It is welcome that the Union home ministry has constituted a five-member committee headed by registrar general of India Vivek Joshi to examine the possibility of withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Nagaland. This has been a long-pending demand of the people of Nagaland and those from other northeast states where the draconian law applies. AFSPA confers a wide range of powers and protections to the armed forces, including the right to shoot to kill on suspicion. While its application to maintain security in sensitive, disturbed areas is held up as justification, tangible peace has continued to evade the affected states.
Also read: Panel to look into withdrawal of AFSPA, says Nagaland government
On the contrary, incidents like the botched December 3 army operation in Nagaland’s Mon district that resulted in 14 civilian deaths inflame passions and provide leverage to militancy movements. The tragedy is that northeast states where AFSPA is in force are caught between security forces and militants. And local politicians have benefitted from this arrangement in the past. But if the northeast states are to truly realise their potential, normalise and become a hub for India’s trade with Southeast Asia under the Look East policy, AFSPA cannot continue. No substantial investments or trading opportunities can be unlocked under the present circumstances.
Now that some northeast chief ministers have made the call for repealing AFSPA, the political leadership both at the Centre and in the states should walk the talk on revoking this draconian law. AFSPA-affected northeast states have suffered enough. It is time to turn the page on this painful legacy.
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