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Manipur CM calls for review of AFSPA

Imphal, Nov 2 (PTI) Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said time had come to review the the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Singh told a group of visiting journalists here Wednesday that while reviewing the AFSPA, the security concerns of the state sharing borders with foreign countries should also be considered.

"Time has come to review the AFSPA, but since we share our border with foreign countries, the security aspect has to be considered," he said.

"Manipur is a peaceful state now, but the country's security must be a priority...financial help and arms supply by foreign countries cannot be ruled out," Singh said.

Major General V K Mishra, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 57 Mountain Division of the Army, which spearheads counter-insurgency operations in Manipur, said the AFSPA was a prerequisite for the Army to maintain peace in the militancy-affected state.

Citing seizures of sophisticated arms from camps of insurgents, he said "If we do not have AFSPA, how do we do this... It is not just an enabler, it is a prerequisite. The AFSPA is a requirement for the Army to function."

He said the situation was under control, but pressure was required to be maintained on the insurgent groups to ensure peace in the north eastern state, which was affected by militancy for several years.

While advocating a review of the act that gives wide power to the security forces, the chief minister admitted that the situation in Manipur was very complex.

"It's not like Kashmir, where Pakistan is involved. Here it is our own people and as such it is very difficult for the security persons too. It is a very critical and complex issue and has to be solved," he said.

He said there was no major insurgent attack in the state since his government took over one-and-a-half years ago.

"There is peace in the state. Night life has started in Imphal and there is lot of activity in the evenings unlike in the past," the chief minister said about the state capital from where the stringent AFSPA has been lifted.

He also expressed hope that a solution to the Manipur insurgency problem would be arrived at soon.

Regarding allegations of human rights violations by the force in the state, GOC Mishra said the Army was very sensitive on the matter.

"Right from training, our conditioning, in our process of equipping, human rights are in-built. We are sensitive about human rights," Maj Gen Mishra said.

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