Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Armed Forces Special Powers Act extended in Arunachal Pradesh, rights activists want to know reason

By Our Representative
In a move that has raised the eyebrows of human rights activists, Government of India has extended the labeling of the districts of Tirap, Changlag and Longding in Arunachal Pradesh as 'disturbed areas' under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) for a further period of six months with effect from October 1, 2014. The Ministry of Home Affairs notification dated September 20, 2014 claims that the law and order situation in these districts has been “reviewed” and “violent activities of insurgents” were to have “remained unchanged.” AFSPA has long been regarded as “draconian”, as it does not protect citizens from “atrocities” by security forces.
The Central notification said, “The factions of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) continue to indulge in inter-factional clashes. The factions of NSCN also interfere in the political matters by intimidating leaders for monetary help. Apart from underground Naga outfits, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and certain Manipur based underground outfits continue to use these districts as conduit for movement from/to their camps in Myanmar and also for trafficking of arms and ammunitions.”
Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh were declared as disturbed areas under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 on September 17, 1991 vide this Ministry’s Notification No. 603(E) dated 17.9.1991, as, in the opinion of the Government of India, these districts were in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of Armed Forces in aid of civil power was necessary. Longding district (carved out of Tirap district) was also declared as ‘disturbed area’ vide this Ministry’s notification dated 30th July, 2012.
The declaration of Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh as ‘disturbed areas’ was last reviewed in March 2014, the notification recalls, adding, the validity of declaration of these three districts of Arunachal Pradesh as ‘disturbed areas’ was extended up to September 30, 2014.
Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) says, while the reason given for extending the armed forces Act is “continued violence committed by 'insurgent' groups”, it should be remembered that under AFSPA no part of India's territory can be declared 'disturbed area' for more than six months.”
Nayak says, “The ground situation has to be reviewed every six months to determine whether there is sufficient reason for extension of the labeling”. Therefore, he adds, “RTI activists -- in particular those living in or working on issues related to Arunachal Pradesh -- might like to make RTI applications with the Ministry of Home Affairs to find out the detailed reasons for extending the period of declaration.”
Calling it an “important policy announcement and is also an administrative decision”, Nayak believes, “All affected persons have the right to know detailed reasons and all relevant facts behind this decision under SEction 4(1)(c) and (d) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act).”
It may be recalled that on the 13th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks in America, India’s North-Eastern states remembered a 9/11 which changed their history forever -- AFSPA was imposed on undivided Assam on this very day in 1958. The Act gives sweeping powers to security forces in troubled areas, was first imposed to quell the Naga movement for cessation. In 1958, undivided Assam comprised Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya.
According to top human rights group, Amnesty India International, "The AFSPA has facilitated grave human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape and torture and other ill treatment." Citing the report prepared by the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law (popularly referred to as the Justice Verma Committee) , Amnesty has said, "The report included a section on sexual violence in conflict zones, in which the committee said that the AFSPA legitimized impunity for sexual violence, and recommended immediate review of the continuance of the AFSPA in internal areas of conflict."

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