The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (28 of 1958) was basically brought forward as an immediate measure to control the insurgency problem in North-East India and came into force on 11 September, 1958.[i] The act was modelled on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance promulgated by the British Government in 1942 to control the Quit India Movement. The present Act empowered the Governor of any State or Union Territory to declare areas as disturbed areas and use the armed forces to maintain law and order situation. Originally, the term ‘disturbed areas’ referred to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. However, in July, 1990 the Act was extended to Jammu and Kashmir as the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990[ii] to counter the situation in the State. This paper focuses on the issues related to the powers provided under the Act, misuse of the powers, alleged human right violations and protests in North-east India.
The North-eastern region of India has one of the longest histories of armed secessionist movements in the world. The original basis of the armed secessionist movements lay on the fact that these states had enjoyed an independent existence since long under the local kings and rulers prior to their integration with India in the period after independence. However, as of late the basis for the secessionist movements have gradually shifted to a situation where each tribal group demand a separate state or area to maintain its own distinct cultural or social identity.