R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Aug 9 - The Government of India is unlikely to extend the term of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in entire Assam beyond August 31 and it will be up to the State Government to take a call in this regard. The Centre is also of the view that the situation in Assam now does not warrant declaring the entire State as “disturbed area” under the provisions of the Act.
Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) told The Assam Tribune that after thoroughly reviewing the overall law and order situation including activities of the militant groups, the Centre is of the view that there is no need for declaring entire Assam as a “disturbed area” now the State Government has already been informed about the Centre’s stand on the issue in the last meeting held to review the Act. However, as the State Government requested the Centre to extend the term of the Act at least for some more time in view of the ensuing Independence Day celebrations following inputs that the militants may try to indulge in acts of violence in the run up to the celebrations, the Centre, on August 3, decided to extend the term of the Act up to August 31. However, it is very unlikely that the Centre would agree to further extension of the Act to cover the entire State beyond August 31, sources asserted.
Sources said that even at present, Army is not operating in the peaceful districts of the State including Kamrup (Metro) and over the years, different Central agencies had been expressing the opinion that there was no need for declaring the entire State as “disturbed” because of the improvement of the overall situation. But in the past few years, the State Government has been maintaining double standard on the issue. On one hand, the State Government has been claiming that the law and order situation has improved, but at the same time, it was requesting the Centre to extend the term of the AFSPA. But the Centre is likely to take a firm stand now on the issue. However, sources said that the State Government, on its own, can promulgate the Act if it desires, but the Centre would not do so.
Sources admitted that some areas of the State, particularly areas bordering Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Meghalaya and Nagaland have some problems because of the bases that the militants are maintaining in those areas. Under the circumstances, such areas can be declared as “disturbed” for some time, but there is no reason to declare the entire State as “disturbed”. Moreover, the AFSPA is likely to continue in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh for some time as most militant groups of the North East have strong presence in such areas. Sources also pointed out that the State administration can always call out the Army whenever the situation warrants.
The AFSPA was promulgated in Assam in November 1990 and the entire State was declared as a “disturbed area” as the activities of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) were at their peak and the Centre was of the view that the State Government was not in a position to deal with the situation. But in recent times, the Centre was not too keen to extend the term of the Act, but the State was requesting the Centre to do so.