‘Positive’ development on AFSPA in Assam, Nagaland soon: Himanta Biswa Sarma | India News

Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Saturday said “some positive development” could be expected during the year with regard to Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in the state where militancy is on the wane.

Sarma, a senior BJP leader of the North East, said “certain positive development” regarding the Act will take place soon in neighbouring Nagaland, where too it is in force.

With militancy on the wane the Army has virtually withdrawn from Assam, except from five-six districts and when AFSPA comes up for renewal after four months the state government will take a “pragmatic decision”, he said.

AFSPA has often been termed as “draconian” by political parties of the north east because of the special powers it grants to the Indian Armed Forces to maintain public order in “disturbed areas” and its withdrawal has been demanded by civil society groups and rights activists.

It was imposed in Assam in November 1990 and has been extended every six months since then after a review by the state government.

“As far as AFSPA is concerned, Assam will see some rationalising in 2022 … How and when we don’t know. But I am an optimistic man. We are looking at 2022 as a year of hope. There will be some positive moments regarding the Act,” Sarma told reporters here.

On the continuation of AFSPA in Nagaland, he said the Centre has already formed a committee to look into the matter.

“The committee will submit its report in 45 days and I am hopeful there will be certain positive development,” he added.

The Centre had on December 26 constituted a high-level committee headed by a secretary rank officer to examine the possibility of lifting the controversial AFSPA in Nagaland, apparently to soothe the rising tension in the northeastern state over the killing of 14 civilians.

The committee was set up three days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with Sarma and his Nagaland counterpart Neiphiu Rio.

The demand for repeal of AFSPA from the north east came to the fore in December last year after 13 civilians were gunned down by the Army in a botched anti-insurgency operation in Nagaland and another person was killed in subsequent violence. The demand was made to the Centre even by the chief ministers of Nagaland and Meghalaya.

The Act is in force in Manipur (excluding Imphal Municipal Council Area), in Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh and areas falling within the jurisdiction of eight police stations of its districts bordering Assam, besides Nagaland and Assam. It was extended by six months in Nagaland by the Centre earlier this week.

Sarma said tribal insurgency is almost over in Assam and credited the civil society organisations and students bodies for it.

“The era of tribal militancy is over. All militant groups, but the ULFA have come overground and deposited arms … Our last hurdle is ULFA(I),” he said.

“The tribals are now firm on standing against insurgency. There won’t be any resurgence of militancy among them if we do not inflict any injustice on them,” the chief minister said.

Sarma said he has learnt from his personal interactions with people who are directly or indirectly in touch with ULFA(I) chief, Paresh Barua that the militant leader wants a negotiated settlement like the government.

“The stumbling block is ‘sovereignty’. ULFA(I) will want discussion over it, which we cannot hold. We are working on breaking the deadlock,” he said.

The unilateral ceasefire called by ULFA(I) in response to his call for peace after assuming office in May last year is a positive step. The Assam government reciprocated by not engaging in any “direct conflict” with the outfit in the last eight months, Sarma said.

“But if we get information that people are trying to join ULFA(I) or its members are demanding money from the people then as the government we have to intervene,” he added.

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