Guwahati, April 24: On Monday, the Northeast region, mostly under the shadow of militancy in the last few decades, welcomed the Centre's decision to repeal the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) completely from Meghalaya and in parts from Arunachal Pradesh.
According to officials, the AFSPA has been removed completely from Meghalaya and its area of operation in Arunachal Pradesh has been restricted to eight police stations bordering Assam and three districts neighbouring Myanmar.
The news brought hope for three other states in the region--Assam, Manipur and Nagaland--where the AFSPA has been in force. The AFSPA or the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone anywhere without prior notice.
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 force in Nagaland for several decades and in Assam from the early 1990s. It was not withdrawn in Nagaland even after a framework agreement was signed on August 3, 2015, by Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and government interlocutor RN Ravi in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Those who support the repeal of AFSPA say that since security situation in the region has improved manifold, it is time to remove the army act from the entire region. An official said there has been a substantial improvement in security situation in the Northeastern states over the last four years. 2017 recorded the lowest insurgency incidents and casualties among civilians and security forces during the last two decades since 1997.
While insurgency has been wiped out from Tripura and Mizoram, there has been a marked improvement in security situation in Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur, the official said.
In Assam, sustained counter-insurgency operations against NDFB(S) have resulted in the killing of 63 cadres and the arrest of 1,052 cadres/linkmen besides recovery of huge arms and ammunition between December 2014 and March this year.
Across the Northeast, there has been a huge reduction of 96 per cent in casualties among the security forces from 289 in 1997 to 12 in 2017. Civilian casualties also dropped by 96 per cent from 907 in the year 2000 to 37 last year, the official added. Insurgency incidents during the same period reduced by 85 per cent from 1963 to 308, he stated. So far as kidnapping and abductions are concerned, there has been a 40 per cent drop from 168 incidents in 2016 to 102 last year.
The AFSPA has been removed from all areas of Meghalaya from March 31.The decision has been taken due to a significant improvement of security situation in the state, a Home Ministry official said.
In Arunachal Pradesh, areas under the controversial act have been reduced from 16 police stations areas bordering Assam to eight police stations besides Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts, the official added.
A Manipur-based activist says that the Centre needs to take a holistic view and repeal the AFSPA from across the region. "A draconian law like the AFSPA which has resulted in the deaths of so many innocent people has no place in a democracy," he added.