Armed forces should return to barracks. AFSPA has no place in the Northeast anymore

The killing of six civilians in an ambush laid by a Special Forces sub-unit in the Tiru-Oting area in Nagaland on 4 December 2021, and the death of eight more and one soldier in the violence triggered by the incident, have once again put the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or AFSPA, at the centre stage. In Nagaland and other states, where the “allegedly draconian” 1958 Act is applicable, there has been public and political clamour for its removal.On 26 December, the Narendra Modi government instituted a high-level committee to examine the withdrawal of the AFSPA in Nagaland. Hopefully, the report of the committee will lead to a review of the application of the Act in all affected Northeastern states. In any case, the indefinite application of the Act when the once secessionist tribal insurgencies have been reduced to extortion-driven criminal activity, which can well be controlled by the police, defies logic.Let there be no doubt that without an enabling Act, the State’s instrument of last resort — the armed forces — cannot be employed to control the situation in “disturbed areas”. Thus, what must be debated is the need for a model Act in tune with the law of the land to facilitate deployment of the armed forces in disturbed areas and the conditions that warrant its application and subsequent removal.BJP has political stakes in most Northeastern states and knows the sentiments of people. It must not miss the opportunity to launch a new beginning.