Agartala, Sep 8 (IANS) The Tripura government has extended for another six months the operation of a stringent law that gives sweeping powers to para-military troopers deployed in disturbed areas to curb terrorism, an official said here Saturday.
"The state-level coordination committee has recently assessed the overall security situation in the state. It has suggested extending the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958) by another six months," a state home department official told IANS.
He said: "The state government has accepted the recommendation of the coordination committee overseeing the anti-insurgency operation in Tripura."
Chief Secretary S.K. Panda is the chairman of the committee comprising top officials of central and state security forces.
"Though four-and-a-half decades old terrorism has been tamed in Tripura, the Left Front government is averse to taking any chances for some more time," the official said.
Tripura has 70 police stations. The AFSPA is fully in force in 34 police station and partially operational in six police station areas.
The Act was first enforced in Tripura in 1997, when terrorism was its peak in the northeastern state.
The Act provides unlimited powers to the security forces to shoot at sight, arrest anybody without a warrant and carrying out searches without hindrance.
It also insulates the security forces from legal processes for any action undertaken under the Act.
Local rights groups and political parties, specially tribal based Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), describe the Act as "draconian" and want it repealed.
"Innocent people are victimised by the security forces in the name of anti-insurgency operations," said Nagendra Jamatia, former minister and a senior leader of the INPT, an electoral ally of the opposition Congress.
"Demand for repealing the AFSPA was one of the issues in our movement against the Left Front government," Jamatia told IANS.
According to the leaders of INPT and other tribal-based parties, several hundred tribal youth have been either detained or arrested under the AFSPA over the years.
Besides Tripura, the AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), Assam and Nagaland, and in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
Human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur has been on an indefinite hunger strike since 12 years, demanding withdrawal of the Act.
Tripura's two militant outfits - National Liberation Front of Tripura and the All Tripura Tiger Force - both banned by the Indian authorities, have set up their bases in Bangladesh and get support from other separatist outfits of the northeast. They have been demanding secession of Tripura from India.