The Centre on 30 June 2020, declared the entire Nagaland as “disturbed area”; for a period of six months. In essence, till December-end.
The Ministry of Home Affairs stated in a notification that the central government; believes that the area of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition; that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary.
Notification by the Ministry of Home Affairs
“Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (No.28 of 1958) the central government hereby declares that whole of the said State to be a ‘disturbed area’ for a period of six months with effect from 30th June, 2020 for the purpose of that Act,” the notification read.
Nagaland is under the coverage of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) for almost sixty years. Further, it was not withdrawn even after a framework agreement was signed on August 3, 2015; between Naga insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and government interlocutor R.N. Ravi in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Many civil society groups have criticized the decision in Nagaland regarding the coverage of AFSPA, and view it as a “draconian” provision. Reportedly, the law and order condition in Nagaland is deteriorating. The AFSPA gives the armed forces sweeping powers; to search and arrest, and to open fire if they deem it necessary for “the maintenance of public order”.
Armed Forces Special Powers Act
In simple terms, the AFSPA grants armed forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. Firstly, they have the authority to prohibit a gathering of five or more persons in an area. Secondly, they can use force or even open fire after giving due warning; if they feel a person is in contravention of the law.
Thirdly, if reasonable suspicion exists, the army can also arrest a person without a warrant; enter or search premises without a warrant; and ban the possession of firearms. Lastly, any person arrested or taken into custody may be handed over to the officer in charge of the nearest police station along with a report detailing the circumstances that led to the arrest.
What does Nagaland being a Disturbed Area imply?
A notification can lead to declaration of an area as a disturbed area under Section 3 of the AFSPA. Such declaration is due to differences or disputes between members; of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities. Additionally, the Union Government, or State Government or administrator of the Union Territory can declare the whole or part of the State or Union Territory as a disturbed area.
The authorities have to make a suitable notification in the Official Gazette for the same. According to Section 3, it is invoked in places where “the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary”. As of now, it is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, and in parts of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. The Act also extended to Jammu and Kashmir in 1990.