As Assam remains the tinderbox of the northeast with ULFA strikes claiming 65 lives since Friday night, the army has decided to turn up the heat on militant cadres by intensifying its operations in upper Assam, which has been a flashpoint for violence.
A senior army officer confirmed that the Tezpur-based HQs 4 Corps has sketched out plans to take on ULFA cadres in the districts of Tinsukhia, Dibrugarh and Sibsagar which have witnessed a rash of violence against the non-Assamese population in the past few days.
An army officer posted in Tezpur told HT that most parts of upper Assam were under the control of paramilitary forces till now, but the army would now coordinate with them more closely for better results. Simultaneously, measures are being taken to revamp the intelligence network.
Barring an ephemeral August 14 to September 23 last year, there’s hardly been any let-up in Assam violence. The separatist ULFA cadres have refrained from getting into a direct confrontation with the army but they continue to terrorise soft targets, the officer said.
As unrest simmers in the wake of bloody attacks in Assam, defence minister A.K. Antony will embark on a two-day tour of the northeast to get a grip of the ground situation in the insurgency-hit region.
Accompanied by Army chief General J.J. Singh, Antony will be briefed on insurgency trends by the commanders of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps and Dimapur-based 3 Corps.
The defence minister will also visit the strategically located town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, which is a gateway to the Assam valley. He will also conduct an aerial survey of the line of actual control (LAC) between India and China in the Kemang sector.
Last year when the army had intensified operations in ULFA-dominated areas, the locals had taken to the streets asking New Delhi to stop military operations and resume talks with the rebels.
Citing ULFA’s demand to release five of its top leaders last year and a complete cessation of military operations, a senior army officer said the ULFA has always set unrealistic preconditions for talks indicating that the separatists are merely playing games.
Many feel the outcome of Bangladesh elections to be held later this month will determine partially whether ULFA will step up violence or embrace peace. Until Bangladesh Awami League joined hands with Bangladesh Khilafat Majlish, a political outfit driven by radical Islamic thinking, the feeling was that Dhaka would expel ULFA cadres from its bases in Bangladesh if Awami League returned to power.
If the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its coalition partners -- Jamaat-e-Islam and Islamic Oikyo Jote, which are identified with extreme Islamic radicalism, return to power, Assam is headed for more turbulent times.
“A lot will depend on what’s the equation between India and Bangladesh in the coming months,” said a defence ministry official.