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Withdrawal of AFSPA, 'precious Bihu gift' for Assam: CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant besides giving immunity from arrest and prosecution to the security forces if they shoot someone dead

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma addresses the media regarding the removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act  from some areas of the state, at Assam Secretariat in Guwahati (Photo: PTI)

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma addresses the media regarding the removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act  from some areas of the state, at Assam Secretariat in Guwahati (Photo: PTI)

Press Trust of India Guwahati
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday welcomed the Centre's decision to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 completely from 23 districts and partially from one district of the state, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have given a precious 'Rongali Bihu' gift to the people by withdrawing it from 60 per cent of the state's territory.
It has been removed from those areas where it is not required any longer and is in force in areas "where the situation is yet to improve to the satisfaction of the government, the chief minister told a press conference here.
The AFSPA empowers security forces to conduct operations and arrest anyone without any prior warrant besides giving immunity from arrest and prosecution to the security forces if they shoot someone dead.
The Act will continue to remain in force in nine districts of Upper Assam and the Hill districts along with the Lakhipur sub-division of Cachar district, Sarma said.
The nine districts are Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong, Dima Hasao, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Golaghat, Sibsagar, and Charaideo, he said.
"This is a historic and bold step taken by the Prime Minister and Home Minister as the Act was in force since 1990 and it was extended 62 times since then by the state government", he said.
The situation in the areas from where the AFSPA has not been withdrawn is in a transit state and a call will be taken to withdraw it from these areas in due time", Sarma said.
In Karbi Anglong district, peace accords have been signed with militant outfits and the situation is peaceful but its proximity to other disturbed areas has made it necessary to keep the Act in force, Sarma said.
In Dima Hasao district, talks with the militant outfits are in an advanced stage and once an accord is signed, the withdrawal of the Act can be considered while in Upper Assam districts the ULFA is still active but we are hopeful of a breakthrough though as of now we are taking a cautious but decisive step, he said.
It was important to conclude negotiations with the pro-talk faction of the ULFA and "it is being fast-tracked with active efforts being made in that direction, the chief minister said.
Highlighting that the decision to withdraw the Act was not taken "overnight and neither was it taken due to the demand of any group or organisation, Sarma said, it was taken as there has been a marked improvement in the law and order situation in the state.
Noting that it was a "collective decision taken by both the central and state governments, he said the Assam government was consulted at every step as indicated by his frequent visits to the national capital.
The state Cabinet authorised it, we will issue the notification today and at midnight, the Act will be withdrawn from 23 districts", he said.
The Union Home Minister had set a target of achieving this bold step by Bihu, and "we can say it is a Rongali Bihu gift for the people of Assam", the chief minister said.
This is, however, just a "symbolic step" and it has been possible due to people's desire for peace and development, Sarma said.
The withdrawal of AFSPA will also send a strong signal to investors and people who want to work in Assam that the law and order situation was a thing of the past while growth, industrialisation, and economic development are the way ahead, he said.
Referring to the Unified Command strategy in force in the state, the Chief Minister said that its role will be confined to the nine districts with the disturbed area' tag while the army will move out from the other districts from where the Act has been withdrawn.
The army will be primarily involved in intelligence gathering and will be ready for deployment if required, the Chief Minister said.
During the last one year, the army is not there in most of the districts from where the Act has been withdrawn and the deployment of central forces in the state is also at its lowest level of deployment, he said.
Earlier in the day, Sarma had tweeted "I wholeheartedly welcome Adarniya PM Shri @narendramodi ji's decision to withdraw AFSPA from all areas of Assam barring nine districts and one subdivision".
He had also conveyed his gratitude to Union Home Minister Amit Shah "for this great move. Around 60 per cent of the state's area will now be free from AFSPA's purview".
The state was declared a 'disturbed area' under AFSPA during the intervening night of November 27-28 1990 and the Act was extended every six months since then after a review by the state government.
It was last extended for six months on February 28, this year.
Out of Assam's total geographical area of 78,438 sq km, 31,724.94 sq km will continue to have the 'disturbed area' tag under AFSPA even after its complete withdrawal from 23 districts.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mar 31 2022 | 11:40 PM IST

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