GUWAHATI, Jan 31 - The Central Government is keen on reducing the strength of the Army in counter-insurgency duties. However, there is no move to scrap the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act despite demands by various organisations of the Northeast for the scrapping of the same.
Highly placed official sources in Delhi told The Assam Tribune that with gradual improvement of the overall law-and-order situation in the northeastern region, the Centre is planning to reduce the presence of the Army in counter-insurgency duties. However, total withdrawal of the Army from the counter-insurgency operations will take some time as there have been sporadic incidents of violence in parts of the region and militancy is yet to be completely wiped out.
Sources pointed out that imposition of the Act depends on the Centre�s assessment of the situation and demands of the State governments. As the situation in Tripura is under control, the Centre wanted to withdraw the AFSPA and after the State government also accepted the same, the Act was withdrawn from the State. In Nagaland, the Act is still in place as the Centre is of the view that it is necessary to keep the situation under control and in Manipur, both the Central and State governments are in favour of continuing with the Act.
In case of Assam, the Central agencies had reported that the Act could be withdrawn from some parts of the State, which have very little militant activity. But the previous government in the State wanted that the Act should continue and the whole State is still under the AFSPA. The new government is yet to give a different view in this regard.
The Act is in place in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh because of reports of militants having strong bases in those places, while of late, the Myanmar-Arunachal Pradesh border has also become vulnerable to movement of militants. The Act is not imposed in the entire State of Meghalaya but only in the 20-km belt along the inter-state boundary with Assam.
Though the AFSPA will not be scrapped in near future, the Centre is of the view that with the improvement of the overall law-and-order situation, the �over dependence� on the Army by the States of the Northeast region should be reduced and the police forces of the States should be strengthened to deal with the situation. The Central paramilitary forces are also deployed to assist the police in maintaining the situation under control, sources pointed out.
Sources also said that the Centre has been providing assistance to the state governments to modernise their own police forces and funds are also given to raise new India reserve battalions. The state governments should take full advantage of the same to strengthen their own police forces instead of depending too much on the army, sources said.
It may be mentioned here that the Committee on Armed Forces Reforms, which recently submitted its report to the Centre, also raised doubts on whether prolonged use of the army in the counterinsurgency duties would be correct for the armed forces in the long run.