New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday issued a gazette notification announcing the removal of contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) from the state of Meghalaya as well as eight police stations in Arunachal Pradesh, the Indian Express reported. In a released statement, the ministry said that AFSPA has been revoked from all parts of Meghalaya and has been reduced from 16 police stations to eight, with effect from March 31, 2018, reports said. At least 40% of the state of Meghalaya was under the jurisdiction of AFSPA, till September 2017.
According to the Indian Express, the Centre decided to totally withdraw the controversial Act from Meghalaya after a recent review with the state government. In a related development, the government has also decided to relax the norms for restricted area permit and protected area permit for foreigners visiting Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. However, the statement added that there won’t be any change in restrictions for foreigners hailing from “countries of concern”, including Pakistan, Afghanistan and China.
The Centre has also decided to increase the financial aid under the surrender-cum-rehabilitation policy for militants in the north-east region from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 4 lakh, with effect from April 1, 2018, the Indian Express reported. The statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs reportedly stated that the number of insurgency incidents in 2017 witnessed a decline of 37 percent in the Northeast region, India Today reported. Since 2017, the region also saw a 30 percent decrease in security forces casualties and a 23 percent decline in civilian deaths, India Today quoted the press statement as saying.
The statement further added that the government had sanctioned 10 Indian Reserve Battalions in March 2018, in a bid to enhance security in the region. The battalions had been deployed as thus: two each for Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura. They have been sanctioned to replace central forces stationed in the northeast.
AFSPA gives the security forces special rights and immunity in executing various operations and tasks in “disturbed areas.” The Act has been a bone of contention between the security forces and civilians in the north-east region and Jammu and Kashmir, with many activists alleging that the act enabled security forces to purportedly violate human rights in the region.