Four days after Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma met Home Minister Amit Shah and discussed the issue, the Assam cabinet has made a recommendation to the Centre to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and the Disturbed Areas Act from the entire state.
The announcement was made in a post on X, formerly Twitter, by the chief minister’s office.
— Chief Minister Assam (@CMOfficeAssam) September 8, 2023
Mr Sarma had met Home Minister Shah in New Delhi on Monday and discussed the roadmap for the complete withdrawal of AFSPA from the state. After the meeting, he had said that his government would take further steps based on Mr Shah’s suggestions.
The controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958 gives personnel from the armed forces, operating in disturbed areas, sweeping powers to conduct operations and arrest anyone without a warrant. It also gives the personnel immunity from arrest and prosecution even if they shoot someone dead, as long as the actions are deemed necessary for “the maintenance of public order”.
An area or district is notified as a disturbed area under AFSPA to facilitate the operations of the armed forces.
The disturbed area notification was imposed in Assam in 1990 and then extended periodically based on the situation. It was removed from all but ten districts in the state last year and is now limited to eight.
The districts where the notification is still in effect are Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Golaghat, Jorhat, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao.
At an Independence Day event last month, Mr Sarma had said his government would make efforts to withdraw AFSPA from the entire state by the end of this year.
“I want to assure the people of Assam that, by the end of this year, we will take fruitful steps to withdraw the AFSPA from every district of Assam. That will be an ‘amritmoy’ time for Assam’s history and we are eagerly waiting for that day,” he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
Noting that the extension of the AFSPA was recommended 62 times since it was first imposed, the chief minister had said, “The northeast region is now free from terrorism. In the last three years, four peace accords have been signed with rebels of Assam and around 8,000 rebels have returned to the mainstream.”