Afspa can still be repealed, says Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma. There’s a rider
Afspa is in force in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies in Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. It was withdrawn from Meghalaya in 2018.
As the Centre extended the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa) for another six months in Nagaland, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma on Thursday held out hope that the northeast could see the scrapping of the controversial law.
“Even though there has been a six-month extension in Nagaland, it can still be repealed,” Conrad K Sangma told HT amid howls of protest in Nagaland that is still mourning the killing of civilians in a botched army operation and the ensuing violence.
Sangma’s party, the National People's Party (NPP), is an alliance partner of Bharatiya Janata Party in Meghalaya which helped him come to power after the 2018 assembly elections. In Manipur, NPP which had four MLAs till recently - one of them crossed over to the BJP this week - supports the BJP government led by N Biren Singh. Conrad’s party plans to contest the Manipur elections scheduled for early next year on its own.
Afspa doesn’t apply to Meghalaya any longer. For years, the law that kicks in once an area is notified as a “disturbed area”, was applicable within a 20 km wide belt of Meghalaya along the border with Assam.
In 2018, the Centre completely removed Afspa from Meghalaya after 27 years. It is in force in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies in Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
Chief ministers of several northeastern states including Sangma spoke out against the law after 13 civilians were killed on December 4 in a botched counter-insurgency operation by the Indian Army in Nagaland’s Mon district.
The central government subsequently decided to set up a committee to assess the possibility of withdrawing Afspa from the region.
Sangma alluded to this panel to explain his optimism.
“I am sure that when the situation comes where the review is done, and they (Centre) are actually able to take a decision, that it should be repealed then,” the chief minister said.
Pointing out the extension of the ‘disturbed areas’ tag in Nagaland was just a routine procedure, he underscored: “Once that proposal or that review committee looks into it, the panel looks into it, I'm sure it'll come up separately.”
In its notification extending the law, which shields security forces from prosecution without the central government’s sanction, the union home ministry said Nagaland was in a “disturbed and dangerous condition”.
“The Central government is of the opinion that the area comprising the whole of the State of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary,” the government order said.