New Delhi: Several districts across Nagaland, Assam and Manipur have been removed from the list of “disturbed areas” that fall under the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced Thursday.
Reduction in areas under AFSPA was a result of “improved security situation”, Home Minister Amit Shah said in a statement on Twitter.
Reduction in areas under AFSPA is a result of the improved security situation and fast-tracked development due to the consistent efforts and several agreements to end insurgency and bring lasting peace in North East by PM @narendramodi government.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) March 31, 2022
The move came three months after 14 civilians were killed in an Army ambush in Nagaland’s Mon district, followed by a spate of protests demanding withdrawal of AFSPA from the state.
In Nagaland, where AFSPA has been in place since 1995, areas under 15 police stations across seven districts will be removed from the disturbed areas list and will no longer fall under AFSPA.
In Assam, which has been under AFSPA since 1990, 24 districts (23 completely, and one partially) have been removed from that list. In Manipur, which has been under AFSPA (except Imphal Municipality area) since 2004, areas under 15 police stations across six districts have been removed.
The demands for the repeal of AFSPA, an Act that gives sweeping powers to the armed forces to arrest without warrants and even shoot to kill in certain situations in ‘disturbed areas’, from Nagaland and other north-eastern states has persisted for years and only grew louder following the Mon incident.
After the episode, the Narendra Modi government on 27 December instituted a high-level committee chaired by a secretary-level officer to examine the possibility of withdrawing AFSPA from Nagaland.
According to sources in the MHA, the panel’s recommendations were accepted and it was decided that AFSPA could be lifted from certain areas in a phased manner.
Speaking about the latest move, Shah said the “fast tracked development due to the consistent efforts and several agreements to end insurgency and bring lasting peace in the North East” played a role in the decision.
AFSPA was completely removed from Meghalaya in 2018 and Tripura in 2015. At the time, the Act was in force in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
‘Improved security situation, constant engagement’
According to the MHA statement, in 2021 there has been a 74 per cent fall in incidents of militancy in the Northeast in comparison to 2014. The ministry also said that deaths of security personnel too have fallen by 60 per cent and deaths of civilians by 84 per cent, showing “improved security situation” in the states.
“The consistent efforts of the Government and improvement in the security situation in the Northeast led to reduction of the disturbed areas under AFSPA in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur after decades,” the statement said.
Shah has constantly engaged with the states in the Northeast, holding dialogues on a regular basis resulting in most of the extremist groups laying down their arms, it added.
“Today all these persons have become a part of the democratic process and are participating in the development of the North East. About 7,000 militants have surrendered in the last few years,” the ministry said.
The statement noted that the Government of India has also signed several agreements to end insurgencies and bring peace to the Northeast in the last three years.
These include the Bodo Accord signed in January 2020, which resolved the five decades long Bodo problem of Assam; the Karbi-Anglong Agreement of 4 September 2021, which resolved the long standing dispute over the Karbi region of Assam; the NLFT (SD) agreement signed in August 2019 to bring militants into the mainstream of society in Tripura; and an agreement signed on 16 January 2020 to resolve the 23-year-old Bru-Reang refugee crisis, under which 37,000 internally displaced persons are being resettled in Tripura.
On 29 March, an agreement resolving disputes along boundaries of Assam and Meghalaya was also signed.