AFSPA or The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 has always been the highlight of Northeast India, well, currently it is in the limelight of the state of Nagaland. As known on Wednesday the entire state of Nagaland was declared a “disturbed area” for 6 more months by the Central Government. This, therefore, gave AFSPA the chance to empower the state’s security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant.
Talking about its history, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976 once declared ‘disturbed’, the area has to maintain the status quo for a minimum of 3 months. One such act passed on 11 September 1958 applied to the Naga Hills, then part of Assam. However, it eventually dissipated to other Northeastern states. Currently, it is in force the States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur excluding the Imphal Municipal Council Area, Changlang, Longding, and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering the State of Assam.
This act was also implied to the states like Punjab and Chandigarh previously but was withdrawn in 1997, about14 years after it came into force. Again an act passed in 1990 was applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since. Coming back to Nagaland, the AFSPA has been in force in Nagaland for decades and was not taken back even after a framework coalition was signed on August 3, 2015, between government interlocutor RN Ravi and Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Reportsely, some even claim that AFSPA has history of human rights violations. In a scenario, when a new ordinance was adopted by the Indian government in May 1958, concerned legislators warned the Indian government at the time that human rights violations would occur. Narrating it as a “lawless law” during the parliamentary debate, Laishram Achaw Singh, a member from Manipur, said that the AFSPA would only “harass innocent folk and deteriorate the situation.”
The instances of human violation by AFSPA are of Mohd Azad, a 12-year-old boy, who was reading the newspaper with his friend Kiyam Anand Singh when some Manipur police commandos rushed into his house and were dragged by the commandos and shot dead in broad daylight in front of his family and neighbours. His school principal confirmed him to be a peaceful boy. Another one is of 20-year-old Oinam Papak who was abducted by seven to eight commandos of the Assam Rifles. When the family was not informed about his location, they complained about this incident to the local MLA, who promised to take action. After a month, the family got news through the radio that the army had killed seven men in an encounter, Oinam Papak being one of these seven men.
There are many controversies on AFSPA, they were initially enforced for the disturbed areas especially the northeastern states. However, the number of human rights violation cases have risen day by day. Thus, its purpose and motive compared to the real ground scenario is quite different and puts the question of whether the government should take action for such unlawful activities.
Visuals by: Aslam Siddique, Abhiskar Banik
Article by Sanghamitra Deb and Dipakshi Goswami, The North-Eastern Chronicle