What is AFSPA?

AFSPA was enacted on 11 September 1958 to bring under control what the government considered ‘disturbed areas’, essentially conflict-hit areas. It was first implemented in the Northeast, and then in Punjab. In September 1990, Parliament passed the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, which came into force retrospectively from 5 July 1990.

When is it applicable?

It can be applied only after an area has been declared “disturbed". Earlier, states had the power to declare a territory thus, but in 1972, it passed to the centre.

What is a disturbed area?

Areas are considered disturbed “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities". Section (3) of AFSPA empowers the governor of the state/Union territory to issue an official notification declaring the state or a region within as a “disturbed area", after which the centre can decide whether to send in armed forces.

What are the provisions of AFSPA?

Parts of it are controversial. Under section 4 (a), mere suspicion gives a non-commissioned officer (or an equivalent rank in the armed forces) the power to shoot to kill. He can destroy any property, under section 4(b), if it is suspected of being used as a fortified position. Under section 4(c), anyone can be arrested without a warrant if it is suspected that he/she has committed a cognizable offence. Under section 4(d), force can be used to enter and search any house on suspicion of it being used as a hideout.

Which states are currently under AFSPA?

Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.

Where has AFSPA been revoked?

The home ministry has removed AFSPA from Meghalaya w.e.f 1 April 2018. It has also been removed from eight of 16 police station jurisdictions in Arunachal Pradesh. In 2015, AFSPA was lifted in Tripura.

Why was it removed from these areas?

According to defence experts, Meghalaya, Tripura and parts of Arunachal Pradesh have been declared free of insurgency. The Act had been imposed in keeping with the geographical terrain of these regions and to keep at bay any influx by Bodos, Nagas or other tribes from neighbouring states. Now, say experts, state police forces can handle disturbances.