With Assam tense after a weekend of bloody violence, the army has rejigged deployment in the state to hit the ULFA hard in its own backyard. Army Chief General JJ Singh, accompanying Defence Minister AK Antony on a two-day tour of the Northeast, said on Tuesday that the force has mobilised about 3,000 troops from Misa and positioned them in Sibasagar and Dhemaji districts in upper Assam. The Centre has already dispatched 12 paramilitary companies to Assam while eight more are on their way. The minister said normalcy would be restored in a few days.
Talking tough, Antony said the government would not allow the ULFA to get away with such carnage. However, he said the government was still willing to negotiate with the separatists, provided they abjure violence and agree to unconditional talks. “They are misguided and we will endeavour to integrate them with the mainstream. But we cannot afford to be complacent,” he said.
Antony, who was briefed by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, underlined the need to “strengthen the security atmosphere” and said the government would have to be more cautious while dealing with the separatists, going by past experience. He was referring to the ceasefire last year that the ULFA used to re-group and plan future attacks.
Antony said ULFA cadres were hiding in Bangladesh and Myanmar and the Centre would take this up with the two governments. He also announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the relatives of those killed in the violence.
ULFA rampant in Arunachal forests
The pogrom against non-Assamese people has found its way to the forests of Arunachal Pradesh, from where ULFA cadres are believed to be carrying out hit-and-run strikes in eastern Assam. According to Arunachal DGP Amod Kanth, security forces in both states have launched combing operations in Tirap, Changlang and Lohit districts bordering Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts in Assam. “We are taking all steps to stop ULFA militants from using our soil, besides ensuring our people are not touched by their activities,” Kanth told HT.
Politicians converge on eastern Assam
Nearly 72 hours after the bloodbath, eastern Assam became the convergence ground for politicians of all hues who started their blame game. Tuesday also saw the ULFA audaciously explode a bomb — that left two policemen injured — at the Legislative Assembly gate. Ram Vilas Paswan, Rajnath Singh, Gogoi and Prafulla Kumar Mahanta toured affected districts while George Fernandes chose to visit jailed ULFA leaders to fruitlessly elicit an appeal from them to end the violence.