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Blockade persists in Sonitpur

Tezpur, Jan. 31: The economic blockade against Arunachal Pradesh continued today after residents of Borgang in Assam’s Sonitpur district detained 25 trucks bound for the neighbouring state on Thursday evening.

The blockade was staged to protest against the alleged firing by armed men from Arun-achal Pradesh on a group of people from Assam on Wednesday, killing 10 persons and injuring several others.

If the blockade continues for some time, places like Itanagar, Naharlagun and other parts of Arunachal Pradesh, such as East Siang, West Siang, Along and Pasighat, will be affected.

Protesters in Borgang maintained that the economic blockade would continue till the perpetrators of the Wednesday’s firing are punished and the Assam government sets up a border outpost along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border at Behali reserve forest.

Residents of Behali and Borgang in Sonitpur district had yesterday blocked National Highway 15 to protest the killings.

At Chariduar, the local people blocked the route that connects Tezpur to Tawang today. Chariduar is about 30km from Tezpur and 210km from Guwahati. The Chariduar-Tawang road runs across three districts of Arunachal Pradesh — East Kameng, West Kameng and Tawang.

Essential commodities such as food, petrol and diesel and other items are supplied from Tezpur, Nagaon and Lakhimpur districts of Assam to Arunachal.

Meanwhile, a 12-hour Ass-am strike called by the CPI (M-L) today affected Biswanath sub-division in Behali, Borgang and Biswanath Chariali.

There was tension at Behali in Sonitpur district this morning after reports made the rounds that three more bodies were found at Hatipota near Chauldhua in Behali reserve forest. However, Sonitpur deputy commissioner Lalit Gogoi denied the reports, saying they were rumours.

Four persons, Bichoi Teron, Lachu Mardi, Burha Teron and Suren Kremacha, were still missing from the site of the incident at Chauldhua.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi had called his Arunachal counterpart Nabam Tuki yesterday and the latter promised co-operation to arrest the culprits. Both the chief ministers had sought probes into the killings, also asserting that the move would not hamper friendly ties between the two states.

Tuki had said he would request the Union ministry to institute an independent inquiry into the killings at Tarasso (Behali in Assam).

A high-level security meeting was held at Tezpur circuit house today. It was attended by additional director-general of police (STF) R.M. Singh and inspector-general of police (law and order) S.N. Singh, besides district police officials.

Talking to The Telegraph, the IGP said no additional bodies were recovered from the area and search operations were being carried by the police team and security personnel.

He also said that five border outposts would be set up in the disputed areas in Sonitpur.

Union condemns

All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) president Kamta Lapung told The Telegraph this evening: “We strongly condemn the unfortunate Behali incident in Assam. We also hold the Congress-led governments both at the Centre and the two states responsible for the incident and for not finding any solution to the protracted boundary dispute.”

He also appealed to the people of both states to maintain peace, besides requesting them to maintain status quo on the border dispute case — as directed by the Supreme Court in 2004.

The union also demanded immediate deployment of adequate paramilitary forces — at least 100 jawans — within 24 hours to provide security to people living in the disturbed area.

The apex students’ body also appealed to the people of Assam not to take any extreme steps like imposing economic blockades or calling strikes.

Union minister of state for minority affairs from Arunachal Pradesh, Ninong Ering, told The Telegraph that he had spoken to Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi to restore normality.

“ He (Gogoi) is taking every measure to resolve the issue. It is unfortunate that peace has been disturbed. Whoever is guilty should be punished,” he said.

Arunachal chief secretary H. Paliwal said he was in touch with his Assam counterpart to get the blockade lifted. “We are trying to resolve the issue through talks. Officers of both states are in touch. They will also talk to the protesters,” he said.

Crackdown on NDFB-S

Under the shadow of the violent attacks of the NDFB (Songbijit) faction in Assam, an operations group meeting of the army will be held in Kokrajhar on February 6 to shape an aggressive strategy to fight the group.

Considering the recent killings and the resurgence of the NDFB (S) in the past few weeks, this crucial meeting will chalk out the strategy to counter the wanton violence perpetrated by the outfit. At least 10 people, including a senior police officer, have been killed.

“Operations will be stepped up and security forces will go all out against those who are indulging in such violence,” a senior government official said today. Over 15,000 paramilitary troops are deployed in Assam while the army’s 4 Corps controls anti-insurgency operations.

Significantly, this is the first time that an operations meeting will be held outside Guwahati and in the middle of the Bodoland Territorial Areas District. The 4 Corps GOC will chair the meeting attended by senior officers of paramilitary forces deployed in Assam besides state police.

Songbijit, leader of the breakaway faction of the Ranjan Daimary-led faction of the NDFB, is in hiding in Myanmar. The militant leader who controls operations from there with as few as 50 cadres is believed to be hiding in camps of Manipuri outfits, The Telegraph has learnt.

Both the Centre and the Assam government have realised that they underestimated the capabilities of the rag-tag outfit that was once part of Daimary’s group. Before the truce with Daimary, there was a section that believed that peace could not be achieved unless Songbijit is also brought on board.

Intelligence agencies deduce that the NDFB (S) is being aided and abetted by other outfits, including Ulfa (I). However, security agencies also believe that the fresh signs of aggression shown by the outfit could also be due to turf wars within.

Bidai, another leader of the faction is becoming more assertive while Songbijit stays away from his men in Myanmar. The NDFB’s men were trained with the NSCN (Khaplang) group and outfits like the UNLF from Manipur.

The suspension of operations agreement with the NDFB (Progressive) will be extended for six months on February 14 after a meeting here, sources said.

Additional reporting by our special correspondents in New Delhi and Guwahati