Dispur readies poll security shield

Guwahati, March 21 : A jittery Dispur today finalised a security blueprint on how to tackle the threat from trouble-makers and militants alike during the election process with special emphasis on the two hill districts, the BTAD and the inter-state and international border areas.
A meeting convened by chief electoral officer Hemanta Narzary and chaired by chief secretary P.C. Sharma this evening thoroughly assessed the situation with senior civil and police officials and finalised the blueprint, including sending a fresh proposal to the Centre to look into the state’s requirement for additional central security forces.
The meeting comes in the wake of sporadic incidents of violence that have of late rocked the hills, particularly Karbi Anglong district and the BTAD area, even before the start of electioneering. 
“Besides, there have been some fresh inputs which suggest that certain armed groups are likely to disrupt the poll process... we are taking these inputs seriously,” an official who attended the meeting said. 
The “zero tolerance” stand the government had taken post-October 30 serial blasts could see armed groups flexing their muscles, the official added. 
Reports emanating from Dispur suggest that the Centre has expressed its inability to meet the government’s requirement for additional forces as the overall security scene elsewhere in the country is similar after the Mumbai terror attack. 
“Against the additional requirement of 120 companies, the ministry of home affairs is keen to spare only 80 companies since it had previously allowed Dispur to retain over 21 companies despatched earlier. Though we have a plan ready, we will continue to fine-tune it, depending on field reports,” a source said. 
Around 2,000 polling booths have been identified as highly sensitive and nearly 7,000 as sensitive for these elections.
Assam will have two-phase elections on April 16 and 23 with three seats going to the polls in the first phase and 11 in the second.
Sources said Dispur has decided to sanitise areas which are being used by militants before the day of polling by launching special operations.
“These areas are North Cachar Hills, Karbi Anglong, BTAD, particularly Baksa, along with areas bordering Bangladesh and Bhutan. We have moved the Election Commission through the chief electoral officer to provide us with two helicopters and 20 satellite phones to carry out the operations. This will help us respond swiftly,” the source said.
Police sources in Kokrajhar said a tight vigil would be maintained on NDFB militants in ceasefire as there have been occasions when some of them have indulged in unlawful activities. 
Already there are certain procedures in place to monitor their movement outside the designated camps and these have to be strictly adhered to,” the source said. “But, at the same time, we cannot take away their voting rights. If they choose to vote or campaign, we cannot really stop them.” 
There have already been some skirmishes between supporters of the two leading parties in the BTAD, the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) and the Bodoland Peoples Progressive Front (BPPF). 
Yesterday, Kokrajhar district superintendent of police P.K. Dutta said a group of Ulfa militants had sneaked in and has plans to carry out subversive activities during the elections. 
Congress leaders have also started voicing concern over security threats from militants in certain areas. 
“We might have some tough times in Karbi Anglong and NC Hills, going by recent incidents. Already we are told that KLNLF has said that it would allow only a couple of parties to campaign in Karbi Anglong and the Congress, unfortunately, does not figure in the group’s list. Then there is always the threat from DHD (Jewel Gorlosa) in NC Hills, especially since the government has spurned its ceasefire offer,” a senior leader said.