Explained: AFSPA

Agastya Sharma
3 min readJan 2, 2022
Image credit to afpa.in

Our country has had a vivid history of 75 years, with culture, heritage, and of course, politics. And with the politics, come wars. In abundance.

We have had many wars in this country, in forms of communal riots, terrorism, and international disputes. To combat these fights, our government had passed many laws. One of these is AFSPA, or the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

AFSPA was first passed in parliament in 1958, to tackle the problems of insurgency in Northeast India. It later spread to Punjab in 1983 during the riots (withdrawn 14 years later), and to Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. It grants the armed forces special rights to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. These disturbed areas have to maintain the status quo for a minimum of six months once they have been declared as disturbed.

Recently, little less than a month ago, six miners were caught in the crossfire of a counterinsurgency operation gone wrong, and were killed by the army in Nagaland. This was termed a mishap ambush, and a committee has been set up to probe the issue. The only problem is that the act gives the armed forces the right to operate freely in the aforementioned disturbed areas. This means that they cannot be prosecuted without the sanction of the Central Government.

After the death of the miners, seven civilians were killed later in the day after a clash between the army and the locals. Another was killed the day after, when protestors attacked an army camp. This has caused the Nagaland government and the locals to petition the government for the withdrawal of AFSPA, for which the committee has been set up. The committee is being chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah. Although, AFSPA has been reportedly extended for the next six months in the state, to prevent further attacks. This could prove to be a very dangerous move, given the volatility of the situation, and could lead to more, and perhaps more violent, riots on the streets.

Nagaland is not the only state in the Northeast which has been affected by AFSPA so gravely. The state of Manipur, which was also under the AFSPA ruling, also has had it’s own experiences with the law. The Malom Massacre, where ten civilians were shot dead at a bus stop, led to the finding of a new fighter for peace, in the form of Irom Sharmila. She was 28 at the time of the Massacre, when she went on a fast for the removal of the act from Manipur. She was arrested in the name of attempted suicide, and she was put on forced intubation and intravenous liquids to keep her alive. She has been released and rearrested every year since her strike began. She has received nationwide support from political parties to villagers in Assam, forming hundred people long human chain and keeping a 24 hour fast in honour of Sharmila. The Pune University announced a scholarship program for 39 girls from Manipur in 2011, signifying Sharmila’s 39 years of age. She has also been awarded multiple prizes for human rights, including accolades from the Asian Human Rights Commission and the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. I honestly have immense amounts of respect for her, because I truly wouldn’t survive for 17 years without food. But that’s me. Well.

That’s probably it, for today! It’s the new year, and it’s time for me to once again disappear into a hole for a month and then write an apology letter. I’m getting quite good at that, actually.

So thank you for reading! Stay safe for me, folks, that’s goodbye from me!

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Agastya Sharma

A random nerd who reviews books and movies, and travels way too much.