On Saturday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced that the Centre has decided to reduce areas under the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland from April 1 due to the “significant improvement in the security situation in Northeast India”.

Shah termed the decision to reduce the number of disturbed areas in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur under AFSPA as a “historic day for the Northeast”.

For AFSPA to be imposed on an area, it has to be declared a “disturbed area.”

The decision was also hailed by the chief ministers of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “The Northeast is witnessing all-round development. Once known for blockades and violence, the region is now known for its development strides.”

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said: “We are witnessing a golden era in the North East.”

But how momentous is the effect of the Centre’s decision?

A closer look reveals that Saturday’s decision does not significantly shrink the number of areas under the contested law. Only one subdivision of Assam, four police stations in Manipur and three police stations in Nagaland have been taken off AFSPA’s purview by the order.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the area under the jurisdiction of AFSPA has gone up – as one more police station in the state has been declared as a “disturbed area” under the law.

In all, areas in 42 districts in the North East were under AFSPA before this order. Now, areas in 41 districts are covered by the law.

Take the case of Nagaland, for instance.

Before Saturday’s order, the law was imposed on 57 police stations in 13 districts. Nagaland has 16 districts, which includes 72 police stations. While nine districts in the state were declared fully “disturbed areas”, four districts were partially under the law.

From April 1, 2023, the law is effective in 54 police stations in all.

Moreover, the number of districts where the law is effective remains the same – 13. Eight districts of the state are fully under AFSPA, while the law partially covers five other districts.

In Manipur, too, 82 police station jurisdictions in 16 districts were under the ambit of AFSPA. After the Centre’s decision, AFSPA will be effective in 78 police stations.

In Assam, the law covered eight districts and one sub-division of another district. The law has now been withdrawn from the sub-division.

In Arunachal Pradesh, before the recent order, AFSPA was imposed on three districts and two police stations in another district. Now, a new police station has been added to this list.

Placards demanding repeal of AFSPA after the killing of 14 civilians in Nagaland in December 2021. Credit: Rokibuz Zaman.

The black law

For decades, civil society groups in the region have been seeking a complete repeal of the law, which has been held responsible for several human rights violations.

It has been 65 years since the law was imposed in areas of the North East.

The law gives the military sweeping powers to search, arrest, and to open fire in “disturbed areas” during counterinsurgency operations.

This, activists and political leaders have argued, allows the armed forces to operate in a dangerous climate of impunity. There have been several allegations of “fake encounters” in “disturbed areas” under the AFSPA.

For instance, the killing of 14 civilians in December 2021 in a botched up military operation in Oting in Mon district was seen as one more instance of state violence enabled by the law.

The Oting killings triggered a wave of protests across the states of the North East, forcing the Centre to act.

In a major step, it withdrew AFSPA from 23 districts of Assam, and 15 police stations each in Nagaland and Manipur following the demand of chief ministers and various civil society groups in the North East.

Saturday’s announcement, though the second instance in which the Centre lifted the controversial law from some police stations in the region, pales in comparison.

In fact, reacting to the recent decision, civil society groups underlined that the government must repeal AFSPA, a law that suspends basic fundamental rights of citizens, completely from the region.

“But people of the Northeast reiterate the demand for total withdrawal from the entire region because the Act is undemocratic & draconian,” said Samujjal Bhattacharjya, who is the advisor of North East Students’ Organisation, a leading students’ group of the region, in a tweet.


The entire state of Assam was declared a “disturbed area” in 1990, when militancy was at its peak, and brought under the ambit of AFSPA.

In April 2022, the law was lifted from the state, except for nine districts and one sub-division in another district.

In October last year, the number of districts under AFSPA came down to eight – after the state government removed West Karbi Anglong from the list of disturbed areas.

On Saturday, the Centre reiterated that decision.

From April 1 this year, the statement by the home ministry said, AFSPA “has been reduced to only eight districts” in Assam.

So, in effect, only one subdivision has been taken off the list of areas under AFSPA – Lakhipur subdivision of the Cachar district.


Likewise, the AFSPA has been withdrawn from the jurisdiction of four police stations in Manipur – Wangoi, Leimakhong, Nambol and Moirang.

The law, which was in operation in Manipur (except Imphal Municipality area) since 2004, remains effective in 78 police stations in 16 districts.

The home ministry statement said: “..15 police station areas of six districts were taken out of the disturbed area notification from [April 1, 2022] and now from [April 1, 2023] the notification under AFSPA is being withdrawn from four other police stations. Thus, 19 police stations in seven districts of Manipur have been removed from the disturbed area notification under AFSPA.”


In Nagaland, too, only three police stations in Wokha and Zunheboto districts have been removed from the ambit of AFSPA by this order.

Until last year, when the Centre withdrew AFSPA from 15 police stations, the law had been in effect in the whole state since 1995.

Significantly, Mon district, where 14 civilians were gunned down in December 2021, is still under AFSPA.

According to a statement issued by the home ministry on Friday, AFSPA has been extended fully in eight districts and partially in five other districts (across 21 police stations) of Nagaland for another six months.

Even after the current reduction, the law remains effective in 13 of the state’s 16 districts (across 54 police stations).

“A total of 18 police stations in eight districts of Nagaland are being removed from the disturbed area notification under AFSPA,” the statement read.

A protest in Nagaland against AFSPA in 2021. Credit: PTI.

Arunachal Pradesh

On Sunday, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reducing the disturbed areas under AFSPA, even though new areas have been brought under the law in his state.

“The decision to decrease jurisdiction of disturbed areas under AFSPA in Nagaland, Assam and Manipur is historic and so gratifying,” Khandu said in a tweet.

In Arunachal Pradesh, AFSPA was in force in three districts (Tirap, Changlang, Longding) and two police stations of Namsai district.

The home ministry has extended AFSPA in these areas, and brought the Chowkham police station under the law for a period of six months from April 1.