Nagaland Move Against Controversial Act AFSPA

Amid outrage over the confused killings of 14 civilians in a botched army operation on insurgents, the Nagaland government will address the Centre calling for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). This law gives sweeping powers to the Army in troubled quarters.

Nagaland will call off the Hornbill Festival, drawing thousands of home and foreign tourists. Today was the sixth anniversary of the signature 10-day celebration.

On Saturday, fourteen villagers and a soldier fell in Nagaland’s Mon district after an Army op to track down rebels went off-script. A police FIR has declared the Army’s 21 Para Special Forces “blankly opened fire.”

The Nagaland killings have renewed demands for the scrapping of AFSPA. The decisions were practiced in an “urgent meeting” of the Nagaland cabinet.

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had yesterday said AFSPA must be dismissed as it was the root of unrest and pain in his state. Talking at the funeral service for those killed, he called the law a black stain on the country’s image.

“AFSPA gives leadership to the Army to arrest civilians without any arrest warrant, raid houses, and also stop people. But there is no action on the security forces. On the contrary, they have created a law and order situation,” the Chief Minister said.

The remarks were notable coming from Mr. Rio, an ally of the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) component. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma added BJP ally, echoed the judgment.

On Saturday, 14 villagers and a soldier fell in Nagaland’s Mon district after an Army op to track down insurgents went off-script. A police FIR has announced the Army’s 21 Para Special Forces “blankly opened fire.”

In a statement in parliament yesterday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah expressed regret over the incident and said it was a circumstance of mistaken identity. The Nagaland killings have renewed demands for the scrapping of AFSPA, which furnishes the armed forces special powers to explore, arrest without a warrant and start firing in areas reported: “disturbed.”

The controversial legislation is in place in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excepting seven assembly constituencies of Imphal), and portions of Arunachal Pradesh, besides Jammu and Kashmir. Tripura and parts of Meghalaya were taken out of the list.

Under AFSPA, the forces may hold or shoot to kill on mere suspicion.

AFSPA also protects security forces from legal proceedings unless cleared by the Centre. In the context of the Nagaland violence and killings, there are concerns the Centre will cite the law to protect the Army’s elite 21 Para Special Forces from the investigation. The Nagaland police have registered a murder case against the army unit, attacking the troops with “intent to murder.”

About AFSPA

AFSPA 1958, Armed Forces Special Powers Act is an act of the Parliament of India that confers special powers to the Indian Armed Forces to maintain public order in “disturbed areas.” According to the Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976, once declared ‘disturbed,’ the area must maintain the status quo for a least three months. One such act passed on 11 September 1958 applied to the Naga Hills, then part of Assam.

In the subsequent decades, it spread, one by one, to the other Seven Sister States in India’s northeast (at now, it is in force in the States of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur {excluding Imphal Municipal Council Area}, Longding, Changlang, and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh. In addition, some areas fall within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering the State of Assam). Another one passed in 1983 and applied to Punjab, and Chandigarh was withdrawn in 1997, roughly 14 years after it came to force. Finally, an act passed in 1990 was used in Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since.

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