Fearing Backlash, Centre Puts Notification To Give More Power To Assam Rifles On Hold
Fearing a backlash, the centre has put their decision of giving ultimate powers to Assam Rifles in non-AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) areas on hold. The Assam Rifles which is deployed around the Indo-Myanmar border was supposed to be empowered by the Central government to arrest and search anyone or a place without a warrant in five states of the Northeast. This order was granted on Thursday, February 22, and the Assam Rifles conducts counterinsurgency operations in the Northeastern states and mans the Myanmar border.
Sources said that due to a technical anomaly in the notification issued, they had to put this decision on hold now. A time when voices against AFSPA has been strong, this decision would have further strained relations between the Centre and the northeastern states.
What was the new order?
The new powers that were granted to the Assam Rifles are similar to the provisions that are mentioned in the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The AFSPA is already active in several parts of the Northeastern states. The new powers of the Assam Rifles will be applicable in border areas of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
According to The Hindu, the Home Ministry notification said, “an officer of the rank corresponding to that of the lowest rank of members of the Assam Rifles has been given these powers under the Code of Criminal Procedure.” Reportedly, the Assam Rifles could only make arrests in areas where AFSPA was in effect. However, a government official has said that the security personnel were finding it difficult to seize and make arrests in Mizoram where the AFSPA Act does not apply and the new norm is just in place to correct that anomaly. Moreover, once an arrest has been made, the Army personnel have to hand over the suspects to the local police within 24 hours.
The notification stated that the Assam Rifles will exercise this right under sub-section(1) of section 41, sections 47, 48, 49, 51, 53, 54, 149, 150, 151 and 152 of the CrPC. While section 41 empowers them to make an arrest without a warrant, section 47 empowers them to search a place as well.
What is AFSPA?
In October of 2018, the Centre had extended AFSPA to three more districts of Arunachal Pradesh which covered a total of eight police stations by another six months. Meanwhile, the December of the same year, the entire state of Nagaland had been declared as “disturbed area” till the end of June 2019. The AFSPA has been active in Nagaland for several decades and has not been withdrawn even after the framework agreement had been signed in 2015.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act was implemented on May 22, 1958. The AFSPA is a 1942 British colonial law that was invoked to sabotage the Indian independence movement in the midst of the Second World War. The northeast was then divided into separate states to put up with the claims of several tribal and ethnic groups. In 1972, the AFSPA was amended to extend to all the new rules. AFSPA has led to 6 widespread human rights violations ever since it was enacted.