Assam: Army chief to assess ops against militants

  • Digambar Patowary, Hindustan Times, Guwahati
  • Updated: Dec 27, 2014 23:27 IST

Army chief General Dalbir Singh arrived in Guwahati Saturday to assess the ongoing operation against militant outfit National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Sangbijit) that massacred nearly 80 people in Assam this week.

A day after India sought cooperation from Bhutan and Myanmar to hunt down militants of the banned outfit, Singh is expected to hold a closed-door strategy meeting with senior army officials.

The army has intensified counter-insurgency operations in all the violence-affected areas in the state to stabilise the situation, but no fresh operation has been launched so far.

"The General will oversee the progress of ongoing operations," defence PRO Lt. Col Suneet Newton said.

Dalbir Singh is also likely to make an aerial survey of the Indo-Bhutan border in BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Area District) and meet Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi at Raj Bhawan.

At least 83 people have been killed since Tuesday after Bodo militants attacked Adivasis in Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts. Fourteen Bodos were killed in retaliatory attacks and three Adivasi protesters died in police firing at Dhekiajuli.

An estimated 7,000 villagers have fled their homes in Assam, fearing more attacks from the Bodo militants and are sheltered in relief camps guarded by the forces and police.

Security measures have been stepped up along the border in the wake of the violence.

The Indo-Bhutan border guarding force, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), has rushed 2,000 of its personnel to the state who would undertake joint operations with the army and Assam police units.

Troop movements have already begun along the Indo-Bhutan border and Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. India has already received assurances from Bhutan and Myanmar to flush out NDFB(S) and other militant outfits operating from their territories.

Both NDFB(S) and ULFA, another major militant outfit in Assam, take advantage of the porus 350km Indo-Bhutan border in the state, taking shelter in the dense jungles on the other side.

Recently, intelligence agencies confirmed reports that NDFB(S) had set up camps in south Bhutan.

NDFB(S) chairman IK Sangbijit is believed to be operating out of Myanmar, where the group shares camps with ULFA (Independent).

It is also suspected that the Bodo militant outfit's other top leaders are operating from Bhutan, and make frequent incursions into Assam's Bodo Territorial Area Districts (BTAD).

Dense jungles in Sonitpur district, which borders Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, give the militants perfect cover.

Assam is one of the seven states in the northeast that is home to more than 200 tribes and dozens of insurgencies.

The region has trailed the rest of the country in economic development and the gap has widened in recent years, fuelling discontent. Residents accuse the central government of plundering the natural resources while ignoring development.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh had recently visited militancy-hit areas in Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts and vowed action against the NDFB(S) and its allies. The matter was also discussed when the army chief met him Friday.

Video:Army chief in Assam to review situation

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