• The Assam government extended the “Disturbed Area” status of the state for another six months from August 28 under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
• The AFSPA was imposed in Assam in November 1990 and has been extended every six months since then after a review by the state government.
• In the Northeast, the AFSPA is in force in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (excluding Imphal Municipal Council Area), Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of eight police stations in Arunachal Pradesh, bordering Assam.
• Passed in 1958 for the North-East and in 1990 for Jammu and Kashmir, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) gives armed forces special powers to control “disturbed areas”, which are designated by the government when it is of the opinion that a region is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.
• An area can be disturbed due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
• The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
• Under its provisions, the armed forces have been empowered to open fire, enter and search without warrant, and arrest any person who has committed a cognisable offence, all while having immunity from being prosecuted.
• The law has been repealed where insurgencies have subsided, and when governments have gained confidence in managing the region using the police force.
• Critics both in India and abroad have criticised government agencies for acting with impunity under AFSPA. Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila had been on a 16-year hunger strike in protest against AFSPA. The Jeevan Reddy Committee formed in 2004 has recommended a complete repeal of the law.
Mains Paper 3: Defence and Security
Prelims level: Armed Forces Special Powers Act
Mains level: Security forces, agencies and their mandate