most civil society groups in Nagaland are now opposed to the continuation of AFSPA.
MANIPUR: Police equally brutal
In Manipur, where the clamour for the repeal of AFPSA has been loudest — with Irom Sharmila on a hunger-strike since December 2000 — the government, on August 12, 2004, withdrew the Act in seven assembly constituencies comprising the Imphal municipal area. And yet, there have been several instances of the state police force getting involved in brutal extra-judicial killings of civilians, including a pregnant woman, in the capital. The Congress in its 2012 campaign promised to withdraw AFSPA if voted back to power. It got re-elected, but AFSPA stays.
ASSAM: Outfits weaken, but AFSPA renewed
Assam was the first state to have the AFSPA in 1958. The Act returned to present-day Assam on November 27-28, 1990, when the state was declared a Disturbed Area in the wake of largescale violence by the ULFA. AFSPA has been in force without a break ever since, except in the Guwahati municipal area, from where it was lifted about a decade ago. In November 2014, the union Home Ministry extended the application of AFSPA in Assam for one more year in view of “violent incidents caused by the underground outfits viz ULFA(I), NDFB(S) and the border areas of the state of Assam by underground outfits like GNLA, KPLT, UALA, ULFA (I), NDFB(S), NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K)”.
MEGHALAYA: Hot pursuit from Assam areas
AFSPA is not in force in Meghalaya despite a series of violent acts by armed insurgent groups including the most dreaded Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA). But areas within 20 km of the state’s boundary with Assam are under the purview of the Act. The Home Ministry has declared this 20-km belt “disturbed”, and armed forces deployed in Assam are permitted to go into this area in hot pursuit of rebel groups.
ARUNACHAL PRADESH: Fresh extension
Three districts of the state — Tirap, Changlang and the newly-created Longding — had been under AFSPA since 1991, and the Centre on March 27 brought the whole state under it. But strong protests by the state government and civil society organisations forced the central government to subsequently limit its application to the districts bordering Assam. That leaves seven districts of Arunachal Pradesh out of AFSPA. But even before the March 27 notification — in fact, since 1990 — a 20-km stretch inside the state along the border with Assam had been under AFSPA.
MIZORAM: An island of peace
Curtains fell on the insurgency in Mizoram on June 30, 1986, with the signing of the Mizo Accord, said to be the only successful accord in the country so far. The signing of the accord simultaneously led to the withdrawal of AFSPA, which had been imposed on the state since the time it was the Lushai Hills district of Assam in the mid-1960s. And yet, the wounds don’t seem to have healed completely. Memories of the killing of innocent people, rape, destruction of property, burning of villages and largescale displacement of people remain fresh in the minds of many Mizos.
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