New Delhi, April 23: The Union Home Ministry on Monday completely removed the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya and reduced it to eight police stations in Arunachal Pradesh.  The act empowers security forces to conduct operations, arrest anyone anywhere without prior notice. The decision has been reportedly taken due to a significant improvement of security situation in the state.

“AFSPA was totally withdrawn from all areas of Meghalaya from April 1. In Arunachal, it is down from 16 police stations to eight. Till September 2017, 40 per cent of Meghalaya was under AFSPA. However, after recent review in consultations with the state government, AFSPA was removed completely from Meghalaya,” a senior MHA official stated.

The Act has however been extended by another six months in three eastern districts of Arunachal Pradesh — Tirap, Longding and Changlang — which border Myanmar and specific areas under eight police stations of seven other districts bordering Assam. The three districts have been under the AFSPA since January 2016.

Earlier in 2015, AFSPA was withdrawn from Tripura and in past one year, fewer areas in northeast are under the Act, an MHA official said, adding that the Act was only in place in Meghalaya for a a 20-km area along the Assam border) and not in operation in Mizoram.

According to the statement of the MHA, there has been a decline of 63 per cent in insurgency-related incidents in the north-east region in the last four years, while there have been a reduction of 83 per cent in civilian deaths and 40 per cent in casualties of security forces in 2017.

 What is AFSPA? 

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) gives powers to the Army and central forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone acting in contravention of law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and provide cover to forces from prosecution and legal suits without the Central government’s sanction. Presently, the act is in force in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven Assembly constituencies of Imphal) from early 1990s.

(With agency inputs)