The Centre on Monday removed Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) completely from Meghalaya and also reduced the applicability of the controversial Act to eight police station areas in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Centre on Monday removed Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) completely from Meghalaya and also reduced the applicability of the controversial Act to eight police station areas in Arunachal Pradesh. The Act has now been limited to other eight police station areas in the state. “AFSPA was totally withdrawn from all areas of Meghalaya from April 1. In Arunachal, it is down from 16 police stations to eight,” the official said to PTI.
However, the AFSPA in the three areas of the eastern districts – Tirap, Longding and Changlang which shared its international border with Myanmar and domestic border with Assam has been extended to another six months. All the three districts were under the said act since January 2016. The Centre has removed the AFSPA from fewer areas of northeast in past one year. In Tripura, the Act was removed in 2015.
AFSPA is an act empowered by the Parliament to the armed forces in the region to carry out operation without a search warrant. The act also provides protection to security forces from prosecution and legal suits without the central government’s sanction. The act was widely criticised by many human rights activists. The noted human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila had protested for 16 years to repeal the act.
In a separate move, the government has also relaxed the norms for foreign tourists to visit Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. The norms has been relaxed for a period of five years from April 1, 2018. However, the citizens from Pakistan, China and Afghanistan were barred from visit. In case of any citizen willing to visit the three states, the individual needs to have a special permit.
News agency PTI reports that in cases of foreign diplomats, including the members of the United Nations and international organisations holding diplomatic or official passports, the special permits to visit such protected or restricted areas are issued by the Ministry of External Affairs. In cases of the citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin, no permit, can be issued without the prior approval of the Union Home Ministry.
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 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 regime while others are under the restricted area. According to a Home Ministry official, “A review is underway to lift the PAP from other areas too.”