As BJP is getting stronger day by day in the North Eastern states of India, the central government has withdrawn Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya and from 8 out of 16 police stations in Arunachal Pradesh, with effect from March 31, 2018. This is no doubt a welcome change in the N-E states and one can only say this is a big step towards normalcy. No doubt, insurgency related incidents have gone down in the states with more patrolling and consciousness among the people and jawans of armed forces. Incidentally these two states were tagged ‘disturbed’ in 1991, when United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) created havoc in the states with their separatist agenda. Change in stance with regard to AFSPA was first evident in Tripura, where it was lifted after 18 years.
As of now, barring some areas of Arunachal Pradesh, AFSPA is applicable in the whole of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir. The case of Jammu & Kashmir is an entirely different issue which is directly linked with bilateral ties between India and Pakistan. As far as some government officials are concerned, there is indeed a possibility that AFSPA can be withdrawn from some districts of Assam. The fate of Nagaland or Manipur is not clear right now. Nagaland has been under AFSPA for more than six decades. No doubt, the case of Manipur is definitely going to be tricky, where anti AFSPA protests led by Irom Sharmila Chanu got worldwide coverage. The rape cum murder of Thangjam Manorama in 2004 by Assam Rifles personnel did spark huge uproar in the state. Anyhow one shouldn’t forget that Assam and Manipur governments are keeping a close tab on AFSPA applied in areas across the states.
There is no denying the fact that N-E states are relatively calmer right now. The insurgency incidents have been in the decline in the last five years. Sustained operations and neutralization of NDFB (songbjit) has helped the cause largely. If AFSPA is removed from the states in the coming months, BJP will definitely garner strong support from the common people. Nevertheless, as Chinese threat is still there, Arunachal Pradesh is definitely going to be key and the government needs to address a balanced decision in this regard.