The Congress-led government in Assam has often downplayed the threat of Islamic militancy riding piggyback on homegrown ultras and infiltrators from Bangladesh. But this time, its budget for 2008-09 underscores this menace.
On Monday, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi presented a deficit budget of Rs 2,819.23 crore with several proposals on the security front. These include raising two battalions for protecting tea estates, a special task force modeled on the one that killed sandalwood smuggler Veerappan to counter the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) and the setting up of 19 police stations in the char (sandbar) areas, invariably inhabited by migrants from Bangladesh. “We propose to set up 45 new police stations, including 19 in the char areas, for better handling of law and order situations,” said Gogoi. “Also proposed is the recruitment of 2,564 personnel for two special battalions for tea and industrial security.”
According to intelligence officials, an estimated 2,200 chars are breeding grounds for Islamic militants besides being shelters for local militants on transit to and from Bangladesh. “Other than fundamentalist groups like the SIMI and Jamaat-e-Islami, half a dozen militant outfits like the Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam and Harkat-ul Jihadi Islami have been spreading their networks in these areas,” a senior intelligence officer said.