TODAY -

"Difficult to operate in violence-hit areas without AFSPA"
Source: Chronicle News Service

Imphal, July 12 2023: Security forces in ethnic violence-hit Manipur are finding it difficult to operate in 19 police stations that were de notified as disturbed areas' under AFSPA and have been pressing for the presence of a magistrate while performing their duties as a precautionary measure to escape false allegations, officials said.

A total of 19 police stations in Manipur have been excluded from the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 which gives sweeping powers and immunity to the army in conflict-ridden areas.

Initially, it was removed from the jurisdiction of 15 police stations in April 2022, while another four were exempted in March this year.

The- areas are mainly in Imphal valley while the disturbed area Act continues to be in effect in other parts of the state for another six months from April this year.

The officials claimed that security forces have been subjected to baseless allegations on social media and local media and expressed concern over the recent statement of the Manipur Bar Association asking the general public to share purported evidence of alleged atrocities.

During a media briefing on Sunday, Yumnam Ni-molchand, the President of the Bar Association, urged the public to provide the High Court Bar Association Manipur or All Manipur Bar Association with any available evidence, including documents, photographs, or other materials, to substantiate their complaints against the security forces.

The officials said that in the present environment where two communities are attacking each other, they may not find even a lawyer to defend them as all courts were within Imphal valley.

This move is mainly against the Army, Assam Rifles, CRPF and the BSF, they alleged.

The Army and Assam Rifles, in the meantime, had conveyed to the state government that they would move in the held only after a magistrate was provided.

The Assam Rifles, manning the buffer zone between the two warring communities, has to bear the brunt and is often accused by either community during clashes of helping the other.

"Shouldn't the government go ahead and declare the area as disturbed, which in any case it qualifies to be and give greater legal safeguards, if this is the responsiveness displayed by one community" says a senior official.

Against the backdrop of ethnic clashes between the Meitei and Kuki populations that erupted in May of this year, the security forces have been collaborating with civil authorities to contain the violence in these de-notified areas.

However, their mandate is limited and primarily encompasses tasks such as dispersing unlawful assemblies, with the presence of a magistrate being an indispensable requirement.

The officials reasoned that the type of violence seen in these areas is beyond the man -date of "aid to civil authorities' and, therefore, legal safeguards need to be enhanced for security forces.


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