The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army on the job in Assam

New Delhi, Nov. 20: The army has deployed two columns in Assam’s Tinsukia district after a request from the state government for assistance in containing violence between Assamese and Biharis.

Army sources in Delhi said the request from the district administration was received at 8.40 last evening and the columns had moved in through the night at short notice. The army is already deployed in Assam for counter-insurgency operations and an order to aid civil authority to enforce peace among communities adds to its responsibilities.

The 4 Corps and the Eastern Command headquartered in Calcutta are also calculating if more troops could be needed and found from within the reserves in Assam that are not estimated to be substantial because troops are on active combat duty.

During last year’s Gujarat riots, the army was wrong-footed at the height of Operation Parakram when the troops of the 11 infantry division based near Gandhinagar were on the Pakistan border and units had to be flown into Ahmedabad and other cities from reserves in south India. Violence escalated during the delay.

In Assam, where the army was already deployed, requirement of troops would be gauged earlier because of regular monitoring. The Tezpur-based 4 Corps has also been asked to be on standby if more troops are required. The 4 Corps carries out counter-insurgency operations. The columns deployed in Tinsukia included five officers, six junior commissioned officers and 106 other ranks from the reserve of the 4 Corps, the sources said.

and did not have to be withdrawn from the counter-insurgency grid.

However, defence ministry sources in Delhi said the army was also asked to watch the situation in Dibrugarh district. Troops could be required if the violence in Dibrugarh escalates or prolongs. For the time being, the Border Security Force was also being deployed. But larger numbers of central paramilitary forces may be difficult to find because of large contingents on duty for the Assembly elections in five states.

Ethnic violence — such as the nature of the strife in Assam — demands deployment of security forces in greater numbers than a situation that calls for just monitoring and patrol.

If required, troops may be moved into Assam from elsewhere but redeploying units engaged in the drive against insurgency was being discouraged by army headquarters.

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