The last Assam Police bastion against the ULFA is likely to make way for the army.
Ever since Operation Bajrang, the first full-scale offensive against the ULFA in 1990, the army has been handling security almost everywhere in Assam except in Guwahati. But with the outlawed outfit presumably "getting too hot to handle by a force with limited firepower", soldiers in battle fatigues may soon make the men in khaki play second fiddle in the state capital.
The 33rd National Games, which the ULFA has threatened to disrupt, is the apparent reason behind plans for the police to "cede territory". But senior home department officials admitted the decision was influenced by a series of blasts in the city that killed over 20 people since New Delhi called off its six-week ceasefire with the ULFA in September.
The proposal to deploy the army in Guwahati was taken during a meeting of the Unified Command on Sunday. Formed in 1997, the Unified Command is a coordination body of the state administration, police, army, paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies. Its success in Assam was replicated later in Jammu and Kashmir.
IGP (Special Branch) Khagen Sarma neither confirmed nor denied the move. He, however, told reporters, "There are apprehensions of more trouble in the days to come." He also blamed the ULFA for the serial blasts that were apparently aimed at Hindi-speaking people.
The 33rd National Games in February next year, which the ULFA has threatened to disrupt, and a "change" in the outfit's subversive modus operandi apparently influenced the decision to let the troops take positions across the city.
Human rights organisations such as the Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti have criticised the decision to hand over city to the army. The Asom Gana Parishad, which has been demanding unconditional peace talks, has also criticised the move. "This might demoralise the police," said senior party leader Dilip Kumar Saikia.