Disturbed Area Current Affairs - 2020

Nagaland declared ‘Disturbed Area’ under AFSPA for 6 more months

Centre has declared entire State of Nagaland a ‘disturbed area’ for a period of 6 more months under Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) with effect from 30 June 2019. The central government opinion was notified by Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Key Highlights

Background: AFSPA has been in force in Nagaland for several decades. On August 3, 2015 a framework agreement was signed by Naga insurgent group NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and central government in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi AFSPA but still even after it AFSPA was not withdrawn. This framework agreement came after over 80 rounds of negotiations in past 18 years.

Current Scenario: Central government declared whole of Nagaland to be a ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months in exercise of its powers conferred by Section 3 of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (No. 28 of 1958).

Government justified that area comprising entire State of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary.

About AFSPA

Background

On passing of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill by both Houses of Parliament and approved by President on 11 September 1958 it became known as Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958. This Act came into force in context of increasing violence in North-eastern States of India decades ago, which State governments found difficult to control.

Powers Given: It empowers security forces to maintain public order in ‘disturbed areas’. If reasonable suspicion exists, Armed forces have authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area, can conduct search operations anywhere without warrant, arrest anyone without warrant, ban possession of firearms among others.

Where necessary Union Ministry of Home Affairs would usually enforce this Act, but n exceptions exists where Centre decide to forego its power and leave decision to State governments.

What is disturbed area?

It is one which is declared by notification under Section 3 of AFSPA. It can be invoked in places where use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.

Central Government, or Governor of State concerned or administrator of Union Territory (UT) can declare whole or part of State or UT as a disturbed area.

Assam Government extends AFSPA in the state for 6 more months

Governor of Assam has extended application of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in the entire state for six more months with immediate effect. For this, it used powers conferred under Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 declaring entire state as ‘Disturbed Area’ upto 6 months or unless withdrawn earlier.

Reason for extension

This decision was taken as precautionary measure to maintain law and order during ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process during the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process. The final draft NRC is likely to be published by end of 2018. In September 2017, Union Home Ministry had delegated to Assam and Manipur Governors power to impose or withdraw AFSPA.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)

AFSPA was enacted in 1958 to bring ‘disturbed’ areas declared under it under control. It empowers both state and central government to declare areas as ‘disturbed’ due to differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.

Declaration of Disturbed area: The section (3) of the Act empowers governor of State/UT to issue an official notification in Gazette of India, following which Centre has authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid. Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months.

Special powers to armed forces: The Act gives special powers to army and state and central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property used by insurgents in disturbed areas. It also provides army personnel with safeguards against malicious, vindictive and frivolous prosecution.

Note: At present, the AFSA has been enforced in 6 states viz. Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh (only the Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts plus 20-km belt bordering Assam), Manipur (except Imphal municipal area), Meghalaya (confined to  20-km belt bordering Assam) and Jammu and Kashmir.