Guwahati, Nov. 6: It has taken two more blasts in Guwahati and the loss of 13 more lives for Tarun Gogoi to make an honest confession: the Congress-led government has failed the people on law and order.
While confirming what the Opposition has been saying about his second term in office, the chief minister was quick to reiterate that “a big push” would be given to counter-insurgency operations in Assam. Governor Lt Gen. (retd) Ajai Singh expressed similar views. But he said the government could not do everything on its own and urged the people to help the administration thwart acts of violence like the explosions yesterday.
Both Gogoi and Lt Gen. (retd) Singh visited the blast sites at Fancy Bazar and Pathar Quarry.
The unified command for counter-insurgency operations reviewed the security scenario and decided to deploy more forces in all “vulnerable” areas.
Chief secretary S. Kabilan, who heads the three-tier unified command structure, said deployment of forces across the state would be beefed up.
“Counter-insurgency operations will be intensified. We are committed to providing security to all citizens,” he said.
The first sign of success in the operation launched after the blasts came around 2 am, when the police gunned down an unidentified militant at Santipur village, under Noonmati police station. A dozen hand grenades and nine detonators were found on him.
At the blast site in Fancy Bazar, a remorseful Gogoi said: “We have not been able to protect the people of Assam. We will intensify counter-insurgency operations to rein in the rebels.”
Accusing Ulfa of extorting money and procuring arms under cover of the peace process, Gogoi said: “Violence only begets violence. Such senseless acts will only bring unrest and further compound problems such as unemployment, affecting the state.”
The banned Ulfa denied its involvement in the blasts through a statement issued by its 28th Battalion in Upper Assam.
Around the same time, at Raj Bhavan, Lt Gen. (retd) Singh told the media that a “concerted offensive” by the people and the government was the only way to tackle militancy. He said it was difficult to predict and prevent terror attacks without people’s support. “Society is the oxygen on which militancy thrives. We have to snap this support system. It (insurgency) cannot survive without society’s support.”
The governor said militancy was on the wane because people had put up a brave front. “Let us now knock them out.”
Opposition parties laun-ched a scathing attack on the government. The AGP, the BJP, the Assam United Democratic Front and the Left were unanimous in flaying the government’s “inaction” as violence continues. The parties demanded the resumption of negotiations with Ulfa.
Kamrup Chamber of Commerce president M.P. Jain said the blast in the city’s business hub indicated the extent to which law and order had deteriorated.
In New Delhi, writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami and fellow-mediator Rebati Phukan seemed concerned about the developments just a couple of days before their scheduled parleys with the Centre, adds our special correspondent.
Union home secretary V.K. Duggal and Gogoi held a meeting with army and home ministry officials before leaving for Guwahati. If the bloodshed continues, “appropriate action” will be taken, Duggal told the media.
Unaware of Ulfa’s statement denying any involvement in the twin explosions, Goswami said the outfit had committed a dastardly act and “Assam was crying”. She conceded the possibility that Ulfa might not be willing to hold peace talks.
“It is clearly a retaliatory action after the police killed three of its leaders (in an encounter in Dibrugarh district on Friday), but Ulfa should not have targeted innocent people,” the writer said.
Goswami blamed security forces in the same breath, accusing them of “provocation”. She said security forces could have arrested the three leaders instead of killing them.
Phukan refrained from criticising the outfit for yesterday’s blasts. The facilitator said he was not aware of the “ground realities”.
The facilitators’ plans to press for the release of the jailed Ulfa leaders now seem to be in disarray. They will discuss the future course of action tomorrow among themselves before approaching national security adviser M.K. Narayanan for a fresh appointment.