The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gogoi takes velvet gloves off

Guwahati, Oct. 29: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today branded the Ulfa and the NDFB as the “main hindrances” to development, signalling the beginning of an all-out offensive. This has as much to do with Sunday’s mortar attack on the capital complex as with the two outfits’ repeated rejection of peace initiatives.

Since returning to power, the Congress has been extra careful in handling the problem of militancy. The accent of its policy has been on bringing the militant leadership to the negotiation table.

However, there seems to be a change in tack with Ulfa militants attacking Dispur and the NDFB mowing down 21 non-tribal residents of a village in Kokrajhar district. Though there were no casualties in the attack on Dispur, it exposed loopholes in security arrangements in the state’s most-protected VIP zone.

A tough-talking Gogoi hinted that heads would roll in the top echelons of the police department for the “security lapses” that enabled the Ulfa to launch a mortar attack. He said steps would be taken on the basis of the findings of a high-level inquiry.

Inspector-general of police (CID) S.P. Kar has been given the responsibility of conducting the inquiry and asked to submit his report “urgently”.

The chief minister said the NDFB-executed massacre in Kokrajhar district and the Ulfa’s assault on Dispur were “panic reactions” to the loss of public support. He said both outfits were “desperate” because the people had begun raising their voices against them.

“The Ulfa and the NDFB are mainly responsible for Assam’s backwardness and the high rate of unemployment. They have lost the people’s support, which is why they are trying to create a fear psychosis,” Gogoi said.

The chief minister said his government had been hamstrung by shortage of security forces. “Even by the Centre’s own assessment, the state requires at least 180 companies of paramilitary forces for counter-insurgency operations. Instead, forces have been withdrawn, leaving only 121 companies at our disposal.” Eleven companies are exclusively for deployment along the Assam-Nagaland border.

Gogoi said militant outfits with camps in Bhutan were the ones that enjoyed a greater degree of success in hit-and-run operations. He said it was unrealistic to expect security forces to stop these militants till such time that their camps in the Himalayan kingdom were dismantled.

The chief minister reiterated his government’s demand for deployment of BSF personnel along the Indo-Bhutan border.

On security in Guwahati, Gogoi said Sunday’s attack on the capital complex was an eye-opener.

He warned of “stringent action” against any police official found guilty of not doing his duty properly.

The chief minister had been informed about the mortar attack almost one-and-a-half hours after it took place. Oblivious to the presence of militants in the high-security zone, officers in charge of Gogoi’s security had twice given the green signal to his convoy to pass through the area.

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