Tuesday, November 29, 2022

An anti-people Act

Statements from both Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday and the next day by Eastern Army Commander Lt. General R P Kalita highlight the changing concept of maintenance of law and order in the north east region and one of which is use of draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special)Powers Act 1958. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma stated that his government is considering withdrawing AFSPA from two more locations in the state- Lakhipur of Cachar and the entire Karbi Anglong district. In Assam, the ‘Disturbed Area’ tag has been extended for another six months for Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts along with Lakhipur sub-division of Cachar in the Barak valley. Eastern Army Commander Lt General R P Kalita on Tuesday said that more and more areas in the north east, currently covered by AFSPA will be de-notified as violence parameters come down to an acceptable level in those places. General Kalita reiterated that any decision to withdraw the special act has to be taken by a state government in consultation with the Centre. Nagaland was the first state in the country where AFSPA was imposed in 1958 itself under the guise of aiding the civil authorities to maintain law and order. The AFSPA has not helped in maintenance of law and order by any stretch of imagination. Instead, known as the ‘black law’, the AFSPA has only given rise to some thinking among the armed forces, that the civilian authorities and police are unable to tackle anti-national elements. Since 1958 when AFSPA was promulgated in Nagaland, it evoked fear and dread as even the civilian administration appeared powerless to ask the army to fall in line with the diktats of the law of the land. On April 1,2022 the Centre removed AFSPA from Tuensang, Tseminyu and Shamatore and partially from Kohima, Wokha, Longleng and Mokokchung districts. AFSPA will continue to be in force in Dimapur, Chümoukedima, Peren, Phek, Kiphire, Noklak, Niuland, Mon and Zunheboto. In Manipur, 15 police stations across six districts have been removed from the Act. In the first place, the AFSPA is one of the most draconian laws which has been providing the armed forces with unbridled powers to act with impunity and then insulated those charged with offences from tried in civil courts unless agreed to by the Central government. It may be recalled that the Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy Committee set up in November 2004 by the UPA government on AFSPA had recommended review of the Act but with riders in its 147-paged recommendation. The Committee submitted its report in June 2005 but the UPA-II sat over it due to strong objections from the armed forces. Ten years later, on February 28,2015 the Modi government rejected outright the recommendations of the committee. In reality, the situation in the north east is far better than Naxal/Maoist infested states like Chhattisgarh, Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Telangana, MP and Maharashtra; where, even today, land mines and ambushes by Left Wing Extremists kill scores of central police forces. However the Centre has not brought any of these areas under AFSPA even in the face of mounting violence. Whereas brutal killings involving armed forces like Oting massacre on December 4, 2021 and several others in the region will not see justice delivered since there are different laws for criminals in India. As the Modi government says it wants to remove every colonial law amended under Congress, it will earn the trust of the north east people if it can repeal AFSPA from the region.

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