The Assam Cabinet on Friday made a recommendation to the Centre to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, and the Disturbed Areas Act from the entire state.
The development comes four days after Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma met Union Home Minister Amit Shah to discuss the roadmap for a complete withdrawal of AFSPA from the state.
AFSPA gives Army personnel sweeping powers in disturbed areas to search, arrest and open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”.
The law was first imposed in Assam in November 1990. It is extended every six months after a review of the security situation.
The Act is currently in place in Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts.
The Union government has the power to withdraw AFSPA from a state.
In May last year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said he was certain that AFSPA would be revoked soon from Assam. On April 28, 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the Centre was making efforts to completely remove the Act from the North East.
However, since then, the contentious law has been extended in Assam twice – in October and March.
The demand for removing the law gained prominence after 14 civilians were killed by the security forces in Nagaland’s Mon district on December 4, 2021. A first information report filed by the Nagaland Police had said that the Army’s 21 Para Special Force opened fire with the “intention to murder and injure civilians”. However, Mon district is still under AFSPA.
In April, the Union Ministry of Defence denied sanction to prosecute the Army personnel in connection with the killings. A sanction for prosecution from the Union government is required to initiate any proceeding against security forces for their actions while discharging duties under the AFSPA.