R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Nov 6 – Though the level of violence in Assam has come down in recent months, kidnappings and extortion demands remain a cause of concern for the Government as well as for the police and security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations. However, official sources said that the police and security forces are achieving success in the operations against militants and that militants belonging to the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) are indulging in kidnappings by taking advantage of the terrain along the border with Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan.
Army sources told The Assam Tribune that the operations against militants have not been suspended in any part of the state despite improvement in the law-and-order situation. Sources revealed that so far this year, 110 militants were killed in the operations, while, 870 including linkmen of the militants and suspects were arrested. Sources said that most of the militants killed so far this year belonged to the anti-talk faction of the NDFB and majority of those killed have been identified. More than 400 militants surrendered before the police and security forces so far this year and the forces managed to recover more than 500 weapons including sophisticated weapons like AK series rifles.
Sources said that the recover of improvised explosive devices and other bombs and grenades could save many innocent lives as at least 50 IEDs and more than a hundred bombs and grenades have been recovered.
Though a number of militant groups including the DHD(J) and the KLNLF surrendered arms since last year to express desire to solve the problems through talks, the figures of the militants killed and arrested in counter-insurgency operations showed that those were almost similar to those of last year. According to records available, 179 militants were killed and around 1200 were apprehended in Assam last year.
Army sources said that the close coordination between all the forces engaged in the counter-insurgency operations and regular sharing of intelligence could be attributed to the success of the operations. At the same time, the common people have also started to come forward to provide information about movement of militants. There have been instances when common villagers called up the Army helpline numbers to provide information about militants, sources added.
However, kidnappings and extortions remains cause of concern as more than 30 persons have been kidnapped in the State and in almost all the cases, the kidnapped persons had to pay ransom to get out of the clutches of the militants.
Highly placed official sources admitted that the jungle area along the border with Arunachal Pradesh in Sonitpur district and the areas bordering Bhutan remain areas of concern. Sources pointed out that as the militants belonging to the anti-talk faction of the NDFB are not indulging in any targeted kidnapping, it is difficult for the police and security forces to prevent the same. “Even school teachers and patty shop owners are being kidnapped and it is impossible for the forces to assess the vulnerability of every person,” sources added.
Sources said that to deal with the menace, the police and security forces have been advised to keep close watch on the mobile phone records , while efforts are on to intensify operations in the vulnerable areas.