AFSPA, which stands for the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, is a controversial legislation in India that grants special powers and immunity to the armed forces deployed in “disturbed areas.” It was enacted by the Indian Parliament in 1958 to combat separatist movements and insurgencies in certain regions of the country.
Why the Act is in News?
In recent news, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced the government’s aim to completely withdraw AFSPA from the state by the end of 2023. This decision is part of an effort to restore normalcy, build trust, and address concerns related to human rights violations associated with the act. Additionally, the government plans to involve ex-military personnel in training the state police force, indicating a shift towards enhancing the state’s internal security capabilities while reducing the reliance on the armed forces under AFSPA.
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The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was introduced to provide the armed forces with additional powers to maintain law and order in areas affected by insurgency and internal disturbances. It has been primarily implemented in the northeastern states of India, including Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as in Jammu and Kashmir.
Under AFSPA, once an area is declared as “disturbed,” the armed forces are granted extensive powers to arrest, search, and even shoot on suspicion. The act also provides legal immunity to the armed forces personnel for their actions during operations. This immunity makes it difficult to hold them accountable for any human rights violations or excesses committed in the course of their duty.
Objectives and Goals of AFSPA
The main objective of AFSPA is to enable the armed forces to effectively combat insurgents and maintain public order in areas affected by armed rebellion or insurgency. The act empowers the military to take preventive measures, conduct search and arrest operations, and use force, including lethal force, if necessary, to maintain law and order.
Challenges and Considerations
AFSPA has been a subject of intense debate and criticism due to concerns about human rights violations and excessive use of force by the armed forces. Several human rights organizations and civil society groups have raised concerns about the act’s provisions, claiming that it has led to abuses, extrajudicial killings, and torture.
The act’s broad powers and the immunity granted to the armed forces have raised questions about accountability and transparency. There have been demands from various quarters to repeal or amend AFSPA to address these concerns and bring about greater protection of human rights.
Vision, History, and Places AFSPA is Implemented
The vision behind AFSPA was to provide the armed forces with the necessary tools to effectively counter insurgencies and maintain public order in areas facing internal disturbances. It was initially introduced in 1958 to combat the Naga insurgency in Nagaland. Over the years, it was extended to other regions facing similar challenges.
Apart from Nagaland, AFSPA is implemented in Manipur, Assam, and certain areas of Arunachal Pradesh. The act was also extensively applied in Jammu and Kashmir to tackle the insurgency in the region. However, in Jammu and Kashmir, the act was revoked in 2020, and the region is now governed under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act.
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