NEW DELHI, June 30: The Central government on Saturday 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 whole of the said State to be a ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months with effect from 30th June, 2018 for the purpose of that Act,” stated the notification.
Nagaland has been under AFSPA for almost six decades.
The decision to maintain 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. According to home ministry data, violent incidents have fallen from 77 in 2014 to 19 in 2017, while extremists’ killings slid from 296 to 171. One security force personnel was killed in the State last year, while the number of civilian killings was higher at 3 compared to 1 in 2014.
On March 31 this 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 past few decades. The home ministry underlined that incidents of insurgency in northeast region were down by 96% from the levels recorded in 1997.
Over the four years since installation of the Modi government in 2014, insurgency-related incidents in the northeast region have dipped by 63%, civilian deaths by 83% and forces’ killings by 40%, it added.
In 2015, the Tripura government had lifted AFSPA from the state after 18 years. Until September 30, 2017, all areas falling within a 20-km belt in Meghalaya bordering Assam were notified as “disturbed” areas. Effective from October 1, 2017, this was reduced to a 10-km belt.
However, on March 31, 2018, it was decided that given the improved situation, AFSPA need no longer be in force even in this 10-km stretch.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act is now in force in the whole of Assam and Nagaland, all of Manipur (except Imphal municipal area) and in three districts and eight police station areas of Arunachal Pradesh.
Human rights activists in the northeast have been agitating for withdrawal of AFSPA and even scrapping of the law, a demand that became louder in the wake of the rape-cum-murder of Manipuri woman Thangjam Manorama in 2004 for which the locals blamed Assam Rifles personnel.
While the review for Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland is still handled by the Centre, Assam and Manipur governments have been notifying ‘disturbed’ areas – a prerequisite for imposing the law – on their own since last year. (TNN)