The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) is one of the more draconian legislations that the Indian Parliament has passed in its 45 years of Parliamentary history. Under this Act, all security forces are given unrestricted and unaccounted power to carry out their operations, once an area is declared disturbed. Even a non-commissioned officer is granted the right to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so in order to “maintain the public order”.

The AFSPA gives the armed forces wide powers to shoot, arrest and search, all in the name of “aiding civil power.” It was first applied to the North Eastern states of Assam and Manipur and was amended in 1972 to extend to all the seven states in the north- eastern region of India. They are Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, also known as the “seven sisters”. The enforcement of the AFSPA has resulted in innumerable incidents of arbitrary detention, torture, rape, and looting by security personnel. This legislation is sought to be justified by the Government of India….

[----South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre]

We want to ask all civilians of our country the following questions:–

1. Why do we need AFSPA in a free country?

2. Which other civilized nation has deployed Army for 20 years to control the people they call their own?

3. The situation has come to such a state that everyday scores of young men are being killed – there is no media to report. There is no transport, no trade. What is our government doing to stop it?

4. Can we blame the youth who are seeing torture and rape for decades—to revolt and   demand the Indian Army to go back?

5. All decisions to dilute AFSPA and to withdraw curfew are being postponed, why?

6. Is the Army required to protect people—or is it there to carry on unbridled reign of terror, so their personnel can loot, rape and kill at their own will?

7. ‘It is very difficult to operate without the Act’ says Army Chief. Why do we need his opinion? Who is Army to decide whether its services are required or not?

8. Can our Government not be magnanimous once and take a firm and quick decision to withdraw all forces without seeking the consent of the Army – the major culprit in escalating the unrest.




The children born in this situation –will they ever get back their lost youth—we mean those who are still alive? Please ask yourself Mr. Manmohan Singh—who is to be blamed?

Sumitra Padmanabhan

Humanists’ Association



AFSPA 1958: Read the “Bare Act”

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958

An Act to enable certain special powers to be conferred upon members of the armed forces in disturbed areas in the State of Assam and the Union Territory of Manipur.

Be it enacted by Parliament in the Ninth Year of the Republic of India as follows:
1. (i) This Act may be called [The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958].
(ii) It extends to the whole of the State of Assam and the Union Territory of Manipur.

2. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) “armed forces” means the military forces and the air forces of the Union so operating
(b) “disturbed area” means an area which is for the time being declared by notification under section 3, to be a disturbed area;
(c) all other words and expressions used herein, but not defined and defined in the Air Force Act, 1950 (45 of 1950), or the Army Act, 1950 (46 of 1950) shall have meanings respectively assigned to them in those Acts.

3. If the Governor of Assam or the Chief Commissioner of Manipur is of the opinion that the whole or any part of the State of Assam or the Union Territory of Manipur, as the case may be, is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil powers in necessary, he may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare the whole or any part of the State or Union territory to be a disturbed area.

4. Any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the Armed Forces may, in a disturbed area,
(a) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do for the maintenance of public order, after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary, fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances;
(b) if he is of opinion that it is necessary so to do, destroy any arms dump, prepared or fortified position or shelter from which armed attacks are made or are likely to be made or are attempted to be made, or any structure used as a training camp for armed volunteers or utilised as a hide-out by armed gangs or absconders wanted for any offence;
(c) arrest, without warrant, any person who has committed a cognisable offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognisable offence and may use such force as may be necessary to effect the arrest;
(d) enter and search without warrant any premises to make any such arrest as aforesaid or to recover any person believed to be wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances believed to be unlawfully kept in such premises and may for that purpose use such force as may be necessary.

5. Any person arrested and taken into custody under this Act shall be made over to the officer-in-charge of the nearest police station with the least possible delay, together with a report of the circumstances occasioning the arrest.

6. No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.


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