| Police personnel examine the second blast site. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Jan. 30: Jolted by the twin blasts at Judges Field here on Republic Day, the Tarun Gogoi government has decided ' at least in principle ' to bring the Assam capital under the purview of the unified command for counter-insurgency operations.
The unified command is a joint formation of the army, police and paramilitary forces. Only Jorhat and Guwahati are at present outside the ambit of the command structure. Day-to-day law and order problems, including those connected to insurgency, have been left to the police to handle. They are helped by the paramilitary forces, as and when required.
'The decision is as good as taken,' an official source said of the possibility of the unified command being extended to Guwahati.
Home commissioner B.K. Gohain was, however, non-committal. He said the proposal was under 'active examination' and Delhi would have to be consulted before taking a decision.
The proposal is likely to be taken up with Union home minister Shivraj Patil when he arrives here on Tuesday for a conclave to be attended by all the chief ministers of the Northeast. The chief of the eastern command, too, is expected to attend the meeting.
The source said if everything goes according to plan, the army could be out in Guwahati within a week or a fortnight at the most. The subject was discussed at a meeting of the council of ministers a day after the blasts.
'The ministers agreed that Guwahati could no longer be left outside the purview of the unified command given the string of blasts the city has witnessed in recent times,' the source said.
He said Guwahati and Jorhat had so far been left out of the ambit of the unified command because insurgent activity in the two cities was not as intense when the structure was first put in place.
A senior Congress leader, however, said efforts to step up security in Guwahati could backfire on the ruling party if army excesses occur. 'That could be detrimental to the party's interests when elections are only about a year away,' he said.
In Agartala, Patil urged the Ulfa to come forward for talks. He told a news conference there this evening that the Centre believed the problem could not be solved by using force. The minister said the government was pursuing a two-pronged strategy. On one hand, measures would be taken to ensure that no violent activities occur while on the other, efforts would be made to draw the outfit to the negotiating table.