AGARTALA, June 14 (IANS): Tripura government has once again extended for six months the operation of AFSPA, the anti-terrorism law that gives full powers to the armed forces to take any steps to control terror, an official said here Saturday.
"Top security and civil officials of the state government recently assessed the prevailing law and order situation of the state and decided to extend the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958) for another six months," a home department official told reporters.
He said: "A state-level coordination committee (SLCC) on security affairs led by Chief Secretary S.K. Panda periodically assesses the overall security situation in the state with top officials of the state and central security forces".
The SLCC is overseeing the counter insurgency operation in Tripura, which shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh.
Two separatist outfits - National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) - who operate in the state are also sheltering and availing arms training in the adjoining Bangladesh.
Both outfits have set up bases in Bangladesh and get support from other separatist outfits of the northeast India. They have been demanding secession of Tripura from India.
Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion earlier this month had recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition in Satchhari jungles in the northeastern district of Habiganj, bordering India's western Tripura.
The arms and ammunition, belonging to ATTF, included anti-tank weapons, mortars and AF series rifles.
"Though the four-and-half-decade old terrorism has been tamed in Tripura, the state government is averse to taking any chances for some more time," the official added.
The northeastern state of Tripura has 72 police stations. The AFSPA has been in force in 30 police station areas; it is fully operational in 24 police station areas, and partially operational in six.
In view of the improvement of the situation and the lessening of terrorist activities, the Tripura government in June last year reduced operational areas of the AFSPA to 30 police station areas instead of the 40 earlier. The act was earlier fully operational in 34 police station areas, and partially in six.
The act was first enforced in Tripura in 1997, when terrorism was at its peak in the mountainous state.
The central act provides unlimited powers to security forces to shoot at sight, arrest anybody without a warrant, and carry out searches without obstacles and without any one's consent.
It also insulates the security forces from legal processes for any action undertaken under the act.
Local rights groups and political parties, specially the tribal-based Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), describe the act as "draconian" and want it repealed.
"Innocent people are victimised by the security forces in the name of anti-insurgency operations," said Nagendra Jamatia, former minister and a senior leader of the INPT, an electoral ally of the opposition Congress.
"Demand for repealing the AFSPA was one of the issues in our movement against the Left Front government," Jamatia said.
Besides Tripura, the AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), Assam and Nagaland, and in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
Human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur has been on an indefinite hunger strike for 14 years, demanding the withdrawal of the act.