The Centre is working “speedily” towards revoking the contentious Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the entire northeast in acknowledgment of a 75% decline in militant violence in the region over the past eight years, PM Narendra Modi said during a whistle-stop tour of Assam that saw him inaugurate seven cancer hospitals and lay the foundation for another seven.
“AFSPA was first revoked in Tripura and then in Meghalaya,” Modi said at a “peace, unity and development rally” in Karbi Anglong’s Diphu, around 249km from Guwahati. “Due to the proper control of the situation, the AFSPA has been removed from most parts of the state (Assam). We are trying to withdraw it from the remaining parts too. The Act is also in force in some areas of Nagaland and Manipur. We intend to revoke it completely."
The trigger for the latest campaign to withdraw the legislation, which vests extraordinary powers on the armed forces to search, arrest and shoot anyone on suspicion of militant activity, was the botched Army special forces operation in Nagaland in December last that led to 14 civilian deaths.
Modi said the inclusion of several outfits from Karbi Anglong in the peace and development process since last year was indicative of the Centre’s roadmap for the region. Karbi Anglong is among three hill districts of Assam with a majority tribal population.
The 2020 Bodo Accord opened the door to permanent peace. Similarly, in Tripura, NLFT has taken steps towards peace. The two-and-half-decade-old Bru-Reang (crisis) has also been solved,” the PM said.
Ethnic conflict had forced the Bru-Reang tribe to flee Mizoram and live in relief camps across Tripura for years before a peace accord happened. The Centre and the Assam government have since signed a memorandum of settlement with six Karbi militant outfits.
On the initiative to resolve inter-state border disputes festering for decades, PM Modi said solutions were being sought in the spirit of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. “The agreement reached between Assam and Meghalaya will encourage resolution of other disputes and give an impetus to the development process.” The PM laid the foundation of a veterinary college (Diphu), a degree college (West Karbi Anglong) and an agricultural college (Kolonga, West Karbi Anglong). “These projects worth more than £50 million will create new opportunities for skill development and employment in the region,” he said.