Agartala: The Left-ruled Tripura on Wednesday decided to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which gives sweeping powers and judicial immunity to security forces in conflict-hit areas. The law was enforced in the state 18 years ago to curb terrorism.
Political parties, including the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist and tribal-based opposition parties, have been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA.
'In view of the significant taming of terrorism in Tripura, the council of ministers today (Wednesday) decided to withdraw the AFSPA from the entire state,' Chief Minister Manik Sarkar told reporters.
He said: 'The security forces recently exhaustively reviewed the law and order situation in the state. Considering the reports of the security forces, the council of ministers decided to recommend to the union home ministry to issue a notification to withdraw the AFSPA.'
'The decisions were taken in view of the decrease of militancy-related incidents in Tripura over the last few years. However, the security forces would be watchful over the situation,' Sarkar said.
Sarkar, who also holds the home portfolio, said plying of vehicles along the Assam-Agartala national highway (NH-44) - the life line of Tripura - would be allowed until midnight instead of 10 p.m.
Two separatist groups - National Liberation Front of Tripura and All Tripura Tiger Force - have set up bases in Bangladesh and have been demanding secession of Tripura from India.
An official with the home department said: 'Though the four-and-half-decade-old terrorism has been tamed in Tripura, the state government is always cautious about the terror outfits and their activities.'
Tripura has 74 police stations and AFSPA has been in force in 30 police station areas. It was fully operational in 26 police station areas and partially in four.
The law was first enforced in Tripura in February 1997, when terrorism was at its peak in the state, bordering Bangladesh.
Rights groups and political parties, specially the tribal-based Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura and Indigenous People's Front of Tripura, described the law as 'draconian'.
Besides Tripura, the AFSPA is also in force in Manipur (excluding the Imphal Municipal Council area), Assam and Nagaland and in several districts of Arunachal Pradesh.