GUWAHATI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the Centre is making efforts to remove the entire northeast from the ambit of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which provides sweeping powers and immunity from criminal prosecution.
“For long, many states in the northeast were under the ambit of AFSPA. But in the past eight years, due to permanent peace and improved law and order situation, we removed the provisions of the Act from several parts of the region,” Modi said at a public meeting at Loringthepi in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district.
The killings of 14 civilians in a botched army operation in Nagaland’s Mon district in December put the spotlight back on AFSPA and renewed demands for its repeal. The Centre in March reduced the disturbed areas under the ambit of the law in the region.
Modi said there has been a 75% drop in violent incidents in the northeast over the past eight years and that is why Meghalaya and Tripura were removed from the ambit of AFSPA.
“In Assam, it has been in force for over three decades now. Due to a lack of improvement in the situation, earlier governments used to extend its enforcement repeatedly. But in recent years, due to improved ground situation, AFSPA has been removed from 23 districts of Assam,” Modi said. “We are trying to bring the situation to normal in other parts of the state so that AFSPA can be removed from there too. Similar efforts are also underway in Nagaland and Manipur [parts of both states are under AFSPA] to remove the Act.”
The British enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance in August 1942 to enlist the armed forces “in the aid of civil power” to put down the Indian independence movement during the Second World War. AFSPA is modelled on this colonial-era ordinance and was promulgated in Parliament in September 1958. The law allows armed forces to control and maintain public order in areas designated as “disturbed”.
Modi praised the north-eastern states for resolving boundary disputes. He referred to the Assam-Meghalaya border pact and said this could help address tussles in other states of the region as well.
Chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya signed the pact in March to resolve the five-decade-old boundary dispute.
Modi said border disputes among states in the region are being resolved in a cordial manner. “The agreement between Assam and Meghalaya would inspire resolution of other disputes and it will help strengthen development across the region.”
Modi also praised the peace deal signed last September with six rebel outfits in Karbi Anglong as well as the peace agreement with three Bodo outfits in 2020. “Earlier sounds of bombs and gunfire used to resonate in these parts, but now we hear claps. Our regular and sincere efforts continue to bring lasting peace in all other areas as well.”
As part of the peace deal with Karbi outfits, Modi laid the foundation stone of three colleges in Loringthepi. He also launched the Amrit Sarovar project for 75 water bodies across a hectare area in every district of Assam.
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma thanked Modi for his efforts to bring peace and development to Assam and the rest of the region. He added projects worth over ₹1000 crore were launched in Loringthepi.
Modi was scheduled to address another public meeting in Assam’s Dibrugarh on Thursday, inaugurate seven cancer care centres besides laying foundation for seven others.