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Curtailment of AFSPA is the culmination of a string of relentless efforts

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The lifting of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, commonly known as AFSPA, from large tracts of areas in the North East, is the culmination of a string of relentless efforts in the last eight years aimed at ensuring peace, greater connectivity and all round development. The path breaking decision to declare three dozen districts spanning across Assam, Manipur and Nagaland as not being Disturbed Areas anymore means commercial activity and day to day functioning of life can go unhindered without a sword hanging on common citizens. To be sure, barring few pockets, life has largely been normal and peaceful in the greater part of the North East. So this new order may not really bring any overnight change of sorts. But we will come to that shortly.

AFSPA

First, it is relevant to understand how work started towards this historic juncture. The first major step to scale down violence and establish peace came just a year after Narendra Modi assumed charge as Prime Minister. In August 2015, a ceasefire with the Isaac-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was agreed upon which went a long way in cessation of clashes and violent attacks. It also paved the way for graded peace talks which have progressed intermittently with some hiccups from time to time. Even though the Khaplang faction refused to enter into a ceasefire agreement, peace has prevailed more or less prevailed in Nagaland when compared to the pre-2015 period.

A follow up ceasefire with some other Naga insurgent groups was also agreed in September 2021 as the logical next step to the earlier agreement. But the centre's efforts have not been limited to Nagaland alone.

A big step in this direction was the agreement with the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT-SD) which led to extremist cadres giving up arms and joining the national mainstream. Today, Tripura is a haven of peace. Only one who has been witness to the incessant attacks and bloody killings in Tripura knows what a paradigm shift it has been.

A couple of more agreements need special mention here. A historic ceasefire was implemented after agreement with various Bodo insurgent groups in January 2020. This Bodo Accord brought much needed peace to the areas referred as Bodoland where violence had been going on for nearly five decades. Likewise the Karbi Anglong Agreement has been instrumental in bringing peace to the Karbi hills with the surrender of more than 1000 militants operating in the beautiful region. It isn't just chance that AFSPA was completely lifted from Tripura in 2015 and Meghalaya in 2018.

The centre's efforts to being peace and tranquillity have not been limited to ceasefire agreements and managing insurgents to surrender alone. It decided to shed inertia of decades and bite the bullet in resolving historic territorial disputes between various states of the North East. The Bru Reang Agreement in January 2020 resolved a 23 year old refugee crisis and ensured people in the border districts of Tripura and Mizoram could live without fear of violence and harassment. Most recently, the border agreement between the chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya resolved the dispute over six of the twelve locations. This too had been hanging fire for decades.

While the security forces have been doing their job, the continuous thrust on building connectivity, through train, air and road, building bridges to reduce travel time drastically and build all weather roads in the inaccessible areas has also helped in ushering a sense of trust and increased confidence among the people.

As a resident of Manipur told me, even areas which were officially under 'Disturbed Areas Act' were largely peaceful with life being as normal as any other part of the country. So the official announcement, she claimed, would not bring any overnight change. However, it would definitely instil confidence and hope among those still living in a disturbed area by giving them something to look forward to.

This multi-pronged policy of shedding the 'chalta hai' attitude and taking the plunge in talking to insurgent groups, convincing them to lay down arms, resolving historic border and territorial issues which often erupt in violence and ensuring all round connectivity is what has brought us to this day when twenty three districts of Assam, six districts of Manipur and seven districts of Nagaland will now breathe free. The unfortunate incident of mistaken identity in Mon at the fag end of 2021 may have expedited the demand from regional political parties to lift AFSPA but the ground work was on for at least eight years and the results are there for all to see. Hopefully, this would be the first step and the remaining areas would join these thirty six districts soon. The indications are certainly positive.

(Smita Mishra, Advisor, Prasar Bharati)

Amit Shah
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Amit Shah

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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