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A look at the status of AFSPA in northeast states

CM Himanta Biswa Sarma has now said that he plans to ensure that AFSPA is withdrawn from Assam by the end of 2023
Last Updated : 24 May 2023, 17:19 IST
Last Updated : 24 May 2023, 17:19 IST
Last Updated : 24 May 2023, 17:19 IST
Last Updated : 24 May 2023, 17:19 IST

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The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which many international observers have regarded as a blot on Indian democracy, was passed in 1958 in the Parliament.

The act gives special powers to the Indian Army to maintain order and peace in areas considered 'disturbed' by the Centre.

Assam, which was under AFSPA along with the seven sister states of the northeast, has now seen some improvement since the Centre decided to withdraw the act from several districts across the state.

CM Himanta Biswa Sarma has now said that he plans to ensure that AFSPA is withdrawn from Assam by the end of 2023.

Historical context

Several northeastern parts of India have been witness to acts of insurgency since independence in 1947. In order to curb militancy, the Government of India decided to implement the act in 1958.

However, the roots of the act lie in the British colonial era. The Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance of 1942 is the basis of this act. The British era Act was introduced in order to curb the Quit India movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi. Ironically, the Act was implemented on August 15, 1942, only five years to the day before India would gain independence.

International reaction

AFSPA has often been condemned by the United Nations and other bodies like the Human Rights Watch. on the occasion of 50 years of AFSPA, the HRW had shared the account of a 14-year-old child from Manipur.

He said, "They kept on pouring water into my nostrils until the water came out in my ears; it felt warm inside my ears. Then they stamped on both my thighs while two persons held my feet while another man sat on my head… They touched the wires’ ends to my chest and gave me shocks three times. Each time I felt as if my whole body had contracted... I keep remembering how they used to beat me and see everything that happened to me vividly."

In 2012, the United Nations had also asked India to repeal the Act, saying that it had no place in a democracy.

AFSPA under the Government of India

AFSPA was introduced across troubled areas of the country in three separate acts, the Armed Forces Special Powers (Assam and Manipur) Act, 1958; The Armed Forces (Punjab and Chandigarh) Special Powers Act, 1983; and The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990.

The Act was withdrawn from Meghalaya in 2018, Tripura in 2015, and Mizoram in the 1980s.

After Home Minister Amit Shah announced last year that the Act was being withdrawn from several areas of the northeast, the same was then in place in 31 districts in completely and 12 districts partially in parts of Nagaland, northeast Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh.

In 2023, AFSPA was removed from four more police station jurisdictions in the state of Manipur.

In the same period, AFSPA was removed from one district in Assam and the jurisdiction of three police stations in Nagaland's Wokha and Zunheboto districts.

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Published 24 May 2023, 16:42 IST

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