The Assam Government has declared the entire state of Assam as a 'disturbed area' for another six months starting August 27, 2021. Of late, the state has been witnessing a large number of insurgent groups emerge. In 2020, the government had inked a peace accord with Bodo Militant outfits and lately, with Karbi outfits. The statement from the state government mentioned that, "The Government of Assam in the exercise of the powers confirmed by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958, has declared the entire state of Assam as 'disturbed area' up to six months with effect from 28-08-2021 unless withdrawn earlier."
Activist Demand Withdrawal Of 'Draconian' Law
AFSPA was enacted in 1990 in the state following intense insurgent activities and several killings. Since then, the act has been extended every six months after the review from the state administration. Recently, suspected militants had killed five people and torched several trucks in the Dima Hasao district in the state. The Economic Times reported that the latest extension is supposedly after this incident. Activists are demanding the withdrawal of the 'draconian law' from all the northeastern states. AFSPA is currently in effect in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (excluding Imphal Municipal Council Area), Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, Changlang and areas within the jurisdiction of eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam.
What Is AFSPA?
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) confers armed forces officials with special powers to reign in suspects in 'disturbed areas' because of insurgent activities. It allows a commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer and any other person of an equivalent rank to use force upon any person acting contradictory of law in force for disturbed areas and arrest suspicious people without a warrant. The armed forces are empowered to destroy any structure suspected to be an arms dump or where armed violence is likely to occur. The act bars proceedings against the armed forces officials without the Centre's nod for actions committed.
Why Irom Sharmila Fought Against It?
One of the most prominent activists from the northeast, who fought against getting the draconian law repealed, was Irom Sharmila from Manipur. She ended her hunger strike after 16 years in 2016.
In November 2000, when Irom was 28, 10 civilians were allegedly gunned down by the 8th Assam Rifles at Malom Makha Leikai, near Imphal's Tulihal airport. The infamous incident is commonly known as the 'Malom massacre'. The massacre prompted Irom to begin a hunger strike against the atrocities in Malom, which later developed into a prolonged hunger strike against the AFSPA.