The time has come to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur but it cannot be completely lifted as yet, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said.
“I want to request the Centre to lift it, but we have borders with foreign countries and the insurgency movement is still a little bit there. Right now I cannot claim that AFSPA can be totally removed,” Mr. Singh said in an interaction with a group of visiting journalists from New Delhi in his office.
He said any review has to consider these factors. AFSPA, which gives immunity to security forces operating in insurgency-hit areas, has already been lifted from a 34 sq km denotified zone in Imphal.
On the improved situation in the State, Mr. Singh stressed, “The present situation in Manipur is totally different compared to the past.”
On the cases in the Supreme Court over alleged human rights violations Mr. Singh said that justice has to be provided to everyone and observed, “Dealing with counter-insurgency in Manipur and Nagaland and the North East is very difficult. It is not similar to what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir.”
In Jammu and Kashmir, he said, the terrorist is coming from outside but in Manipur he is from the same State and country and “identifying who is who is very difficult.”
“Sometimes mistakes from the security forces also happen. I cannot say totally that they are doing all the things right,” Mr. Singh said, stating that the Supreme Court is looking into the matter.
Hearing a PIL plea over 1,528 alleged cases of extra-judicial killings in Manipur between 1979 and 2012, the Supreme Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation’s SIT to probe 95 of them.
Commenting on the need for AFSPA, Maj. Gen. V.K. Mishra, General Officer Commanding of the Army’s 57 Mountain Division headquartered just outside Imphal said that for security forces to function, it was a “necessity.”
He said a number of activities are sustained over a period of time to keep insurgency in check which includes operations, enquiries and searches and as a result some arrests were done and recoveries of war-like stores were made.
“Now if we don’t have AFSPA, how do we do all this? If these processes have to be carried out, then AFSPA is a necessity,” Maj. Gen. Mishra said.
A few months back over 700 Army personnel moved the apex court seeking protection in counter-insurgency areas under AFSPA and its non-dilution.
This development came after moves by the Home Ministry to reduce the footprint of the AFSPA in the North East.
A senior defence official in South Block said AFSPA was draconian in the past as the situation then demanded it to be so in dealing with the secessionist movements but has been diluted over the years as the situation improved.