Imphal: Human Rights Alert (HRA) executive director Babloo Loitongbam on Thursday said the criteria on the basis of which an area is declared as “disturbed area” under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, is a very vague point of law and termed it “very unfortunate”.

His statement comes days after the Manipur government decided to extend the draconian law, AFSPA, in the entire state, except Imphal Municipal area, for another year.

The controversial act gives sweeping powers to the armed forces to search, arrest without any warrant and even allows them to open fire on suspects with no prosecution or legal proceedings against them.

Since 1958, the AFSPA has been in effect in the northeast region. The general public have from tie and again protested against the Act. And the movement against the draconian law was recently revived with a series of protests across the region following the December Oting firing incident in Nagaland where over a dozen innocent civilians were killed by the security forces.

Talking to EastMojo, Loitongbam said, “It is very unfortunate that despite vehement protests that we are seeing in Nagaland and the other northeastern states, Manipur has been declared disturbed area under the AFSPA.”

He mentioned that when the Supreme Court was looking into AFSPA, many of the counsel of the petitioners had requested the apex court to come out with a clear criteria on what parameters were needed to be declared a disturbed area. 

But unfortunately, he said, the SC stated in its judgment that the administration knows what is the disturbed area, leaving it entirely to the subjective assessment of the administration where citizens can hardly challenge such a decision.

According to him, the law and order situation in the NE region has improved considerably with the level of insurgencies going down drastically. There are ceasefires and suspension of operation arrangement with many armed groups, he added.

He said it was ironic that despite the state government’s self-proclaimed drastic improvement in law and order situation in the state, the disturbed area status under ASFPA continues to be extended.

“So we can see a clear paradox. The law and order situation has not improved despite the government’s claim,” he added.

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