New Delhi: The government on Monday withdrew the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from all of Meghalaya and parts of Arunchal Pradesh.

People familiar with the developments stated, on condition of anonymity, that “the Act has been removed from 1 April 2018 in Meghalaya while also being revoking from parts of Arunachal Pradesh".

In Arunachal Pradesh, the controversial Act was removed from half the 16 police stations where it was enforced in 2017.

It was retained for areas near the border with Assam, and across three districts—Tirap, Changlang and Longding—near the Indo-Myanmar border.

At the same time, with effect from 1 April, the ministry also relaxed the 60-year old Protected Area Permit (PAP) for foreigners visiting Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.

“The permit will be valid for five years for visitors. Residents from countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and China will not be allowed to visit these areas," one of the persons cited above added.

Under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, all areas falling between the Inner Line and International Border of some states were declared as protected areas.

Earlier this year, on 4 March, the Assam government extended the implementation of AFSPA in the state for six more months, till September. The home and political department of Assam on 28 February declared the whole state a “disturbed area" under the Act.

Defence experts welcomed the move.

“The insurgency situation in Meghalaya or Arunachal Pradesh never did warrant the implementation of AFSPA. It had been imposed because of the terrain—there was always the chance of Bodos or Manipuris or Nagas going and taking shelter in these states. Insurgency in the entire North-East can be controlled by the state police and the army should recede to the background and act as a reserve," said Lt. Gen (retd) H.S Panag, a defence expert.

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