Change SOPs to deploy Army during riots: MHA to MoD



New Delhi: Upset over delay in deployment of the army during the recent violence in Assam, the Union Home Ministry has asked the Defence Ministry to change the latter's standard operating procedures (SOP) of deployment of troops to tackle such a situation to save innocent lives.

The Home Ministry in a communication has conveyed to the Defence Ministry that the SOPs for troops' deployment in a situation of riot cannot take precedence over law, a senior government official told PTI.

Section 130 of the CrPC empowers an executive magistrate to requisition army troops and says the officer concerned of the armed forces "shall obey such requisition". Under the army's SOPs 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 last month saw the maximum number of killings and spread of the clashes between Bodos and minority immigrants there.

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, the Home Ministry communication noted. The Home Ministry has asked the Defence Ministry to amend its SOPs so that the army can be deployed the moment such a request comes from the civil administration.

When the ethnic clashes broke out in Assam, the local army commanders did not accept the requests saying they need an order from the Ministry of Defence, after which Assam Chief Secretary Naba Kumar Das had to approach Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma. Union Home Secretary R K Singh also spoke to Sharma and requested him to ensure deployment of troops.

Army troops could have reached the trouble spots within three to four hours as two major army stations, including a full Mountain Division, are located within a distance of 150 kms from Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Chirang districts.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had said that the army presence from day one would have prevented the "unprecedented crisis" and loss of so many lives. At least 57 people were killed in the violence which rendered 5.02 lakh people homeless during the week-long mayhem.

"We cannot allow such a situation to continue where innocent lives could be lost only due to delay in deployment of troops. MoD should do whatever possible -- either repeal or amend the SOPs -- to avoid the delay," the official said.

PTI