The chief ministers of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur on Thursday welcomed the Union government’s decision to reduce the areas which fall under the ambit of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the three states.

As per a press release by the Union home ministry, 23 districts in Assam will be completely removed from the purview of the Act, while another district will be partially removed. Fifteen police station jurisdictions in six of the 16 districts of Manipur, as well as 15 police station jurisdictions in seven out of 15 districts in Nagaland, will no longer be classified as “disturbed areas”.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the decision “marks the beginning of a new chapter in Assam’s future” and testifies to the “significant improvement in law and order” in the state.

“With peace getting primacy, North East is now on a new trajectory of growth & development,” Sarma said on Twitter. “I also compliment the people of Assam, who have believed in peace.”

The Assam chief minister also said that with this decision, about 60% of the state’s area will be free from the purview of AFSPA, ANI reported.

“AFSPA will be present in the hilly regions of Assam where the situation is yet to be improved,” Sarma said, adding that out of the total geographical area of 78,438 square kilometres of the state, the act will be confined to 31,724.94 square kilometres only.

“So far 62 times [the] government of Assam has extended AFSPA since 1990,” Sarma said, according to ANI. “Today, PM Modi has taken a bold decision to withdraw AFSPA from the area wherever it is not required.”

In a similar vein, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said that the decision will “lead to a new era of peace, prosperity and development” in the state.

“This historic decision is a result of the robust development and improved security situation under various initiatives taken up by [Modi] in the North East,” he said.

Singh said that the people of Manipur are immensely thankful to the prime minister “for the love and support he had extended” to the state over the years.

He added that Modi and Shah have played a crucial role in ending insurgency in the North East and bringing peace to the region.

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said that he was grateful to the Union government for the decision and described the reduction in the disturbed areas in the North East as a “significant development towards bringing stability, security & prosperity to the North East region”.

In the past few months, both Rio and Singh had demanded the withdrawal of the AFSPA from their respective states.

‘Era of peace has arrived’

Several other political leaders from the North East also welcomed the Centre’s decision on Thursday.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said that the reduction in the number of areas under the AFSPA in the North East was a “historic decision”, ANI reported.

“This decision shows that the era of peace has arrived in the North East,” Rijiju said. “Peace cannot prevail without development and vice versa. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has focussed on peace and development for the entire North East.”

Union minister and former Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal remarked that the northeastern region is now transforming into the growth engine of India.

“The people of this region have long sought peace and progress, which has been made possible today only due to the efforts of [Modi],” he said.

Numal Momin, the Deputy Speaker in the Assam Assembly, welcomed the Centre’s decision, and said that its “continuous efforts to bring peace” in the North East have finally succeeded, according to ANI.

“In Assam, Chief Minister Sarma has done a lot to reduce tensions and most of the organisations have laid down arms,” he said.