Centre does well to withdraw AFSPA
- The Union home ministry has credited the “improved security situation”, itself a result of “fast-tracked development” and agreements with insurgent groups, for its decision.
- This is only the beginning and more areas of the Northeast will be taken out of the AFSPA’s ambit: The law continues to be in operation in nearly 75% of Nagaland, all of the hill districts in Manipur and 40% of Assam, mainly the districts bordering Manipur and Nagaland.
- The Act in its present form was first imposed in Nagaland to battle the Naga nationalist movement that gained ground in the 1950s. As Naga nationalism acquired the character of an armed insurrection, the Act was introduced in Manipur’s hill areas, which are home to Naga tribes.
- The insurgency has survived multiple splits in the Naga nationalist movement and various accords that the Centre signed with different insurgent groups in the 1970s.
- As Naga nationalism influenced the rise of similar nationalist movements in neighbouring states, including in Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Assam, from the 1960s onwards, the government moved in the army and central para-military forces to the region.
What needs to be done?
- The AFSPA also facilitated a climate of impunity and promoted a vision of a punishing state that was also a perpetrator of violence.
- Civil society has been leading the demand for its withdrawal, particularly in Nagaland and Manipur – Manipur CM has announced his government will honour Irom Sharmila for her long struggle against the Act.
- Since the 1970s, the Centre has recognised the importance of engaging with the aspirations present in the separatist movements and promised to accommodate them within the federal rubric.
- Its outreach has been successful in Mizoram, Tripura and Assam, and a tenuous peace with the NSCN-IM has held up for nearly three decades in Nagaland.
- The challenge for the Centre now is to build on the promise of Recent announcement and slowly restore the primacy of the civilian administration in the areas still under AFSPA.
- It is a process that demands great patience, negotiation and accommodation.