The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, has been extended for six more months in four districts of Assam, the state police said on Sunday, PTI reported.

However, the “disturbed area” status under the Act, which allows for its implementation in specific regions, has been withdrawn from four other districts, Director General of Police Gyanendra Pratap Singh said.

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”.

“From today, only four districts in Assam will have AFSPA,” the state police chief said. “These are Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar and Charaideo.”

The Act has now been withdrawn from the districts of Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao.

AFSPA in Assam

In May 2022, 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.

This is the third time since then that the contentious law has been extended in Assam – the previous two occasions being in October 2022 and April.

The entire state of Assam was declared a “disturbed area” under AFSPA in 1990. In April 2022, the law was lifted from the state, except for nine districts and one sub-division in another district.

In October 2022, the number of districts under AFSPA in Assam came down to eight – after the state government removed West Karbi Anglong from the list of disturbed areas.

On September 8, the Assam government had recommended to the Centre that AFSPA should be removed from all eight remaining districts, claiming that the security situation had significantly improved.

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The demand for removing the law gathered steam after 14 civilians were killed in incidents of firing by the security forces in Nagaland’s Mon district in December 2021. A first information report filed by the Nagaland Police had said that the Army’s 21 Para Special Force had opened fire with the “intention to murder and injure civilians”. Mon remains under AFSPA.

In April, the Ministry of Defence denied sanction to prosecute the Army personnel in connection with the deaths. 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.