SHILLONG, April 23: There has been no notification to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from fringe areas falling within 10 km along Meghalaya’s border with Assam, said State DGP Swaraj Bir Singh in an interview with The Sentinel on Monday.
An insinuation doing the rounds is that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has resolved to exclude Meghalaya from the AFSPA ambit after the virtual elimination of militancy in the once strife-torn districts of Garo Hills. The DGP admitted that there was a review meeting with the top Central and State security agencies of both Assam and Meghalaya on the issue on March 19 this year.
“An assessment was carried out and it’s up to the MHA to make a call on its applicability in those areas that continue to fall under AFSPA,” stated Singh. Sources from Assam also said that its police headquarters has not received any correspondence to this effect from the MHA and it has been corroborated by The Sentinel.
As per the AFSPA, the Army based in Assam can use the power of going as far as 10 km into Meghalaya territory for any counter-insurgency operations (CIOPs). It is reported that the areas cover around eight police stations in Meghalaya.
The State DGP, who took the baton from his predecessor to hammer the final nail to the coffin of the militant groups in Garo Hills, was specifically asked whether the GNLA has been fully quelled. In his reply, Singh said: “Yes, but there are criminal elements that need to be monitored upon before they raise their ugly heads.”
Confidently stating that Garo Hills districts are peaceful now, the DGP also maintained that there is no complacency on the part of the police, keeping into considerations the types of breeding ground for armed criminals in many pockets. Based on the ground inputs, the coal belts are still places where unwanted elements will look for making quick money.