AFSPA extended in Nagaland for six more months

NEW DELHI:

The Centre on Monday declared the whole of Nagaland as a "disturbed" area under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, for a further period of six months.

A gazette notification said the Centre was of the opinion that the area comprising whole of Nagaland is in such a disturbed condition that the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.

"Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (No. 28 of 1958), the Central government hereby declares that the whole of the said State to be a 'disturbed area' for a period of six months with effect from 30th December, 2019 for the purpose of that Act," the notification stated.

Nagaland has been under AFSPA for almost six decades now and it was not withdrawn even after a framework agreement was signed on August 3, 2015, by Naga insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and government interlocutor R.N. Ravi in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It also remains in force in Assam, most of Manipur, and three districts and areas falling under the jurisdiction of four police stations in Arunachal Pradesh.

The decision to maintain the status quo in Nagaland regarding coverage of AFSPA, a law slammed by many civil society groups as "draconian", comes even as insurgency has shown a declining trend in the state.

The AFSPA gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for "the maintenance of public order", and to do so with a degree of immunity from prosecution.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had last time extended the operation AFSPA in Nagaland for another six months with effect from June 30 this year which ended on December 29.

According to Home Ministry data, violent incidents have fallen from 77 in 2014 to 19 in 2017, while extremists' killing slid from 296 to 171. On March 31 last year, the Home Ministry withdrew AFSPA totally from Meghalaya as well as 8 of the 16 police stations in Arunachal Pradesh where it had been in force for the past few decades.

The Home Ministry has underlined that incidents of insurgency in northeast region were down by 96 per cent from the levels recorded in 1997.