Shillong: Outgoing Assam Rifles Chief Lt Gen Yadava has said the controversial Armed Force Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was a vital shield for armed forces battling insurgents.
"It is upto the centre and states to enforce or repeal or modify the act. But I want to make it clear that it is the state and centre which empower us with this legislation," Gen Yadava told a news agency.
Stating that "AFSPA has been politicised to a large extent", Yadava, who retired Thursday, said the legislation, which gives the armed forces legal immunity for what they do, was an enabling law, not an arbitrary one.
Rights activists say that AFSPA, which is enforced in Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Nagaland and some other parts of the northeast like Meghalaya, gives the armed forces authority to kill or detain terror suspects in insurgency-prone areas.
"A jawan will have to fire when a gun is targeted at him. He has to take a spot decision in the overall interest of the nation. For that he should not be dragged to the court," Yadava said.
But Meghalaya Governor RS Mooshahary, who favours the repeal of AFSPA in the region, has said that its prolonged use had alienated the civil society.
"We cannot contain insurgency related violence by alienating the citizens. We can do so more effectively by involving them," said Mooshahary, a former National Security Guards chief.
Irom Sharmila Chanu, a rights activist, has been on indefinite strike for nearly a decade in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of APSPA from the state.
Several rights groups, including the influential North East Students Organisation (NESO), have demanded the withdrawal of AFSPA from the northeastern region.
"Instead of solving the militancy problem in the northeast, the act is complicating the situation. It has resulted in a war between the people and members of the armed forces," said NESO vice-chairman Lalmuanpula Punte.
The central government has named a five-member committee headed by Supreme Court Justice BP Jeevan Reddy to study if the act was required or not.
After visiting all affected states, the committee submitted its report to the central government in October 2006.