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AFSPA to be amended: PM
AGARTALA/New Delhi, NOV 10 (IANS):
Published on 11 Nov. 2009 1:01 AM IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured tribal leaders from Tripura that the central government would suitably amend the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) 1958 that gives unlimited powers to the paramilitary forces to shoot on sight and arrest anybody without a warrant. The assurance, say tribal leaders, came when a five-member delegation of Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) met the prime minister in New Delhi late last month and submitted a detailed memorandum. Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Tribal Welfare Minister Kantilal Bhuria, Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanaswamy, National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan and Home Secretary G.K. Pillai were present at the meeting. “Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram unambiguously assured us that the centre is now working to modify certain provisions of the AFSPA,” said Rabindra Debbarma, former Tripura minister and INPT general secretary. Home ministry officials in New Delhi told IANS that amendments to the controversial legislation had been finalised and sent to the union cabinet for approval. Once the cabinet clears it, it will be applicable throughout the country - be it Jammu and Kashmir or the northeast states. According to the INPT, a regional party and an ally of Congress, over 1,500 tribal youths have been either detained or arrested under AFSPA over the years. “The demand for repealing the AFSPA was one of the issues in our ongoing movement against the Left Front government,” Debbarma said, adding that the repeal of the draconian law was a major issue in the entire northeast. Besides Tripura, the AFSPA is also in force in Manipur, Assam and Nagaland. Human rights activist Irom Sharmila in Manipur has been on an indefinite hunger strike for 10 years, demanding rescinding of the controversial act, which was enacted by parliament to quell the Naga insurgency in northeast India in 1958. Meghalaya Governor Ranjit Sekhar Mooshahary and central intelligence officials in a recent meeting of police chiefs of northeast in Shillong also discussed the issue. “The prolonged use of the act has made it ineffective. There are reports of abuses of the act. If the act is suitably amends, I think the situation would not worsen, in fact it would improve,” said Mooshahary, former chief of the National Security Guards (NSG) and the Border Security Force (BSF). PM to meet NE students Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday expressed concern over the rising number of crimes against northeastern youth in the national capital and said he would meet students from the region as well as officials to discuss the issue, a member of the Northeast Congress Committee said. Sharif Laskar, general secretary of the Northeast Congress Committee, said he and two other members of the group went to meet the prime minister Tuesday morning at his official residence to draw his attention to the matter. “Despite Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit stepping in and announcing various initiatives to provide security to the northeastern youth in Delhi, there have been cases of crimes against the community almost everyday. Therefore I and two other members of the Committee went to meet the prime minister today to seek his intervention,” Laskar told IANS. Laskar was also one of the leaders who led the protest at the Jantar Mantar last week on the issue. There were also protests and candle light vigils organised elsewhere in the capital by various students’ groups - following the brutal murder of a 19-year-old Naga girl in her south Delhi home by an IIT scholar Oct 25. “Our meeting with the prime minister lasted for nearly 20 minutes, during which he listened to our concerns and told us that he will call for a meeting shortly with concerned officials and students of the northeast to discuss the issue,” Laskar said. “Every day we hear that students from the northeast are being assaulted or harassed and nothing, not even the chief minister’s intervention has helped. But we hope that the prime minister’s intervention helps,” he added. On Nov 3, two women from Nagaland, both aged 20, were returning home from work at 8 p.m. when seven drunk men confronted them in Sikanderpur, abused them and pushed them into a drain. A day later in the same area two young Naga boys were beaten up. Several incidents were also reported from Gurgaon recently.

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