Centre extends AFSPA in Nagaland for six more months

Centre declares entire Nagaland 'disturbed area' as demand for AFSPA withdrawal continues

The AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant

Protests for the withdrawal of the AFSPA have been going on in several districts of Nagaland ever since an Army unit killed 14 civilians in the state's Mon district earlier this month. Credit: PTI Photo

Amid strong demands for the repeal of the controversial AFSPA, the Centre on Thursday extended the controversial law for another six months in Nagaland asserting that the state continues to be in a "disturbed and dangerous condition" warranting the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power.

The notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) comes weeks after Army personnel killed 13 unarmed civilians claiming that they mistook them for armed insurgents in an ambush. The Nagaland Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution seeking the repeal of the act. 

Only a few days ago, the MHA set up a panel to decide on the withdrawal of the "disturbed area" tag and the AFSPA, 1958 from Nagaland amid growing anger against killings of the civilians by the army on December 4 and 5. 

Also Read: Trouble for BJP in Nagaland after Oting shooting

The gazette notification read, "Whereas the Central Government is of the opinion that the area comprising the whole of the State of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary."

"Now, therefore, in the exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (No.28 of 1958) the Central Government hereby declares that whole of the State of Nagaland to be ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months with effect from December 30, 2021 for the purpose of the said Act," it added.

Responding to the government notification, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted, "Modi government has pushed a hitherto peaceful northeast into an abyss of lawlessness, insurgency and chaos. The utter lack of understanding of the ethos of its people, its diversity, its concerns and attempt to annihilate democracy to usurp power has led us to the current state."

The AFSPA grants special powers to the Indian armed forces in disturbed areas. It has been in force in Nagaland for several decades and it has not been withdrawn despite a framework agreement signed in August 2015 by Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM and the government.

There have been demands from various quarters across the country to withdraw AFSPA from states like Jammu and Kashmir and some of the states in the Northeast. Civil society has been demanding the repeal of the Act, as it gives "blanket powers" to the armed forces.

Soon after the killings in Mon district, the lone Nagaland Rajya Sabha MP KG Kenye had told DH that AFSPA was the "main culprit" and the "key element" which has "bred animosity".

"It has done nothing good. It is detrimental to national interest and with such Acts, these kinds of incidents will continue to happen. This single Act has given so much power to the armed forces to commit atrocities on their own people. A debate has been going on for the past over 60 years on this. This must go to ensure that there is no recurrence of such an incident," he said.

Kenye also raised the issue of repeal of AFSPA arguing that the controversial legislation has done "nothing" good but something that has brought "animosity" to all regions in the country.

As long as AFSPA continues to remain in the Constitution of the country, he had said, "these will be used with impunity again" while appealing for the withdrawal of AFSPA.

Earlier in October, the MHA had extended AFSPA in three districts and four police station localities in Arunachal Pradesh for six more months.

In April 2018, the area under AFSPA in Arunachal Pradesh was reduced from 16 police station areas bordering Assam to eight police stations besides Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts. AFSPA was further withdrawn from four police station areas later. 

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