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The Armed Forces Special Powers Act came up for discussion in Parliament on Wednesday. Parliamentarians across various parties wanted the government to repeal AFSPA in the North-East. They argued that it is the biggest deterrent in integrating the youth of the region with India. Participating in a discussion on Demands for Grants of the Ministry of North East Development, members in the House made a case for bringing in change of strategy and political will for the progress of Northeastern region. “For 50 years, we have clamped AFSPA in the region. Armed forces have killed 50,000-plus civilians in the North-East. AFSPA has been the biggest deterrent of integrating NE youth with India...Remove AFSPA without any conditionality,” said Biju Janata Dal (BJD) member Tathagata Satpathy. India’s history, post-Independence, has seen a slew of draconian laws, which include the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), Public Safety Act (PSA) and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act. However, among all them, it is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which has captured the most attention. It contains provisions that violate constitutionally conferred fundamental rights. Key provisions in the act allow security forces to shoot on sight, arrest anybody without a warrant, and carry out searches without consent. Members of the various security forces, primarily the army, undertake these acts with the knowledge that they will not face any legal action for operations conducted under the act.  Legal experts and human rights organisations have demanded a comprehensive review of the act on a repeated basis. The act falls short of the established norms of natural justice, such as, equality before law, the right of the accused of appearance before a Magistrate within 24 hours of arrest, fair trial in a public court and access to competent legal counsel, among others. In a scathing critique of AFSPA, noted columnist Mukul Kesavan presented an important argument. “Indians committed to the nation’s territorial integrity need to recognize that a democratic republic’s claim on its constituent territories is, in the last instance, under-written by consent. Unless the republic creates the conditions for earning that consent by withdrawing AFSPA and returning the army to its barracks, it runs the risk of permanently damaging its claim to political legitimacy. Without legitimacy, governance shades into occupation,” he said. To give our fellow brothers and sisters a sense of belonging to the Indian Union as citizens, Parliament must revoke AFSPA.  
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