Defence Ministry told to change SOP to tackle riot



New Delhi: In the wake of delay in Army deployment to contain recent ethnic riots in Assam, the Union Home Ministry is learnt to have asked the Defence Ministry to change the latter's standard operating procedure (SOP) of deployment of Army troops to tackle such a situation.

The Home Ministry, according to sources, has taken up the with the Defence Ministry the issue of the standard operating procedure for troops' deployment in a situation of riots and said SOP cannot take precedence over law.

Section 130 of CrPC empowers an executive magistrate to requisition Army troops and says the officer concerned of the Armed forces "shall obey such requisition".

The Home Ministry is likely to ask the Defence Ministry to amend its SOP so that the army can be deployed the moment such a request comes from the civil administration, said the sources.

Under the Army's SOP in vogue since the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, the request for Army deployment to tackle riots has to be routed through the Defence Ministry.

Delay in deployment of Army troops in violence-hit areas of Assam not only saw the spread of the clashes between Bodos and minority immigrants there but also the maximum number of killings, sources said.

The Kokrajhar district administration had requested for Army deployment on July 20 and the Army was deployed only on July 25. Similarly, the plea for troops deployment in Dhurbi district was made on July 23 and the actual deployment took place on July 25, said the sources.

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 had sent separate letters to Union Home Secretary RK Singh and Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma, they 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 districts.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had said last week that the Army presence from day one would have prevented the "unprecedented crisis" and loss of so many lives.

PTI