Armed forces get special powers in Tripura for six months more

April 27th, 2009 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala, April 27 (IANS) Tripura’s Left Front government has extended for another six months the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA), providing special powers to paramilitary troopers to curb separatist activity in the region, officials here said Monday.
“Though militancy has been tamed in the northeastern state of Tripura, the state government is averse to take any chances for some more time,” an official said.

“Out of 64 police stations in Tripura, the AFSPA had been enforced in 34 police stations in 1997,” he told IANS.

Tribal-based parties in the state are against the AFSPA and have been demanding the repeal of the law, which they term “draconian”.

“The act gave access to the armed forces to victimise innocent people, especially the tribals, in the name of anti-insurgency operations,” said former minister Rabindra Debbarma, general secretary of the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT).

“Repeal of the AFSPA was one of the issues in our election campaign,” Debbarma told reporters.

Besides Tripura, the AFSPA is also in force in large parts of Manipur, Assam and Nagaland and some parts of other northeastern states. It gives the armed forces special powers to detain terror suspects in insurgency-prone areas.

A number of regional political parties, civil rights groups, NGOs and student bodies in the northeast, especially Manipur, have been demanding the repeal of the act for several years, citing human rights abuses by security personnel.

In view of the outcry against the AFSPA, the central government had appointed a five-member committee headed by Supreme Court judge B.P. Jeevan Reddy a few years ago to examine the necessity of the act.

After visiting the affected states, the committee submitted its report to the government in October 2006, but its findings have not been made public.

“The AFSPA helped security forces to control militancy in some parts of the northeast region. However, it can be withdrawn from where terrorism has already been curbed,” said former legislator and senior Congress leader Tapas Dey.

The AFSPA has become a major poll issue during the Lok Sabha elections in the northeastern region with demands for its repeal becoming louder.

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