Demand to repeal AFSPA in the northeast gained momentum after tragic death of 14 civilians in Nagaland. What is AFSPA and its history? A brief summary:
On 8 Aug, 1942: All India Congress Committee began Quit India movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. One week later, British India govt passed an ordinance to crush this independence movement… it was called armed forces special powers ordinance-AFSPO.
On 15 Aug, 1947: India was independent but also faced a partition soon … riots in the country followed. Citing internal security, the same ordinance AFSPO was imposed in Bengal, Assam, United Provinces by the government.
In 1951 first general election in the country which was boycotted by Naga National Council under the leadership of Angami Phizo. At that time there was no Nagaland state as today… It was a large area covering parts of Assam too, known as Naga hills district.
In 1953, Assam government imposed Assam maintenance of public order act on Naga Hills and Assam Rifles were posted in Naga hills. Assam disturbed areas act of 1955 gave armed forces legal framework to control insurgency.
As tensions grew in the region, the jurisdiction of ordinance was increased to cover the entire northeast and it was called AFSPA, 1958. The first section of AFSPA conferred special powers upon members of the armed forces.
Like, they may enter and search without warrant and may use force if necessary. No prosecution, suit or legal proceedings shall be entertained except with sanction of central government.
In Nov 2000, Assam Rifles terminated 10 civilians in Imphal, Manipur. After this tragedy, Irom Sharmila called indefinite hunger strike demanding to repeal AFSPA in the northeast… a hunger strike that lasted 16 years.
In 2004, AFSPA was withdrawn from many parts of Manipur after widespread protests.
In 2009, UN commissioner of human rights termed AFSPA outdated colonial-era law. In 2012, UN asked India to revoke the act saying it had no place in democracy.
In 2015, Tripura withdrew AFSPA and in 2018 AFSPA was also revoked in Meghalaya.
In 2018, AFSPA in Arunachal Pradesh was restricted to few tense areas like Arunachal-Assam border.
On 26 Dec, 2021 centre set up a panel to look into withdrawal of AFSPA in Nagaland. MHA data shows that insurgency related incidents dipped by 80% in N-E last year. Let’s see what comes out of it.