AFSPA extended in Tripura for six months

Agartala : The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives sweeping powers and judicial immunity to security forces in conflict-hit areas, was extended for another six months in Tripura, an official said here Saturday.

“Senior security and civil officials of the state and central governments recently reviewed the law and order situation of the state and decided to extend the AFSPA for another six months,” a home department official told IANS.

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“A state-level coordination committee (SLCC) comprising officials of state, central and para-military and state security forces periodically reassess the overall security situation in the state considering the intelligence and field reports,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The SLCC is overseeing counter-insurgency operations in Tripura, which shares a 856-km border with Bangladesh.

Members of two separatist groups – National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) – are sheltering and availing arms training in Bangladesh.

Both outfits have set up bases in Bangladesh and get support from other separatist groups in northeast India. They have been demanding secession of Tripura from India.

According to the Border Security Forces’s (BSF) Tripura frontier Inspector General B.N. Sharma, there are at least 32 camps and hideouts of Tripura-based militants in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion recently recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition, including anti-tank weapons and AK series rifles, in Satchharhi jungles in northeastern Habiganj district, bordering Tripura.

The arms and ammunition, belonging to ATTF, had been concealed under deep soil in a forest.

The home department official said: “Though the four-and-half-decade old terrorism has been tamed in Tripura, the state government is averse to taking any chances for some more time.”

The NLFT militants recently stepped up violent activities in northern Tripura, bordering Bangladesh and Mizoram.

Police said the militants have killed two BSF troopers, a civilian driver and abducted several people in six different incidents.

Tripura has 72 police stations. The AFSPA has been in force in 30 police station areas – fully operational in 24 police station areas and partially operational in six.

In view of the improvement in the situation and the lessening of terrorist activities, the Tripura government in June last year reduced operational areas of the AFSPA to 30 police station areas instead of the earlier 40.

The act was first enforced in Tripura in 1997 when terrorism was at its peak.

The central act provides unlimited powers to security forces to shoot at sight, arrest anybody without a warrant, and carry out searches without obstacles and without any one’s consent. It also insulates the security forces from legal processes for any action undertaken under the act.

Local rights groups and political parties, specially the tribal-based Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura, describe the act as “draconian” and want it repealed.

Besides Tripura, the AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), Assam and Nagaland and in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh.

Manipur’s human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila has been on an indefinite hunger strike for 15 years, demanding the withdrawal of the act.