Citing recent attacks, forces demand extension of AFSPAGuwahati: Security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Assam want the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA to remain in force in the entire state for at least one more year.
AFSPA, which empowers the armed forces to enter any premises or arrest any person without a warrant, among others, was imposed in Assam at the height of insurgency in 1990 and it has been repeatedly extended, most recently till August this year. There is a demand from various quarters to withdraw the Act since insurgency is at its lowest ebb in the state.
“Recent incidents, however, indicate that the police needs the army to fight insurgents, and the army will need AFSPA to deal with militants, especially in interstate border areas,” said a senior army officer, who did not wish to be identified.
“Last month, National People’s Party (NPP) MLA Tirong Aboh, from Khonsa West constituency, along with 10 others, was killed by suspected militants in Arunachal Pradesh. The anti-talks United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) militants, from the group also known as ULFA (Independent), triggered an explosion in Guwahati on May 15. Police has found a large network of overground activists of Ulfa in Assam,” he said.
The Indian Army is part of the unified command, the country’s prime counter-insurgency strategy making body which includes civil administration, police personnel and other security agencies.
The state police too has favoured continuation of AFSPA, especially since the sensitive process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is on and the final NRC is expected to be published on July 31.
“Though we are not anticipating trouble in the run-up to NRC publication, anti-talks Ulfa faction is still active in Upper Assam,” said the army officer. “Recent incidents show that the group is using mercenaries.”
The army officer said that despite an operation by the Myanmar Army on the camps of insurgents in Myanmar, anti-talks ULFA’s illusive commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah is still in command.
“Baruah is in his base in Ruili, located on Myanmar-China border,” he said.
A senior state police officer said, “In Upper Assam, especially the districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh, which border Arunachal Pradesh, remain the stronghold of anti-talks ULFA militants. The group has managed to attract fresh recruits in recent times.”
In April, he said, following the offensive in Myanmar around 20 cadres of anti-talks Ulfa and Songbijit factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) had surrendered. Around 15 of those who surrendered were from the anti-talks Ulfa group, he said.
The army officer cited earlier said, “Songbijit NDFB, which was active in and around Bodoland, has not managed to recruit fresh cadres in recent times and its top leaders are hiding.”
While AFSPA has been lifted in Tripura and Meghalaya, in Nagaland there is widespread demand to withdraw the Act from the state.
In Manipur, AFSPA is in force, except in seven assembly constituencies of Imphal.