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New boss for unified forces
- Gogoi takes over from chief secy

Dibrugarh, Jan. 15: Chief minister Tarun Gogoi has wrested the reins of the Unified Command for counter-insurgency operations in Assam from the bureaucracy.

“The entire Unified Command structure will henceforth be directly under me…I will be presiding over all meetings of the command,” he said in Dibrugarh today.

The chief secretary was the head of the three-tier Unified Command — comprising the army, police and paramilitary forces — until the last meeting of the strategy group.

Gogoi’s decision to take control comes in the aftermath of a bloody Ulfa campaign against Hindi-speaking people. He has copped much of the blame for the law and order deficiencies that have allowed Ulfa to not only regroup but also mount attack after attack on soft targets.

The chief minister told the media that the Unified Command required “better co-operation” from Arunachal Pradesh to flush out Ulfa militants holed up in the forests across the boundary.

Dispur has been in touch with the Arunachal Pradesh government since the army began its latest offensive against the militant group.

“The response from Arunachal Pradesh has been encouraging so far, but there is scope for improvement. From now on, our officers will be regularly holding talks with their officers,” Gogoi said.

Security agencies maintain that Ulfa made the rough, inaccessible terrain of Arunachal Pradesh one of its primary bases after being flushed out of Bhutan.

The last army-Ulfa encounter in Arunachal Pradesh was on December 31. Two militants were killed and four conduits arrested on that day.

Gogoi said he wanted talks to materialise as much as anybody else, but not at the cost of lives and property.

The chief minister said anybody willing to help the government bring Ulfa to the negotiating table was welcome to be a part of the process. But he could not resist a dig at writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami, who recently blamed him for the delay in starting peace talks.

“Anybody, including Mamoni Raisom Goswami, can come forward. But the talks should be directly with the government, between their leaders and our leadership. Even Mamoni is not having direct talks with Ulfa; she is only using the mobile phone, which is not enough,” Gogoi said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will tomorrow visit the areas where Ulfa targeted Hindi-speaking people.

Singh, who has been representing Assam in the Rajya Sabha, will visit Mushaldhari Chapori in Sadiya subdivision and meet inmates of a relief camp at Sepon. Representatives of the state government will brief him on the situation immediately after his arrival in Dibrugarh.

Gogoi today gave cheques for Rs 3 lakh each to the families of two of the victims in the recent carnage, Dinesh Das and Ajoy Mahato. Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said cheques for the Bihar-based families of victims who had been staying alone in Assam would be sent to the district magistrates there.

Talks offer

Ulfa today reiterated its willingness to sit for talks with Delhi if jailed leaders of the outfit are freed, reports PTI from Dibrugarh.

“Ulfa’s top leadership is very much willing to come for negotiations, but the groundwork should be done. This will be only possible if the jailed leaders are released,” an Ulfa functionary said.

He claimed that Ulfa had formed a 50-member suicide squad “to avenge the death of their comrades in the ongoing army operations”.

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