Due to “substantial improvement in the security situation and fast development” and political deals with insurgent groups, the Narendra Modi government has lately reduced the number of disturbed regions under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or AFSPA, in Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur.
Moreover, the AFSPA continues to be applicable in 40 per cent of the area of Assam, the bulk of Nagaland and Manipur, and three districts and two police station areas of one district in Arunachal Pradesh.
Following the heinous Mon district event on December 4, 2021, public protests and the anti-AFSPA stance of all Northeast state governments compelled a long-overdue reassessment of the law’s scope. Similar action is expected in Jammu and Kashmir soon, according to speculation.
Meanwhile, the public and media’s enormous praise for the government’s move provides an opportunity to revisit India’s counter-insurgency strategy.
Initial political dithering, a breakdown in law and order beyond the reach of civil administration, declaration of disturbed areas, and disproportionate reliance on the armed forces, backed by the AFSPA, to manage the disturbing areas indefinitely have been the bane of India’s counter-insurgency strategy.
Govt does not have faith in the capabilities of AFSPA
Governments of all stripes did not appear to have faith in the capabilities of the Central Armed Police Forces, which were used as a backup to the state police.
Moreover, political outreach was either absent or delayed to the point that resentment of the consequences of military action became enough to fuel the insurgency long after the primary motivators of ethnic/religious identity and secession had faded.
Further, the AFSPA, according to the Justice Jeevan Reddy report, became “a symbol of oppression, an object of hate, and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness” due to a lack of openness in dealing with overzealous actions/abuse.
Meanwhile, in the lack of political alternatives, the armed services took on the task of resolving the crisis through military methods, motivated by a desire to complete the job. Northeastern insurgencies are a good example.
Governments with fully functioning administrations have existed for a long time. Most insurgent groups have signed or are nearing signing agreements.
Previously secessionist insurgencies in the northeast have been reduced to a criminal industry including the remnants of former insurgent groups, politicians, police, and bureaucrats. Despite this, the armed forces AFSPA continue to operate in a quasi-autonomous way, free of political supervision.
Surprisingly, the military has continuously resisted the repeal of the Disturbed Areas Act and the implementation of AFSPA, despite demands for more people to carry out its core job of protecting the country from external threats. This conflict stems from their belief that they are the “solution” and their fear of the resumption of violence.
Also Read: AFSPA fully imposed in 31 districts and partially 12 districts in 4 Northeast states