Guwahati, July 11: Union home minister Rajnath Singh today stressed the need to decrease deployment of security forces in the Northeast to encourage "positive thinking" among people beyond the region while chief ministers of the states expressed apprehension about possible attacks by militant groups, including NSCN (Khaplang) and Ulfa (I).
"In the wake of improvement in security scenario, there is a need to review deployment of security forces in the region. At present, the deployment is more than when the insurgency was at its peak. In the past few years there has been substantial strengthening of the state police. Without compromising on security, we must plan to reduce deployment to make the environment easy to encourage positive thinking of outsiders. But we assure to help you in the deployment of central forces when needed," Rajnath said after his over four-hour-long meeting with the chief ministers here today.
Singh asked the chief ministers for a realistic audit of deployment of central armed forces though the chief ministers of Nagaland and Assam - T.R. Zeliang and Tarun Gogoi - were vocal about possible attacks by NSCN (K) and Ulfa (I) following the recent abrogation of ceasefire with the former and the rebel groups of the region joining hands under the banner of United National Front of Western South East Asia.
The NSCN (K) had killed 18 soldiers in an ambush in Manipur on June 4.
"The umbrella group has already struck at security forces in Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. There is an apprehension the group or some of its members, particularly Ulfa (I), may try to strike in Assam in a show of strength. There are also reports that UPLF, a splinter militant group, comprising ex-UPDS and ex-DHD cadres, who had signed a memorandum of settlement earlier, has developed a nexus with NSCN (K)," said Gogoi.
NSCN (K), Ulfa (I), the anti-talks faction of NDFB and KLO are among the prominent rebel groups in the forum.
Zeliang claimed if the Union home ministry had informed the Nagaland government in advance about the ceasefire abrogation by the NSCN (K), it could have persuaded the outfit to reconsider its stand for the sake of peace.
He highlighted the decision of the Nagaland legislators' forum on Naga political issue, through its parliamentary working committee, which comprised two state MPs, to send a delegation of Naga Hoho and Eastern Naga People's Organisation to Myanmar to meet NSCN (K) chief S.S. Khaplang and persuade him to revive the ceasefire. He requested Rajnath to try to do so from its end while citing intelligence reports about more violence being inflicted by NSCN (K).
Zeliang had yesterday told The Telegraph he would raise the NSCN (K) and Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act issues.
The home minister, however, told reporters later: "The NSCN (K) had unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire. The government wanted it to continue (the truce)." He did not clarify whether the Centre was willing to revive the ceasefire, a demand of NGOs and civil society groups in Nagaland.
Reiterating the demand for lifting the army act, Zeliang said the threat posed by the abrogation of ceasefire by NSCN (K) "is not likely to be so grave" that it cannot be tackled without imposition of the act. "The act will get withdrawn where and when the security situation becomes normal," said Singh.
Stating the Centre's decision to enhance the Northeast's share from 30 per cent to 40 per cent in its border areas development programme, Singh expressed concern over smuggling of weapons and drugs through the India-Myanmar border. "There are 240 villages with over two lakh population within 10km of the border and they do not have any worthwhile security cover. They are at the mercy of insurgents. A similar situation prevails along the India-Bhutan border," he said.
He said the government would not talk to splinter rebel groups resorting to abduction, extortion and killings, particularly in Assam and Meghalaya.