Will Remove Controversial Act AFSPA From Manipur If We Win: Congress

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AFSPA is in force in Manipur in all areas except seven constituencies around Imphal (File)

Imphal:

The Congress in Manipur has vowed to push for “the immediate and complete removal of AFSPA” from the entire state if it is elected to power in the 2022 Assembly polls.

Till then, the Congress urged the ruling BJP and Chief Minister N Biren Singh to press Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the centre for the law’s immediate removal.

“… the Congress demands the Manipur Chief Minister and government press PM Modi and GoI for repeal of AFSPA in this winter session of Parliament, and (calls on the) Manipur cabinet for immediate removal of Act from the state,” the party said.

The Congress also reminded the BJP that AFSPA had been repealed from seven Assembly constituencies (including state capital Imphal) when it was in power.

“Congress rule removed AFSPA from seven Assembly constituencies. If Congress comes back to power in 2022, the first Cabinet meeting will decide on the immediate and complete removal of AFSPA from the entire state…” the party declared.

The controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, which gives sweeping powers to military personnel in “disturbed regions”, has come under increasing scrutiny after the horrific killing of 14 innocent civilians in Nagaland last week.

Six of the 14 died after a botched Army operation in Mon district. Seven more, and a solider, died in retaliatory clashes between security personnel and locals.

The soldiers involved face a murder case filed by Nagaland Police.

The killings have been widely condemned and many, including Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma, have said AFSPA must go.

“This draconian law needs to go… there are laws to take care of the situation… but this law is hitting the image of our country,” Mr Rio said in the aftermath of the killings.

The Chief Minister’s remarks were significant because his NDPP is an ally of the BJP; it is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

The Nagaland government has said it will write to the centre to demand AFSPA’s repeal.

Mr Sangma, another BJP ally, has echoed this view.

Renewed criticism of AFSPA comes amid concerns the centre will invoke it to protect members of the Army’s elite 21 Para SF who were involved in the botched ambush.

Home Minister Amit Shah this week told Parliament the centre “regretted” the killing of 14 innocent Indians, but would not say if the law would, in fact, be invoked in this case.

Under AFSPA, armed forces may arrest, or shoot to kill, on mere suspicion.

AFSPA is in place in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding capital Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh, as well as Jammu and Kashmir.

Tripura and parts of Meghalaya were taken out of the list.





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