Months after the Modi government ruled out amending the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the home ministry has extended the coverage of the law to 12 districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
The home ministry last week notified 12 Arunachal districts bordering Assam as “disturbed areas” that will give security forces extraordinary powers under AFSPA.
This disturbed areas order is necessary for AFSPA to kick-in, empowering security forces to shoot-to-kill suspects, arrest without a warrant and destroy any property likely to be used as shelters by insurgents.
Apart from the army, central police forces and state police personnel also get the special powers.
This is the first time in more than a decade that 12 of Arunachal Pradesh’s districts have been declared as disturbed areas.
The home ministry order of March 27 cited the presence of numerous insurgent groups along the Assam-Arunachal border, an insurgent group NDFB(S) setting up its headquarters in Myanmar’s Tago area and planning to smuggle arms through Arunachal and left-wing extremists trying to quietly infiltrate the state.
For years, only three districts of Tirap, Changlang and Longding – where Naga insurgents have been active – along with a 20km belt along the state’s borders with Assam, had been notified as disturbed areas.
Human rights activists have long called AFSPA a “draconian” piece of legislation and two central panels have recommended removing it from the statute.
Congress leader P Chidambaram – who had unsuccessfully pushed for amending the law as home minister in UPA II – had, last November, called AFSPA an “obnoxious law” that had no place in a modern and civilized country.