#Delhi: The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is being re-enacted after security forces killed 14 innocent civilians in the village of Oting in Nagaland’s Mann district. Various political parties and a section of civil society have been vocal in demanding the repeal of this special law from Northeast India Although AFSPA has already been withdrawn from various parts of North East India, the law is still in force in many places, citing law and order situation. And the controversial law is one of the main reasons for the central government’s feud with various armed groups active in northeast India. Peace talks between the two sides have repeatedly called for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
Why is the AFSPA law enforced?According to the Union Home Ministry’s website, the law was enacted in 1956 due to the deteriorating law and order situation in northeastern India. The Home Ministry’s website further claims that the AFSPA was implemented because the state government and local administrations were unable to control the unrest in northeastern India at the time.
The law was first passed in two chambers of Parliament in May 1956 as an ordinance After the approval of the President in 1958, the AFSPA Act was recognized Initially, the law was enacted with Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura in mind. However, the law has since been amended several times and several states and territories have been excluded from the scope of AFSPA.
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According to Human Rights Watch, the AFSPA was enacted in imitation of an ordinance issued by the British in 1942 to suppress India’s independence movement. Initially, AFSPA was implemented to suppress the armed movement of Naga militants With the introduction of an amendment in 1972, AFSPA was implemented in all the seven northeastern states Similarly, between 1975 and 1994, several laws like AFSPA were enacted to curb subversive activities in Punjab. In 1990, the Center came up with a similar law for Kashmir
What power does AFSPA give to the armed forces?According to AFSPA, the armed forces are defined as any military force responsible for security on the ground, from the air force. According to the law, if the governor of a state or union territory thinks that the use of armed forces is necessary to control the law and order situation, then that area will be identified as a nuisance. Section 3 of the AFSPA states that any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any person of similar rank in the affected area may fire or use force against the offender in any other manner which may result in death.
Similarly, under the authority of AFSPA, any officer of the Armed Forces can arrest a person without a warrant if the person concerned has committed or is suspected to have committed a felony.
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Not only that, if the source suggests that there may be an armed attack from any house or dormitory, then the right to construct or destroy the dormitory is given to the military officers under AFSPA law.
In addition, the security forces have been provided protection under the AFSPA Act so that no legal action is taken against the security forces in the affected areas. The law states that legal action can be taken against a member of the security forces only with the permission of the central government in case of allegations of abuse of power.
Where is AFSPA applied?
Where is the AFSPA law in force in North East India? In January 2019, the central government informed the parliament that the AFSPA law has been implemented across Assam and Nagaland. Moreover, apart from the municipal area of the capital Imphal, this law is also in force in Manipur Apart from this, the law has been implemented in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh – Tirap, Changlang and Longding. AFSPA is also in force in eight police stations on the Assam and Arunachal border.
The central government further said that in the case of Manipur and Assam, the governments of the two states concerned had issued notices identifying the affected areas. However, the Nagaland government did not support the decision to issue an AFSPA notification notifying areas of the state that were affected.
Why criticize AFSPA?Most of the northeastern states are now ruled by the BJP or its allies Civil society and most political parties in Northeast India allege that oppressive laws, such as the AFSPA, are violating human rights and creating anger among the people.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma also tweeted on Monday demanding withdrawal of AFSPA following the deaths of civilians in Nagaland. The same demand has been made by the Naga Mothers Association, a human rights organization in Nagaland.
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According to Human Rights Watch, the armed forces have also committed atrocities, rapes, and abductions of civilians under the authority of AFSPA. The human rights group has claimed that such incidents are increasing due to lack of fear of legal action
What is the central government saying?Union Home Minister Amit Shah has claimed on Twitter that the state government has formed a high-level seat to investigate the incident. The Home Minister also assured to give justice to the families of the victims after conducting a thorough investigation into the incident The same promise was made by Nagaland Chief Minister Neifu Rio
It is learned that Nagaland Police has lodged an FIR against the 21st Special Forces of the Indian Army accused in the Otting incident.
However, the central government had informed in 2019 that there was no proposal to withdraw AFSPA from Nagaland. In addition, the central government demanded in parliament that special guidelines be issued for the armed forces in compliance with the Supreme Court’s order to prevent allegations of human rights violations by abusing AFSPA. The Union Home Ministry further demanded that members of the armed forces be alerted at regular intervals to protect human rights.
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