Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Sunday said that he and the people of his state wanted the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), but only after Centre consent, as national security is their top priority.
There has been massive demand for the withdrawal of AFSPA ahead of the Assembly election in the state, and following the killing of 14 civilians in Nagaland by army. Besides, the state had been witnessing numerous protests including Irom Sharmila’s fast, which is the longest fast for any cause in the country.
The chief minister told PTI, “I believe AFSPA can be lifted gradually with the consent of the central government. But, we must remember there is no political stability in Myanmar and we share the border with that nation.”
He said no major unwanted incidents have been reported in the last five years and insurgency has come down by 90 per cent.
“Manipur government is also trying to have a meaningful dialogue with Manipuri insurgents living in Myanmar,” Singh added.
Talking about the prospects of the ruling BJP in the upcoming polls, the first BJP chief minister of the state said that the elections will show a massive change and that his party will double the number of its seats.
While listing peace, development and harmonious co-existence as the BJP’s main poll promises this time, he said, “We are working hard to get a two-third majority. We have no pre-poll alliance but post-poll alliance can be forged if required.”
In 2017, the current BJP government in Manipur was formed with just 21 seats compared to Congress’ 28, through a coalition with two local parties National People’s Party (NPP) and Naga People’s Front (NPF).
The elections for Manipur state Assembly will be held in two phases on February 27 and March 3.
The AFSPA gives armed forces deployed in internal conflicts broad powers to use lethal force and provides soldiers with effective immunity from prosecution.
Enacted in 1958 as a short-term measure to allow deployment of the army to counter an armed separatist movement in the Naga Hills, the AFSPA has now been in force for over 60 years. Apart from Nagaland, it is also currently used in Manipur, Assam, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.