The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Assam has declared the state a “disturbed area” and for the first time on Friday, it extended implementation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act there for another six months. Earlier, the Act was always enforced by the central government, The Indian Express reported. AFSPA has been in force in parts of Assam since 1990.

The state’s home department issued a notification saying that law and order continues to be a problem because of attacks being carried out by militant and underground groups. “The militant outfits operating in the area continue to affirm their faith in armed struggle and indulge in acts of violence to create panic among common people, disturb the administrative system and extort money from the people,” the daily quoted the notification as saying.

A home ministry official told DNA that in 2016, there were 75 incidents of violence in the state. Thirty-three people were killed in these attacks, and 14 others were abducted, the report said.

What is AFSPA?

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act gives the military sweeping powers to search and arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of Public Order”, and to do so with a degree of immunity from prosecution. The law, a legacy of the colonial administration, was meant to address emergencies in regions affected by conflict.

For the law to be imposed, an entire state or a part of the state would have to be declared a “disturbed area”.

In Assam, after ethnic insurgencies broke out in the 1980s, disturbed areas were notified and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was imposed by the Centre.