NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday warned he would curtail draconian powers accorded to India's million-plus military to stamp out militancy in insurgency-hit northeastern states.
Singh's announcement in the Manipur state capital Imphal led to sporadic celebrations in the remote province where rights groups have been spearheading protests against the decades-old Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
"We need to consider some amendments to the Act by modifying its existing provisions or considering new provisions," Singh said during a trip to the insurgency-riven state. "It would be made more humane, giving due regard to the protection of basic human and civil rights," the prime minister told an audience amid applause.
The legislation gives the military the powers to "shoot or arrest without warrant" in four of the seven northeastern states including Manipur, according to provisions of the 1958 law.
PM Singh said a government committee set up to review the Act has given its verdict.
"The panel has done its job," he said without elaborating. Women in Manipur are at the forefront of a spirited drive against the Act since 2004, alleging its vast powers are used by the military to rape or kill at will in the state where various groups are fighting for separate homelands.
More than 50,000 people have died in various separatist drives in the northeastern states called the "Seven Sisters". India's million-plus military, which enjoys limited autonomy, has so far not reacted to Singh's announcement.