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Centre extends AFSPA for 6 months, declares whole of Nagaland as disturbed area

In a recent notification, by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Central Government is of the opinion that the area comprising the whole state of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary. As such, in the exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (No. 28 of 1958) the Central Government has declared that whole of the said State to be a ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months with effect from 30th June 2020 for the purpose of that Act.

What is AFSPA?

Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 is an act of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. According to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976 once declared ‘disturbed’, the area has to maintain status quo for a minimum of 3 months. One such Act passed on 11 September 1958 was applicable to the Naga Hills, then part of Assam. In the following decades it spread, one by one, to the other Seven Sister States in India’s northeast (at present, it is in force in the States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur {excluding Imphal Municipal Council Area}, Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering the State of Assam). Another one passed in 1983 and applicable to Punjab and Chandigarh was withdrawn in 1997, roughly 14 years after it came to force. An Act passed in 1990 was applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since.

Also read: Nagaland: Ravi’s letter reveals Centre’s arrogant and insincere approach to settle Naga issue, says NSF

Section 3 in the AFSPA, 1958 necessitates the power to declare areas to be disturbed areas.—If, in relation to any State or Union territory to which this Act extends, the Governor of that State or the Administrator of that Union territory or the Central Government, in either case, if of the opinion that the whole or any part of such State or Union territory, as the case may be, is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary, the Governor of that State or the Administrator of that Union territory or the Central Government, as the case may be, may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare the whole or such part of such State or Union territory to be a disturbed area.

Buildup to the issue: Nagaland

This comes at the time, when the Nagaland Governor RN Ravi, who has also been a Central interlocutor for peace talks, in a letter to Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio stated that armed gangs are challenging the legitimacy of the state’s law and order machinery.

“There have been “unrestrained depredations” by over half a dozen “armed gangs” who are “brazenly running their so-called governments” and challenging the legitimacy of the state. “We can no longer tolerate the near-total collapse of the law and order machinery in the state,” Governor Ravi said in a letter to Neiphiu Rio recently.

To criticise that, the Naga Students Federation (NSF) on Tuesday said the recent letter of Nagaland governor RN Ravi, who is also the interlocutor of the Indo-Naga peace process, to chief minister Neiphiu Rio revealed the arrogant attitude and insincere approach of the Centre and its unwillingness to settle the Naga issue.

The letter put the Naga movement in a bad light, the media cell of the NSF said in a release.

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