The central government has declared the entire state of Nagaland as 'Disturbed Area' for the next six months under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). In a notification, the Government of India informed that "the use of armed forces in aid of civil power is necessary."
The notification issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday stated that the central government is of the opinion that the area comprising the whole state of Nagaland is in such a "disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary."
In view of this, the central government has declared the entire state of Nagaland as 'disturbed area' for a period of six months with effect from December 30, 2020.
“Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (No 28 of 1958) the Central government hereby declares that whole of the State of Nagaland to be ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months with effect from 30th December, 2020 for the purpose of the said Act,” the notification added.
What is AFSPA?
Under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, Indian Armed Forces are granted special powers to maintain public order in "disturbed areas". It was passed in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) back in 1990 and has been in force ever since.
According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as "disturbed", an officer of the armed forces has powers to:
After giving such due warning, Fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death, against the person who is acting against law or order in the disturbed area for the maintenance of public order.
Destroy any arms dump, hide-outs, prepared or fortified position or shelter or training camp from which armed attacks are made by the armed volunteers or armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence.
To arrest without a warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offences or is reasonably suspected of having done so and may use force if needed for the arrest.
To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances and seize it.
Stop and search any vehicle or vessel reasonably suspected to be carrying such person or weapons.
Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made present over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station with least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest.
Earlier, AFSPA also provided legal immunity to Army officers for their actions under the Act and protected them from presoecution and lawsuits. However, the immunity was ended by the Supreme Court of India in a landmark ruling in 2016.
India's northeast had long been plagued by what the central government describes as insurgent activities and militants, thereby extending the AFSPA in Nagaland.
Several activists and politicians have, however, criticised the AFSPA over alleged violation of human rights in the regions of its enforcement.