Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) - EXPLAINED

AFSPA - Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
AFSPA - Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is a law created by the government to provide special powers to the Indian Armed Forces, state, and paramilitary forces in regions known as "disturbed areas." The primary purpose of AFSPA is to assist these forces in maintaining law and order in these troubled regions. This act gives them authority to take necessary actions to control any unrest or disturbances, ensuring the safety and security of the people and the nation.

What Are disturbed areas?

When there is a lot of trouble and unrest in a certain area due to differences or disputes between people of different religions, races, languages, regions, castes, or communities, that area can be declared as a "disturbed area." Once it is declared as disturbed, it has to remain in that state for at least six months. This law was applied to the Naga Hills in Assam on September 11, 1958, and later it was expanded to other states in India's northeast, including Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council Area), Changlang, Longding, and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas near the Assam border in Arunachal Pradesh.

What is AFSPA?

AFSPA gives special powers to the armed forces to keep the peace in "disturbed areas." They can stop gatherings of five or more people, use force, or even shoot if they believe someone is breaking the law, but they must warn people first.

AFSPA is used when there is a problem with militancy or rebellion, and it threatens India's safety. The security forces can arrest someone without a warrant if they have committed or are about to commit a serious crime based on reasonable suspicion.

The act also protects the security forces from legal consequences for their actions in disturbed areas. The government and armed forces say it is necessary to fight militancy and rebellion, but some people criticize it because they think it might lead to human rights violations.

Special Powers Act for Armed Forces in Assam and Manipur, 1958

  1. In 1951, the 'Naga National Council' decided to boycott the first general election of 1952, and later they also boycotted government schools and officials.
  2. To handle the situation, the Assam government took action in the Naga Hills in 1953 by imposing the Assam Maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous District) Act and increasing police action against the rebels.
  3. As things got worse, Assam deployed the Assam Rifles in the Naga Hills and passed the Assam Disturbed Areas Act of 1955, which gave a legal basis for paramilitary forces and armed state police to deal with the rebellion in the region. However, despite their efforts, the Naga rebellion continued, and on 23 March 1956, the rebel Naga Nationalist Council (NNC) established a parallel government called "The Federal Government of Nagaland."
  4. In response, the President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, enacted the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance in 1958 on 22 May. Later, this ordinance was replaced by the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act on 11 September 1958.

The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958 granted the Governors of the States and Administrators of the Union Territories the power to declare specific areas in their regions as "disturbed." This measure aimed to assist the Central government in fulfilling its responsibility under Article 355 of the Constitution, which involves safeguarding every State from internal disturbances. Therefore, the Central government should also possess the authority to declare areas as "disturbed," enabling the armed forces to exercise their special powers to restore peace and security in those regions.

The act's scope was later expanded to include seven states in the North-East, namely Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram. Additionally, the name "The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958" was changed to "Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958," which became AFSPA, 1958.

Recently, the Tripura state government decided to withdraw this act because there was a significant decrease in terrorist activities there. In June 2015, the AFSPA in Nagaland was extended for one more year after review.

In November 2016, the Indian government made AFSPA continue in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh: Tirap, Changlang, and Longding. Then, in April 2018, they renewed this extension for another six months. These districts were labeled as "disturbed areas" under AFSPA because of the involvement of Naga underground groups, like the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) and NSCN (Khaplang), in activities such as extortion, recruiting locals, and rivalry.


In summary, AFSPA is an important tool that helps the security forces bring peace and order to troubled areas. It plays a critical role in addressing security challenges, but we also need to be careful about its potential impact on human rights. We must think carefully and take balanced actions when applying AFSPA. As a nation, we aim to maintain harmony and protect our citizens' rights, which is why we continuously discuss and study the role and effects of AFSPA.

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