The Union Home Ministry has done well to totally withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Meghalaya from April 1 and to keep it in force only in eight police stations in Arunachal Pradesh instead of the 16 police stations that had earlier been under the AFSPA. However, the Act has been extended by six more months in three eastern districts of Arunachal Pradesh, namely, Tirap, Longding and Changlang, which border Myanmar. In Arunachal Pradesh, the AFSPA has been retained in specific areas under eight police stations of seven other districts bordering Assam. Three of these districts have been under AFSPA since January 2016. The Act was withdrawn from Tripura in 2015, and was only in place in Meghalaya for a 20 km area along the Assam border. The AFSPA is not in operation in Mizoram, and in the past one year, fewer areas of the Northeast have been under the Act. However, it is effective in all of Nagaland, Assam and Manipur. Of these three States, Assam and Manipur have the powers to keep or revoke the Act. What is indeed surprising is that a State like Assam that has the power to revoke a dishonourable piece of legislation should be so keen on retaining it. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is a piece of legislation that does great discredit to any self-respecting democracy by giving the kind of sweeping powers to the armed forces that are characteristic of a totalitarian regime. In giving sweeping powers to the armed forces where there is no justification for such powers, it does great disservice to the very spirit of democracy and to people’s right to freedom. No other civilized democracy functions with such anti-people laws. Since the government of Assam has the power to revoke the Act, it should do so right now.
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