As communal violence raged in lower Assam with innocents being felled over the past 10 days and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi pointing finger at the Centre for delay in Army deployment, blame game has begun over lack of intelligence reports and procedural wrangle that wasted crucial hours in sending the Army that could have saved many lives.
On a day when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited relief camp in violence-hit Kokrajhar district in Assam, the State which he represents in Parliament, high level official machinery in the Capital moved in top gear to review relief measures for the victims and steps to restore peace and normalcy in strife-torn areas.
A senior Home Ministry official said that so far 73 companies of Central Armed Police forces have been deployed in strife-torn areas in Kokrjhar, Chirang and Dhubri districts. The paramilitary forces were moved from other States after clashes erupted in Assam.
The Centre has authorised the Assam government to deploy more than 11,000 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) personnel in the State's violence-hit districts and dispatched a C-135 heavy lift aircraft with medical teams and supplies.
Union Home Secretary R K Singh said teams of National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) along with experts in drinking water and sanitation issues have been rushed to the affected areas in the same aircraft.
Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth held a video conferencing session with Assam Chief Secretary Naba Kumar Das last night and reviewed the relief and medical arrangements for the victims of one of the worst incidents of ethnic violence in recent times in lower Assam districts.
Mr. Gogoi’s accusations that his government did not get any intelligence report from the Union Home Ministry about the possibility of a flare up and the delay in deployment of Army have raised eyebrows.
Senior BJP leader and party’s deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad said that instead of fighting the communal riot situation in his own State, Mr. Gogoi was fighting the Centre. He blamed vote bank politics behind such a situation that had been allowed to simmer over the past few years.
``The Prime Minister represents Assam in Rajya Sabha for the past so many years and he has to be accountable to the people of the State. It is Dr. Singh’s credibility which is at stake,’’ Mr. Prasad told The Hindu.
First reports of communal violence in lower Assam came on July 19 and despite the State government’s request for deployment of Army, it took a few more days before troops could be deployed as clearances took up precious time.
The State government’s request for Army’s help was sought on July 23 but the Army columns rolled out only two days later after receiving orders from the Ministry of Defence. The Tejpur based 4 corps and Army formations under it for counter-insurgency grid were already available in Chirang, Gaolapara, Kokrajhar districts – areas where violence was spreading.
Sources told The Hindu that over the past two decades or so the Army had conveyed to the Home and Defence ministries that it should not be involved in dousing the crisis when a communal situation flared up. ``The local authorities should utilize their resources initially and deploy Central Paramilitary forces first. As a well laid down procedure, the Army acts only when the request for deployment is cleared by the Ministry of Defence,’’ an Army source said.
Army columns have now been deployed in Saudar Dhita, Mochalpur, Sarbhog, Pihu, Dumduma, Kumarighata and Goreshwar. Seven more army coloumns have been launched in Baska district, based on the ``requisition by Divisional Commissioner, Baska’’, army sources said.