Demanding an adjournment motion to discuss a Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) notification that seeks to grant special powers to Assam Rifles, Congress and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) staged a walkout in Assam Assembly Friday, after their demands were quashed by Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami.
While BJP agreed to discuss the matter without adjournment, opposition parties including Congress, AIUDF and Asom Gana Parishad reasserted their demand of debating the MHA notification, specifically through an adjournment motion.
The notification, which has been put on hold as of now, allows “an officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest rank of members of the Assam Rifles” to arrest anyone and search a place without a warrant in five northeastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
The three opposition parties, separately, submitted their demand for an adjournment motion following apprehensions that the Home Ministry’s notification shall “violate human rights and bring in military rule” in the northeastern states.
As India’s oldest existing paramilitary force, The Assam Rifles is the leading counter-insurgency force in the Northeast. It also guards the sensitive India-Myanmar border.
“It (special powers) will bring military rule and affect freedom of movement, which is given by the Constitution. It is like introducing undeclared emergency,” the Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
The senior Congress leader questioned as to why the rationale of issuing the notification at a time when the BJP claims that peace exists in Northeast.
“There is a report which says that out of 100 cases of Assam Rifles, human rights have been violated in 37. It empowers even the lowest rank officer to arrest a person without warrant. It will lead to complete violation of human rights,” he added.
AGP member Pabindra Deka, who moved the resolution on behalf of his party, stated that it is a ‘dangerous and shocking’ notification, which can “devastate” peoples’ lives in the region.
“It will violate our fundamental rights. It seems the Centre and Narendra Modi want us to take back to Assam Agitation period of murder and loot by forces. Because of unlimited power given to forces, 855 people were martyred then,” he said.
Deka also alleged that a conspiracy is being hatched to exploit the North East and doubted if the special power was being granted to the paramilitary force to counter the massive protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in recent months.
“It is against the interest of the people. Assam government has some duties to do in this regard and clear its position,” he said.
Talking to The Indian Express, an MHA official said the issue has acquired urgency for effective enforcement of Free Movement Regime on the Indo-Myanmar border (on the 16 km belt on either side). “The Free Movement Regime was streamlined after the bilateral agreement between India and Myanmar on Land Border Crossing was finalized in 2018. This will require giving suitable powers to BGF (Border GuardingForces) under the Foreigners Act, 1946 and Passport Act, 1967 and Passport Entry into India Act, 1920,” the official said.