Itanagar, April 25: A day after the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA has been partly revoked from Arunachal Pradesh, both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders from the state reacted about the Centre's latest move on the army act on Tuesday.
While the opposition Congress has demanded a total revocation of the act, the BJP leaders too have asked the Centre to see if it could be removed from across the hill state. The AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone anywhere without prior notice.
The areas of the state that come under the controversial act have been reduced from 16 police stations, bordering Assam, to eight police stations, besides Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts by the Centre on Monday. The Centre repealed the act totally from Meghalaya.
State Congress president Takam Sanjoy said the AFSPA is "not relevant" in a peaceful state like Arunachal Pradesh.
"When the Centre can lift the act from (entire) Meghalaya, why not in Arunachal Pradesh? There are no records of terrorist activities in the state over the past several years. There are other laws to deal with such activities and the AFSPA would only jeopardise public peace," he claimed.
Sanjoy alleged that the Home Ministry has "arbitrarily extended" the provisions of the act at a time when Naga rebel groups are engaged in peace talks. The ruling BJP, however, said the Centre should "study the ground situation" in the state and, if permissible, should repeal the Act to ensure peace in the region.
The AFSPA was necessitated in 16 police station areas, bordering Assam, and three districts of the state, bordering Myanmar, because a few insurgents had tried to take refuge in Arunachal Pradesh, Chief Minister Pema Khandu told PTI.
The constant efforts of security forces and comprehensive plans of the Union Home Ministry, and the state police has drastically improved the law and order situation in the last couple of years, he said.
State BJP president Tapir Gao said, if the Union government deems fit to revoke the Act, then it will be for the "greater good".
Kahfa Bengia, the chief of People's Party of Arunachal, said the eight police stations areas need not come under the AFSPA as there were no reports of militant activities from these regions in a very long time. "The Home Ministry should make sure its decisions do not affect the people of the state," Bengia asserted.
In Meghalaya, the Union government's move was unanimously welcomed by political parties, students' organisations and church leaders. James K Sangma, the state's home minister, said he was grateful to the Union government for considering Meghalaya's request to revoke the act from the state.
"We are thankful to the Centre for responding to Meghalaya government's request for the denotification of AFSPA in the Garo Hills areas, adjoining Assam," Sangma told PTI.
Militancy has been "by and large contained" in the state and this was made possible by the Meghalaya police, he said. Lauding the Centre's move, the Congress credited the erstwhile Mukul Sangma-led government for it.
"The imposition of AFSPA has lots of demerits in a state like Meghalaya as it has often been seen that language barrier led to atrocities here. This was the reason why former chief minister Mukul Sangma did not allow the army to take up operations in the Garo Hills," Congress spokesperson Zenith Sangma said.
There have been demands from various organisations in the Northeast as well as in Jammu and Kashmir for repealing the act, which, they say, gives "sweeping powers" to the security forces to act against "civilians".
The AFSPA has been in place in Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.