The Manipur unit of the Congress on Saturday said that it would remove the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, from the state if it was elected to power in the 2022 Assembly elections.
The AFSPA gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest, to open fire if it is deemed necessary for “the maintenance of public order”, and to do so with a degree of immunity from prosecution.
The Act is currently in force in Nagaland, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and parts of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. It was lifted from Meghalaya in April 2018.
At a press briefing on Saturday, working president of the party’s state unit Keisham Meghachandra mentioned that when the Congress was in power, it had removed the law from seven Assembly constituencies, said Congress leader and party’s spokesperson for Manpur Ningombam Bupenda Meitei.
Meghachandra also said the Congress demands that Chief Minister N Biren Singh press Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal the law in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament, according to Meitei. The party’s working president also asked the Manipur Cabinet to remove the Act from the entire state immediately.
He added that the state government has the power to repeal the “disturbed area” status.
Meanwhile, Singh also joined the list of chief ministers of northeastern states that have been demanding the repeal of AFSPA.
“Removing AFSPA is our stand,” the Manipur chief minister said on Saturday. “But we need to create a better understanding with the Centre. Prior to taking a decision, we need to talk, we need to discuss [with the central leaders] to reach an understanding.”
Singh is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Earlier, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma had also demanded that AFSPA be repealed. The Nagaland government has also decided to write to the Centre demanding that the law be withdrawn.
The demand to repeal AFSPA has gained momentum after the killing of 14 civilians in Nagaland last week.
On December 4, security forces had opened fire at a pick-up van carrying coal miners from the Tiru area to their village Oting in Nagaland’s Mon district, killing six on board. They mistook the group of workers for insurgents.
After the ambush, residents set the vehicles of the security forces on fire. As the soldiers fled, they shot dead more civilians, alleged Nyawang Konyak, the president of the Mon district unit of the BJP. In the chaos, seven more civilians and one soldier died.
Another civilian was shot dead during an agitation the next day when protestors entered an Army camp.