GUWAHATI, Aug 31 - For the first time since 1990, it is not the Centre but the Assam government which has extended the term of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) to declare the entire State as a Disturbed Area for a period of six months.
As the overall law and order situation in the State has improved and the level of violence has come down, the Centre refused to extend the term of the Act beyond today. As per the provisions of the AFSPA, state governments also have the power to impose the Act and under such provisions, the Assam government decided to extend it for a period of six months with effect from tomorrow. The State government�s decision has also been communicated to all the concerned agencies.
Official sources told The Assam Tribune that the government decided to extend the term of the Act for a �limited period� as the militants are still active in the areas bordering Arunachal and Nagaland. Moreover, there is apprehension that the militant groups, under the influence of the Chinese agencies, may try to step up the level of violence in the North East and that is why the State government decided to extend the term of the AFSPA, sources added.
However, at the same time, sources pointed out that the Army is not operating in the districts which are not affected by militancy anymore and Kamrup (Metro) is one such district.
Over the years, the Assam government has been maintaining contradictory stands on the issue. On one hand, the government is claiming that the law and order situation has improved considerably, while on the other, when it comes to extension of the term of the AFSPA, the State has been pressing the Centre to extend the same.
At the same time, the Central agencies were of the view that there was no need to extend the Act, at least in the entire State, because there is hardly any presence of militants in some districts. Central security agencies were of the view that the situation in the areas bordering Arunachal and Nagaland is a cause of worry but there is no need for declaring the entire State as a Disturbed Area.
The security agencies were also of the view that the states facing activities of the Maoist rebel groups were experiencing a much higher level of violence. But, such states are managing the situation without the imposition of the AFSPA. Similarly, the Act was imposed in Punjab in 1983 and was withdrawn in 1997 after the improvement of the situation. The Act was withdrawn from Tripura after the improvement of the law and order situation in 2015.
The high-level committee constituted by the Government of India to suggest measures for enhancing the combat capabilities of the armed forces also raised doubts on whether the Army should be engaged in law and order duties for a long period of time.
The AFSPA was first imposed in the North East in 1958 following the deterioration of the situation, particularly in Nagaland. In November 1990, the Government of India imposed the President�s rule in Assam and, at the same time, declared the entire State as Disturbed area under the provisions of the AFSPA.
Though the President�s rule was withdrawn in 1991, the AFSPA continued in the State and the term of the Act was extended every six months. However, in recent times, the Centre was reluctant in extending the term of the Act and was doing so only because of the requests from the State government. However, when the Act was scheduled to be extended again in May this year, the Government of India decided to extend its term only for three months, which expired on August 3.