The AFSPA Ordeal - Eastern Mirror
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The AFSPA Ordeal

By The Editorial Team Updated: Mar 28, 2024 10:51 pm

As expected, the Ministry of Home Affairs has once again extended the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in certain areas of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh for another six months, with effect from April 1. Some areas have been relieved of the draconian law for a few years now, but eight districts and 21 police stations in five other districts of Nagaland are still tagged as ‘disturbed areas’. As in Arunachal Pradesh state, Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts, as well as areas falling under three police stations in Namsai district, still fall under the regime. The law has been imposed in the neighbouring states as well, including the Naga-inhabited areas in Manipur. This has been the practice for decades now, despite widespread protests to revoke it amid allegations of fake encounters and extra-judicial killings. But will the government of India withdraw this law, which gives Indian security forces the power to conduct operations anywhere in the ‘disturbed area’ and arrest anyone without any prior warrant, any time soon? Very unlikely. The security situation in these ‘disturbed areas’ has improved significantly over the last two decades, especially after negotiations were initiated with various insurgency groups in the North-East region. According to the Centre, the AFSPA is extended after reviewing the law and order situation but if violence and clashes between the armed forces are the main criteria for imposing this repressive law, it should have been revoked by now, as such incidents are almost non-existent today in most north-eastern areas. It is unfair to make the people of the area live in perpetual fear in spite of their peace efforts.

It is no doubt unfair but the government of India is unlikely to lift the AFSPA, at least in Naga-inhabited areas, until the Naga political issue is solved for the simple reason that it was enacted in 1958 mainly to deal with the Naga insurgency movement. Does that mean innocent civilians should be forced to live under the draconian law at the cost of their right to live? How long will it take to solve the Naga issue? Well, the government of India signed the much-publicised Framework Agreement with the NSCN (IM) in 2015 before signing another pact called Agreed Position with the WC-NNPG in 2017, infusing hope of a final settlement among the Nagas but it has been a mirage to this day, and so too the removal of AFSPA. New Delhi should seriously aim at killing two birds with one stone. Meanwhile, the Naga political issue should not be the reason for the existence of AFSPA. Any law that poses a threat to human rights should be scrapped. The government of India should withdraw the Act based on the current law and order situation and not the violent past. Such a move will go a long way in bridging the trust deficit, which has become an impediment to peace negotiations and the final settlement to the Naga political issue.

By The Editorial Team Updated: Mar 28, 2024 10:51:21 pm
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