Gogoi points fingers at Centre over delay in Army deployment

Under attack over the large-scale ethnic violence, Assam CM on Friday sought to point fingers at the Centre for the delay in deployment of Army.

Guwahati: Under attack over the large-scale ethnic violence, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday sought to point fingers at the Centre for the delay in deployment of army saying the situation would not have deteriorated had the troops been deployed on the first day.

As the state reported some improvement in the situation, the Chief Minister said his government did not get any intelligence from the Union Home Ministry that there was going to be such a flare-up.

"If they had, why didn`t they send the army immediately. "We wanted the army from day one of the crisis and now when it is there, the situation is gradually limping back to normal," Gogoi told a press conference here.

"The MHA hasn`t provided me with any intelligence report. I haven`t got any information that there is going to be such a flare-up", he said.

To a question, Gogoi said the army could not be deployed from day one as certain procedures had to be followed.

Officials in New Delhi acknowledged the delay in deployment of army troops led to spread of the clashes between Bodos and minority immigrants.

The Deputy Commissioners of Kokrajhar and Chirang districts, the worst-hit by the violence, had requested the local Army units on July 23 for deployment of army personnel.

However, the local Army commanders did not accept the request saying they need an order from the Ministry of Defence, after which Assam Chief Secretary Naba Kumar Das sent separate letters to Union Home Secretary R K Singh and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, they said.

"Finally, the troops were deployed two days later--on July 25. Had the Army personnel been deployed earlier, many lives could have been saved," an official said.

Army troops could have reached the trouble spots within three to four hours as two major Army stations are located within a distance of 150 kms from both Kokrajhar and Chirang.

Union Home Ministry officials admitted there was delay in deployment of paramilitary forces in violence-hit areas as most of the forces were sent from other states and from places as far as Jamshedpur and Imphal.

Gogoi said "the Centre has assured 50 additional companies (one company comprises about 100 personnel) of forces and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is coming tomorrow to take stock of the situation".

The Prime Minister would visit Kokrajhar district to review the situation with the authorities, political leaders and members of different organisations.

The government, the chief minister said, was facing its "worst crisis" but had taken all steps to maintain law and order with four ministers camping in worst-hit Kokrajhar town.

"It is not an ethnic clash. Miscreants have taken advantage of the situation. We will take strict action," he said.

Two more bodies were recovered during the day, one from Kokrajhar district and another from Dhubri as sporadic violence was reported from Baksa where the army was deployed, official sources said in Guwahati.

A two-year-old child and a 60-year-old man also died in two relief camps in Bilasipara in Dhubri district but the cause of death was yet to be ascertained, they said.