In a significant statement, urban development minister Kamal Nath has voiced his support for a relook at certain controversial and prevailing laws in the Northeast like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
"We need to look at these laws again. What purpose they are serving? Whether there are any oppressive tendencies? What was okay some years back may not be relevant now," Nath said.
"There needs to be an one-time bold policy of political and administrative reorganisation and consolidation," the minister said while responding to journalist Sanjoy Hazarika's assertion that while some prevailing laws may be legal they may not be just.
Nath's statement is significant in the backdrop of the Jan 28 assembly polls in Manipur.
AFSPA is a controversial law that enables security forces to shoot at sight and arrest anybody without a warrant in 'disturbed' areas of Northeast India and Jammu and Kashmir.
In J and K, chief minister Omar Abdullah has been raising the issue of partial withdrawal of the AFSPA citing return of normalcy, a move which has seen some support from the home ministry. However the defence ministry has been strongly opposing the move.
There are serious differences between the army and the CBI over the AFSPA in relation to the Pathribal encounter in 2000 in South Kashmir where seven people were gunned down for allegedly being Lashker-e-Toiba terrorists. While the army has claimed immunity for its five officials including a serving major general under the AFSPA, the CBI contends that the officers had allegedly committed murder of civilians for which the immunity could not be provided.
In Manipur, Noted activist Irom Sharmila has been fasting for the last 11 years demanding scrapping of this law.
Nath, speaking at a function to celebrate the 115th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, also expressed concern about the 'end use' of development funds allotted to the Northeast.
"Funds are earmarked but what is the end-use? Are we deriving the maximum benefits from the funds allotted? It is a fact and a matter of concern," he said.