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Dispur puts ear to the ground

Security meet moves to troubled areas

(Top) Chief secretary Jitesh Khosla and director-general of police Khagen Sharma

Guwahati, June 20: Dispur will hold meetings of the three-tier Unified Command, which plans and executes counter-insurgency operations in Assam, in areas facing turmoil instead of only in Guwahati.

Though no official decision has been taken yet, Assam director-general of police Khagen Sarma dropped broad hints that a security meeting will be held in places other than the state capital for smooth and effective counter-insurgency operations.

“Sometimes we need local feedback which we cannot get by holding the meetings only in Guwahati. As such, we feel the need to involve the DC, SP, DIG, IG and divisional commissioners in the meetings to know about law and order issues in the area and the problems security personnel face during operations so that we can initiate remedial measures,” Sharma said on the eve of tomorrow’s Unified Command strategy group meeting at Tezpur in Sonitpur district.

The Songbijit faction of the NDFB is very active in Sonitpur district where cases of extortion, kidnapping and killing are on the rise. Additional superintendent of police Gulzar Hussain was killed in the district in January.

Another meeting will be held at Diphu in Karbi Anglong district, where superintendent of police Nityananda Goswami and his proximate security officer Ratul Nunisa were killed earlier this month.

Holding the meeting outside Guwahati means the state chief secretary, who heads the Unified Command, the DGP and senior home and police department officials also have to travel out of the city. The operations group of the Unified Command, which executes plans formulated by the strategy group, is headed by the GoC 4 Corps based in Tezpur. The last operations group meeting was held at Kokrajhar in February.

A senior home department official said there have been instances of strategy and operations groups’ meetings being held outside Guwahati but these were “very, very rare”. But these would now be held in areas facing serious law and order problems.

“The idea is to hold the meetings in disturbed areas to help keep the focus on these areas as there would be direct coordination between the field and Dispur now. It will also help close the gap, if any, between those on the field and Dispur,” he said.

Chief secretary Jitesh Khosla and senior home department officials Prateek Hajela and G.D. Tripathi today held a law and order review meeting at Tezpur where deputy commissioners of Sonitpur, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and the division commissioner participated.

Weather permitting, the DGP and the chief secretary will fly to Diphu for a similar meeting to be attended by senior civil and police officials from the twin hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao and the Barak Valley districts of Karimganj, Hailakandi and Cachar.

These and the four BTAD districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri, besides Sonitpur, have emerged as the most worrisome districts for security forces of late.

The meetings in the troubled areas reflect the concern in the home department. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who holds the home portfolio, has been facing flak over law and order.