The Assam government has extended the implementation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state for six more months. The Home and Political Department of Assam on August 28 declared the whole state a “disturbed area” under the 1958 Act, PTI reported.

The decision was taken to ensure law and order is maintained in the state during the ongoing exercise of updating the National Register of Citizens, The Times of India reported. The July 31 draft of this register left out nearly 41 lakh people, including some MLAs and a former chief minister. The stated aim of the counting exercise is to separate genuine Indian citizens from so-called illegal migrants who might be living in the state.

Special Director General of Police (Special Branch), Assam Police, Pallav Bhattacharyya was quoted as saying, “The situation is peaceful, but we will not take a decision on withdrawing AFSPA until NRC exercise is over.”

“As per powers conferred under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, the Governor of Assam has declared the entire State of Assam as ‘Disturbed Area’ upto 6 (six) months beyond 28th August 2018, unless withdrawn earlier,” an official release said.

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.