The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arms for settlers to fight Ulfa attacks

New Delhi, Aug. 17: The Salwa Judum model — where local villagers are mobilised against militants — may soon be replicated against Ulfa in Assam.

The Union home ministry has decided to group Hindi-speaking people in Assam to protect them from militant attacks. The new approach will complement the government’s toughened stand against Ulfa, which will now have to speak to the state government before approaching the Centre.

In the wake of the killing of 29 Hindi-speaking people in Karbi Anglong district this month, their scattered population will be melded into clusters and provided weapons.

The move is designed on the lines of the controversial Salwa Judum campaign in Chhattisgarh. The new approach proposes to form clusters of around 200 families each of Hindi-speaking settlers. At least 50,000 such settlers are estimated to live in the district. Union minister of state for home Sri Prakash Jaiswal, who visited the affected area last week, disclosed that he has decided to empower the targeted population by providing them police protection and weapons.

“We will give weapons to selected people within these clusters and police chowkies will be set up nearby to maintain vigil,” he said. The weapons will be provided by the state government, the minister added.

In Chhattisgarh, villagers have been provided weapons to fight the Naxalites. The local people are sheltered in camps supported by government agencies.

Village defence committees have been set up in other insurgency-affected states, including in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir.

India’s second largest district, Karbi Anglong — with an area of 10,000 sq km — is easy prey for militants as it has just six police stations.

Indirectly blaming Dispur, Jaiswal said the state had not paid enough attention to security considerations in the district because the area had been largely peaceful but for the Karbi-Dimasa clashes last year.

The home ministry’s latest idea comes in the wake of the furore in Parliament on Tuesday after MPs, mostly from Bihar, blamed the government for not protecting Hindi-speaking people.


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