"Against AFSPA, But Nation First": Manipur Chief Minister On Controversial Law

"I am myself against AFSPA," Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said, adding, "But as a responsible head of state I have to see national security also."

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said the state will work to remove AFSPA

Imphal:

The BJP government in Manipur will work towards creating a "conducive" law and order atmosphere in the state so that it can push the centre to remove AFSPA - a law that gives sweeping powers to the armed forces - if it wins another term, Chief Minster N Biren Singh told NDTV.

Neighbouring Nagaland is already looking to remove the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, or AFSPA, after six miners returning home were killed in an army ambush that went horribly wrong in December last year. In all 14 including a soldier were killed in violence that erupted.

"AFSPA is a concern in the north-east, and in Manipur it was removed from seven segments of the Imphal Municipal Council. But the previous Congress government could not repeal AFSPA totally. They (Congress) could have removed it from Greater Imphal areas, but they knew the ground realities... there are still some problems in Manipur," Mr Singh told NDTV.

The Nagaland incident led to protests against the centre over AFSPA, which is still in force in parts of the north-east. The main opposition in Manipur, the Congress, has already said that if voted to power it will pass a resolution in the state assembly to withdraw AFSPA in its first cabinet meeting.

"I am myself against AFSPA," Mr Singh said, adding, "But as a responsible head of state I have to see national security also."

Referring to the ambush that went horribly wrong in Nagaland's Oting area, the Manipur Chief Minister said his Nagaland counterpart wanted to remove AFSPA, but the centre reimposed it.

The Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, or AFSPA, gives immense powers to the military to operate freely anywhere that has been declared a "disturbed area"; no military personnel in an area where AFSPA is in force can be prosecuted without the centre's sanction.

"I am trying to bring a good atmosphere in the state for law and order... and we have to look at the situation in the neighbouring country as well," Mr Singh said, alluding to Myanmar where insurgents are believed to be hiding in the forested mountains along the border with India.

"With the elections coming, some vested groups are trying to instigate the situation. An Army Colonel and his family were killed. Insurgents have been active somewhere in recent times... grenades have been thrown," the Chief Minister said. "We have to see the ground reality. We can't take an emotional decision because the nation comes first... The BJP has already given the biggest gift to the people of Manipur, and that is the demand of ILP in Manipur was fulfilled," Mr Singh told NDTV.

Inner Line Permit, or ILP, makes it mandatory for outsiders to take permission from the authorities before entering areas under its control. Apart from Manipur, ILP has been enforced in Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

Manipur will vote in the assembly election in two phases on February 27 and March 3. Counting is on March 10.

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