NEW DELHI: The Central government on Monday withdrew the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) completely from Meghalaya and also diluted the applicability of the Act in Arunachal Pradesh. Till September 2017, 40 per cent of Meghalaya was under the AFSPA, which has been revoked from all areas of the state from April 1. In Arunachal Pradesh, it has been scaled down from 16 police stations to eight, said a statement issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
However, AFSPA in three areas of the eastern districts of Arunachal Pradesh — Tirap, Longding and Changlang — which shared its international border with Myanmar and domestic border with Assam, has been extended to another six months. The districts have been under the said Act since January 2016.
According to MHA, in the last four years, there has been a decline of 63 per cent in insurgency-related incidents in the region. There has been a reduction of 83 per cent in civilian deaths and 40 per cent in casualties of security forces in 2017, it said.
The Centre had removed AFSPA from a few areas of the Northeast last year. In Tripura, the Act was withdrawn in 2015. A senior MHA official said the decision to remove AFSPA has been taken due to significant improvement in security situation in the two states. AFSPA gives powers to the Army and Central forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill or arrest anyone acting in contravention of the law, and search any premises without a warrant. The Act also provides protection to security forces from prosecution without the Central government’s sanction. AFSPA is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam and Manipur, barring seven Assembly constituencies in Imphal.
In a separate decision, the home ministry also enhanced the aid under its Surrender-cum-Rehabilitation policy for militants in the Northeast from `1 lakh to `4 lakh. The policy will be applicable from April 1, 2018. Meanwhile, the government has also relaxed the norms regarding visit of foreign tourists to Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, for a period of five years. However, citizens of Pakistan, China and Afghanistan are barred from this. One usually needs a special permit to visit these states. An MHA official explained that in cases of tourists from Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin, no permit can be issued without the prior approval of the MHA.
As per the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order 1958, all areas falling between the Inner Line and the International Border of some states were declared as protected areas, which currently include the whole of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, besides parts of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Some parts of Sikkim also fall under the protected area, while others are under the restricted area. A ministry official said a review is underway to lift the PAP from other areas too.