Centre to step up anti-ULFA operations

NEW DELHI, Jan 13 – Angered by the growing belligerence of outlawed ULFA, the Centre today decided to further intensify operations against the outfit, shoving the peace talk process into the cold storage for now.

The Centre has firmed up plans to go after the ULFA, at a high-level security review meeting on Assam chaired by Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram here today.

The meeting attended by National Security Adviser, MK Narayanan, Union Home Secretary, Madhukar Gupta, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), Director, Intelligence Bureau, Directors General of Border Security Force (BSF), Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) and CRPF, among others.

Besides, Inspectors General (IGs) of various Central Forces operating in Assam, including chief of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps also joined the meeting. DGP, Assam Police, GM Srivastava, secretary, Home, Rajiv Bora and IGP Special Branch, Khagen Sarma represented Assam Government.

Stung by the series of blasts in Assam, Chidambaram left none in doubt that gone are the days of soft approach to ULFA. The militant outfit is now likely to face renewed heat from security forces. The officials were told that violence in Assam leading to losses of life and property was totally unacceptable.

After lying low for a while after the surrender by its crack 28th Battalion, ULFA has unleashed fresh round of violence including the serial blasts in Assam on October 31 and January1 before rounding it up by another blast last week in Guwahati.

Unhappy as it is with the lack of initiative with the Assam Police, the Home Ministry has also prodded it to swing into action to take on ULFA head on. The swift action to neutralise the perpetrators of the recent blasts by the local police was also noted.

Apart from sustained operations against ULFA, whose lower Assam-based 709 Battalion is now likely to come on cross-hair of the security agency, the meeting today decided to plug the gaps and escape routes.

Security Forces particularly BSF and SSB have been asked to step up vigil along the international border with Bangladesh and Bhutan to seal the escape routes, sources said.

Sources said that the meeting discussed the entire gamut of security issues ranging from militancy in Brahmaputra Valley to stalling of the national projects in North Cachar Hills.

Another significant decision was that the security forces have been asked to crack down on extortions. Assam Police has been asked to beef up intelligence gathering and mount anti-extortion drives in the State.

This came after Centre received reports of massive extortions in the State by not only ULFA but also those outfits with which the government has ceasefire pacts.

The security forces are also expected to mount special operations in NC Hills where a number of development projects including the gauge-conversion project, East-West corridor have been hit.

The Centre is also yet to take a final decision on the plea of the DHD (J) to sign a ceasefire pact. Though Assam Government is keen on signing such an agreement, the Centre is reluctant and has instead advised the State Government to crack down on the militants with the high level of forces deployed in the Hill district.

Meanwhile, the meeting also deliberated on the reports of influx of jehadi elements from Bangladesh. With the Home Minister yesterday seeking to send a tough message on illegal influx, the BSF is now likely to step up vigil along the international border.

Sources said that today’s meeting was follow up action of the review meeting at Guwahati, which was chaired by the Home Minister.

Assam has become a focus area for the new Home Minister and the spate of blasts in the State has opened Centre’s eye, said sources.

The Home Ministry has already announced plans to set up a regional security coordination centre at Guwahati for the North-east to boost intelligence sharing mechanism among the North Eastern States.

Sources said that the entire North-east has been accorded top priority, with the Home Minister proposing to visit all the States in the Region to understand the problems of each of the eight States.