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More troops for Bhutan border

Guwahati, Nov. 2: The Centre today rushed 10 companies of paramilitary forces for deployment along the troubled Indo-Bhutan border, but the Assam government said it needed not less than 49 to curb cross-border acts of subversion. The state government has also identified 43 places along the international boundary, where it wants BSF presence.

State home commissioner B.K. Gohain said the police had been asked to utilise the troops to galvanise security at all vulnerable places close to the border. He said the 43 locations had been marked by the state government, taking into account the “accessibility and vulnerability” of the places. The government had mentioned these locations in its memoranda submitted to the Centre, seeking deployment of either the BSF or a dedicated force.

Although Dispur has been urging the Centre to deploy the BSF along the Indo-Bhutan border since January, it is yet to receive a positive response. The state government reiterated its demand after the massacre of 22 non-Bodos by the National Democratic Front of Boroland in the Datgiri area of Kokrajhar district on October 26.

The home commissioner said the state required at least 49 companies to effectively deal with militants. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi claimed that going by the Centre’s own assessment, the state needed 180 companies.

Highly-placed sources said the chief minister would soon meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to make a strong case for a dedicated force to man the Indo-Bhutan border. A home ministry team, led by joint secretary Surendra Kumar, which visited the massacre site, had hinted that the Centre was actively considering the state government’s demand for BSF deployment, sources said.

The Indo-Bhutan sector is the only international boundary of the country which is not guarded by a dedicated force, despite the fact that the Ulfa, the NDFB and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation have their headquarters and camps in the Himalayan kingdom, home commissioner Gohain said.

Sources in the state home department said the Centre had not realised the urgency of the situation along the Indo-Bhutan border due to “misrepresentation of facts” by the group of Union ministers, which made recommendations on infiltration and cross-border terrorism.

The only mention about the Indo-Bhutan border by the group of ministers said the influx of Bangladeshi migrants had increased from across this border. The state government, after conducting a probe, however, claimed that there has been no influx along the Indo-Bhutan border. Indian citizens from Lower Assam districts migrating to these areas had been mistaken for infiltrators, the probe found.

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