Chidambaram to visit Assam today

The home minister will review security situation in Assam in the wake of killings by NDFB.

Dispur: Home Minister P Chidambaram will undertake a day-long visit to Assam on Friday during which he will take stock of the prevailing law-and-order situation there in the wake of killings by NDFB and the proposed dialogue with ULFA.

The visit of Chidambaram bears significance as he would be accompanied by Centre`s interlocutor PC Haldar, who has been engaged with informal talks with jailed ULFA leader including `chairman` Arabinda Rajkhowa.

The home minister will hold a meeting with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, his cabinet colleagues and top civil and security officials and review the security situation.

At least 24 civilians have been gunned down by NDFB militants since Monday.

Chidambaram will reach Guwahati from Chennai in the morning and return to the southern metropolis in the evening.

The home minister is likely to suggest the security agencies in Assam to launch an all-out joint offensive against the perpetrators of the recent series of violence. Army, paramilitary forces and state police forces will take part in the operation against the ultras.

The NDFB militants are believed to have been hiding in the dense forests along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border. Twenty km of either side of the inter-state border has already been declared as disturbed area.

"The home minister is expected to discuss with the state government the issue of modalities for future talks with ULFA," an official said.

Last week, Chief Minister Gogoi had said that to facilitate their participation in peace talks, the Assam government decided not to oppose the bail pleas of top ULFA leaders, including its `chairman` Rajkhowa, who are currently lodged in jail.

Apart from Rajkhowa, ULFA`s self-styled general secretary Chitraban Hazarika and self-styled foreign secretary Sasha Choudhary are currently in Assam jails while outfit`s `vice-chairman` Pradip Gogoi and two other leaders -- Mithinga Daimary and Bhimakanta Burhagohain -- have already got bails.

`Deputy commander-in-chief` Raju Baruah is expected to be released from prison soon as the state government has not opposed his bail plea.

Peace talks with ULFA are expected to give a major boost to Congress party -- which has been ruling Assam for two consecutive terms -- before the Assembly Elections next year.